Indian parliamentary democracy has suffered yet another body blow ~ even before the opening session of the recently-elected 17th Lok Sabha was formally launched by the President, Mr Ram Nath Kovind.
The atmosphere in the new House has been sullied by the overdose of politically-laced, religion-oriented slogan shouting from both sides that is ominous. If well-begun is said to have been half-done, the opposite is equally true. Clearly, both the lust and bitterness of the electoral verdict are far from dissipating.
Before the members began the formalities of taking their oaths the Prime Minister had done well to emphasise that the institution was more than a numbers-game. He exhorted the members to rise above partisan interests and bring the celebrated “wisdom of the House” to bear on issues of vital concern.
Mr Narendra Modi’s wholesome advice ~not for the first time, alas ~ failed to trickle down to his squad of MPs. While Mr Modi, and the Deputy-leader of the House could hardly have been expected to restrain over-enthusiastic members, surely the minister for parliamentary affairs could have tried to stem the rot, particularly since seniors like LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi are no longer members of the legislature.
It is true that it takes two hands to clap, yet there is limited value to splitting hairs over “who started it”. Not since 2014 has the BJP accepted that it is required to play the lead role in maintaining decorum. Now that is enjoying a second successive term in office it must lean to live up to the extra responsibilities that accompany office.
Willy-nilly Mr Om Birla and Prahlad Joshi have much hard work ahead of them. India’s apex legislature will make a laughing stock of itself when religious slogans degenerate into political taunts. It is true that the evil has grown over the years. But now that Mr Modi has stated that numbers are not allimportant, his lieutenants must deem themselves duty-bound to further the process of his elevation from skilful political mastermind to true statesman.
They must enlighten the rank and file of the party to stop acting as if still an opposition entity, and at the same time “shame” the Opposition into accepting the verdict of the people without emaciating voices of dissent. The NDA has to graduate from election-mode to playing a key role in national governance.
The Opposition seems to have accepted Mr Om Birla as the chief conductor of the legislature, but his “score” will be written elsewhere. A rancour-free debate on the Motion of Thanks could well determine if debate or discord will be the underlying theme of the 17th Lok Sabha ~ the prognosis does not inspire confidence, “Jai Siya Ram” is not a term to be degraded to a provocative taunt. Mr Modi must make that clear to his MPs.