“Let’s go to Parliament on the day of the trust vote,” I suggested to a friend, because I’m all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when it comes to our democratic institutions, even though I’ve been a few times before and should know better. “Okay, and let’s take a suitcase along with bank notes sticking out of the edges, and ask them sotto voce where we should put it,” he said, referring to the brisk trade in Members of Parliament in the days leading up to the vote of confidence in the UPA government.
We chuckled at our own silliness and trooped off to stand in a line roughly five kilometres long, full of other interested citizens patiently sweating and waiting their turn to watch which way the teetering Lok Sabha would swing. Would we have elections now, or a few months from now, an important difference that would impact the life of the nation exactly not at all? The suspense was unbearable.
A young lady in the line behind me was enrolled in the MIT School of Government in Pune, and interning for a BJP party member. “So you want to be a politician?” I asked her. “Oh yes!” she breathed. “Do you believe in what you’re doing?” I asked. “Oh no!” she breathed. I think she’ll be very happy.
Inside the hall, they were debating the Indo-US nuclear agreement, India’s dealings with the organisation known in some southern states as the YIYAYEYA, and the general wisdom of opting for nuclear energy.
Outside the hall, the line didn’t move for ages, and news came round that proceedings had been adjourned because honourable member A, thunderously denouncing the alleged horse-trading of MPs, had been perfidiously reminded by honourable member B that hon. member A had himself offered hon. member B a crore of rupees to vote a particular way, just recently, when hon. member A had visited hon. member B at his permanent residence in jail. No wonder Parliament has such high security: It’s to safeguard the country by keeping all the honour inside.
Not that security was too tight for two bags stuffed with bribe money to really, actually find their way into the august hall of the people, where MPs flung it around the room and screamed at each other so much that the people who decide these things decided to turn off the live camera feeds for a while so that the rest of the country wouldn’t have to throw up their typically modest dinners. My friend’s morning-time joke was, by the afternoon, about as funny as getting stabbed right in the honour.
It’s also difficult to understand why, in an institution where your right to speak and be heard is the basis of the whole institution, our MPs prefer to shout each other down rather than listen and respond. I suppose that when you can’t raise the level of the debate, you raise the volume.
Of course I might be misremembering things, because my time in the public gallery was spent using all of my brain cells to concentrate on not crossing my legs, which is the way that I naturally sit in a chair. Apparently, crossing your legs while you sit up there in utter silence, shows disrespect for the House. They hire people to stand in the gallery and watch, eagle-eyed, for crossed legs, and if you forget yourself, someone will come and uncross them for you, while shrieking MPs drink each other’s blood in the well of the House. If it weren’t for those alert leg people, the country’s dignity would be in tatters.
Everyone should spend a little time watching the proceedings in Parliament. At the very least, it will put any personal problems you have in perspective.