It was no goody-goody farewell embrace. When bringing the curtain down on yet another session marked by turbulence, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha made bold to emphasise that Parliament had to extricate itself from the politics of confrontation that dominates contemporary public life. “All of you would agree with me that though the Parliament is a political institution, it cannot be an extension of politics in its typical sense which is marked by deep divisions and acrimony,” Mr M Venkaiah Naidu reminded members. “Parliament is an important institution for furthering the shared socio-economic goals of the nation, which are critical to fulfilling the aspirations of the citizens who are the chief patrons of our parliamentary democracy,” he said. The point about citizens being the “chief patron” was directed with equal force at the government and opposition benches ~ both sides now are overly concerned with furthering their own interests at the cost of the well-being of the common folk. Striking a positive note, Mr Venkaiah Naidu observed that “India is steadily evolving towards realising its immense untapped potential and the legislatures of the country, including Parliament, need to quickly evolve in the way we conduct our proceedings so as to meet the needs of our evolving nation”. In sharp contrast to the generally sugary presentation of the parliamentary affairs minister when evaluating the session at a media interaction, the Rajya Sabha Chairman contended that though some important business was transacted the functioning of the House could have been better, and he expressed concern and regret at the hours “lost” through disruption. That unruly behaviour worried him immensely was evident earlier that day. When making farewell references to three retiring members Mr Naidu recalled, with pleasure, that never once in his short tenure as Chairman had he felt it necessary to pull-up any of them.
Some critics would point out that there was nothing particularly new to what was said. Cynics might ask if Mr Naidu had himself taken the “straight and narrow” before his elevation. That would be missing the point, he has “grown with the job” ~ and the same cannot be said of his counterpart in the Lok Sabha, nor of former party colleagues who do not considers themselves ministers of the Government of India but senior party activists. It is against that backdrop that Mr Naidu’s plea to “de-contaminate” Parliament, liberate it from politics, must be appreciated. He has rightly drawn attention to the thin, but definite line that marks the legislature distinct from the political akhara. The tragedy is that so few of our legislators understand the subtle difference, sadly not many ministers are aware of that difference too. When Mr Naidu was “selected” for the office of Vice-President of India, this newspaper had hailed him as a “rough diamond” ~ it has not taken him too long to sparkle.