New Delhi, Feb 14: The mayhem in the Lok Sabha during the introduction of a highly controversial bill for creating a separate state of Telangana Thursday – an incident that was widely publicised and pilloried by the media – has left citizens angry and frustrated, with people from different walks of life calling it a shame and disgrace and wondering where India’s democracy was headed.
While some say they are trying to reflect on the shortcomings of Indian democracy, others despair at the regular disruptions in legislative functioning and steady erosion of the decorum and dignity of the highest institution of democracy. Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar has dubbed the incident as a “blot on democracy”.
“The dignity of parliament is being continuously eroded. As a citizen of this country, I am angry, but I don’t know what to do,” Shaheen Ansari, who is pursuing her doctorate from Delhi university, told IANS.
Lagadapati Rajagopal of the Congress, the Lok Sabha MP from Vijaywada, released gusts of stinging pepper spray – usually used by women to ward of attackers – towards fellow members after the ruckus that followed Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde tabling the Telangana bill, with other MPs for a united Andhra Pradesh tearing up papers and uprooting microphones.
Rajagopal, one of the six Congress members from Andhra Pradesh suspended by the party for moving a no-trust move against the government on the Telangana issue, later claimed he acted in self-defence as he feared an attack on himself by MPs favouring the bifurcation. He didn’t say how he got to smuggle the pepper spray inside the house.
Vinit Sharma, a software professional from Bangalore, called it parliamentary hooliganism.
“We were complaining about the disruptions, and here we have MPs coming down to what is called “goondagardi” (hooliganism). Where is our democracy going,” Sharma asked while speaking to IANS.
“I feel depressed and hopeless to see this. They are just politicising everything and people suffer,” Sharma added.
Shweta Arya from Delhi termed Thursday’s happenings a shame.
“It is a shame on our country and democracy. If I could I would ban these MPs permanently from entering parliament,” Arya, who works with a private firm, said.
Asked if saw a way out, she said she had little hope from these parliament representatives. “I feel it is our bad luck that we are going to face similar situations in future as well,” she said.
Zigmeela Bhutia, an IAS aspirant from Gangtok, said: “Our political representatives portray the quality of the mass.”
“I think it is time to reflect,” he said.
Echoing this, Rajesh Kumar, who works with the Bihar government, said citizens need to be more careful about who they vote for.
“We elect our representatives. If we chose criminals and send them to parliament this is what we will get,” he contended.
Francois Gautier, a French journalist who has been long based in India, said on Twitter: “I covered Parliament in Delhi: worse than a fish market. MPs think they are gods and can do anything. This is the Nehruvian legacy?”
Pankaj Poddar from Mumbai took a dig through a four-line rhyme: “Roses are red/Violets are blue/I am an MP/ I will pepper spray you”.
With the Lok Sabha polls round the corner, many said they will have to think all over again before voting.
“I think it is very important for everyone to ensure that they vote for good, educated candidates, and not for goon type of people,” Delhi housewife Sharmila Bose told IANS.
According to an analysis by think-tank Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), about 30 percent of Lok Sabha members and 17 percent of Rajya Sabha members have criminal cases pending against them. Of the 543 elected Lok Sabha members, 162 have declared criminal cases against themselves and 76 have declared serious criminal cases against themselves in their election affidavits.
Some, however, sided with the Andhra Pradesh MP. Inam Sarah Pangain, a freelance writer from Arunachal Pradesh, compared L. Rajagopal to freedom fighter Bhagat Singh.
“The centre and the states neglect people’s aspirations. That is more shameful than a pepper spray. I don’t think pepper spray in parliament is shameful. It is quite a strategy to express frustration. Remember Bhagat Singh threw a bomb,” Pangain maintained.
“Rajagopal is hero for us, he stood for the demand of a unified Andhra Pradesh. The government is being dictatorial. It doesn’t want to hear our voice,” S. Siva, a student from Hyderabad, told IANS.