Shock and outrage has been expressed at the use of pepper spray by a Member of Parliament inside the Lok Sabha on Thursday. Indian Express reports that senior politicians have used expressions like ‘big blot on our parliamentary democracy’, shame, disgraceful, unbelievable, and ‘insult to democracy’. An editorial in The Hindu comments that “nothing can be as shameful and disgraceful”, and further states that “Another member has been accused of brandishing a knife, but he has denied it, claiming what he was holding was a microphone, probably one wrenched from its fixture.”
I fail to understand how anybody could be even mildly surprised by this incident. What happened is nothing new. It is only slightly worse than what we’ve been seeing over the last few years in legislatures and outside.
Frankly, the politicians are all shedding crocodile tears. The Congress party is outraged because their own MPs have dared to openly challenge the party leadership. The BJP and other non-Congress parties are delighted to see the acute discomfort of the Congress leadership.
If any MP belonging to any party had done the same things while confronting his political opponents, his party leadership would either have justified his actions, or would have criticised him feebly in public but rewarded him suitably at a later date. In any case, no action would have been taken against him.
In December 2012, Sanjay Nirupam made personal attacks on TV actress-turned-politician Smriti Irani during a debate on television. No action was taken against him by his party.
In July 2013, Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma had said that Mulayam Singh Yadav was “not even fit to sweep the Prime Minister’s residence.” No action was taken against him by his party.
On January 17, 2014, Mani Shankar Aiyar made a derogatory remark regarding Narendra Modi’s humble origins as the son of a tea stall owner. No action was taken against him by his party.
Not only did Somnath Bharti’s party not take any action against him for his midnight raid, his action was justified by them. The AAP’s supporters keep claiming, maybe rightly so, that the party has good intentions, but they must remember that the end does not justify the means.
If our political leaders are sincere about improving the behaviour of their party members, they must show zero tolerance towards such behaviour, irrespective of the seniority and/or grassroots level support enjoyed by the offending member.