Rajat Sharma


AKB30 By mimicking Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar during a protest by opposition MPs in Parliament premises on Tuesday, Trinamool Congress MP Kalyan Banerjee has brought disgrace to the norms of Indian parliamentary democracy. Banerjee’s mimicry act cannot be justified by any means, whether from the point of upholding dignity of a Constitutional post, or from the view of Parliamentary norms, or even from the view of decency in politics. The sad part was that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was filming the mimicry act on his cellphone. Rahul Gandhi is a top leader, but does he know much about the dignity of Constitutional posts, like those of Rajya Sabha chairman and Lok Sabha Speaker? It would have been better if he could have stopped Kalyan Banerjee from performing the mimicry act. Instead, he videographed the act on his phone. This is a clear evidence of his lack of political understanding. I sometimes feel, he may not be realizing what he is doing, and the consequences thereof. On Wednesday, Jagdeep Dhankhar tweeted to say that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to him over phone and “expressed great pain over the abject theatrics of some Honourable MPs…He told me that he has been at the receiving end of such insults for twenty years and counting….I told him…none of the insults will make me change my path”. Even the President Droupadi Murmu, who normally keeps herself aloof from the rough and tumble of politics, had to post on social media: “I was dismayed to see the manner in which our respected Vice President was humiliated in the Parliament complex. Elected representatives must be free to express themselves, but their expression should be within the norms of dignity and courtesy. That has been the Parliamentary tradition we are proud of, and the People of India expect them to uphold it.” The Opposition is the biggest loser from Kalyan Banerjee’s mimicry act, with Rahul Gandhi videographing it. For the last three days, opposition parties were making a big political issue over the suspension of a large number of MPs and were making allegations of “dictatorship” against the government. They were getting public sympathy on the suspension issue, but by mimicking the Vice President of India, they have made a mess of it. The issue of mass suspension has now been relegated to the background, and BJP is now demanding that both Kalyan Banerjee and Rahul Gandhi must apologize to the Rajya Sabha chairman. At the same time, I would like to say that suspending 143 MPs in Parliament is really an unfortunate step, and both the ruling party and opposition are responsible for this. By shouting slogans inside the well of the House and holding placards, the opposition MPs were themselves inviting suspension, so that they can go outside and tell the people that the government has made Parliament “opposition-less”. Passage of important bills on criminal laws replacing IPC, CrPC and Indian Evidence Act, without involvement of opposition members, is not a good sign for democracy. It would have been better if opposition had shown patience and taken part in the debate. On its part, the government could have shown large-heartedness and the Home Minister could have given a brief statement on the ongoing probe into Parliament security breach. This could have assuaged the feelings of opposition, but, as of now, both sides are adamant. This is not good for our parliamentary system.


The mass suspension of opposition MPs cast its shadow on the 28-party INDIA bloc meeting that took place in Delhi on Tuesday. It was attended by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Akhilesh Yadav, M K Stalin, Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, Arvind Kejriwal, Sitaram Yechury, Dr Farooq Abdullah and other top leaders. At the meeting, top Congress leaders were surprised when Mamata Banerjee suddenly proposed the name of Mallikarjun Kharge as the convenor of the INDIA bloc, citing his Dalit background. Kejriwal supported her by saying that Kharge could be projected as both convenor and prime ministerial candidate. Kejriwal claimed he had done some research and he can say with confidence that projecting a Dalit face in the elections will be a big advantage. Other leaders sitting around the table were caught unawares, and it was left to Kharge to defuse the palpable tension inside the hall. Kharge said, all parties should focus on defeating BJP first and the issue of electing a PM could be taken up after the polls. He also made it clear that he never used his Dalit caste background to secure any post. There was lack of bonhomie among the INDIA bloc leaders, that was noticed in the past three meetings. The seat-sharing task was left to state units and it was decided to complete the process by the second week of January. There was no joint press conference after the meeting. Mamata Banerjee, M K Stalin, Lalu Prasad, Nitish Kumar, Uddhav Thackeray, Jayant Chowdhury and Kejriwal left the hotel after the meeting was over. The original idea of floating Kharge’s name was that of Kejriwal, who had called on Mamata Banerjee earlier and had requested her to suggest this name. When Kharge’s name was floated by the West Bengal CM, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad, Sitaram Yechury and Akhilesh Yadav looked in surprise, while Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray sat silently. Both Kejriwal and Mamata Banerjee feel that the alliance could be on a weak pitch if Rahul Gandhi is projected as opposition bloc leader, and BJP can gain advantage. Their idea was, if an experienced political leader like Kharge could be projected in the elections as India’s first Dalit PM, it can make things difficult for the BJP. The Congress, however, decided to bury this idea as soon as it was floated. It would not have suited the Congress leadership to weaken Rahul’s claim for the position of PM, and, therefore, the party decided to put the issue on the backburner. Lalu Prasad’s problem is a bit different. He wants Nitish Kumar out of Patna by resigning as chief minister of Bihar and come to Delhi to lead the INDIA alliance. This can pave the way for making his son Tejashwi Yadav to take over as chief minister. Four INDIA bloc meetings have taken place, but Lalu Prasad could not manage to push Nitish’s name as convenor. Overall, nothing of significant import took place at Tuesday’s opposition bloc meeting. The same topics that were taken up at the first meeting in Patna were raised again in Delhi. I had already said in my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday that the suspension issue can derail the INDIA bloc meeting, and the same thing happened. Most of the participants spoke on the issue of suspension of MPs and Modi’s ‘dictatorship’, but no decision could be reached on the issue of convenor or prime ministerial face, nor was a proper seat-sharing formula evolved. The old refrain of “defeating Modi by remaining united” was noticed. Opposition leaders have no idea how Modi has already begun his poll preparations, in which direction and at what speed.

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