Earlier this week the Speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Lytvyn, conducted the day’s voting from behind two or three ordinary large black umbrellas held open before him by his security. This was to prevent any further eggs from hitting him, though at least one of the many hurled by members of the house was in yellow bloom upon his quite sharp suit.
This was the genteel part of the episode, though it was somewhat incongruous. I mean, what kind of guard carries a big black umbrella inside a building? For that matter, what kind of parliamentarian brings eggs along to work in the morning? Then it all went to hell. The opposition accused the President of betraying the country’s interests, and an all-out brawl erupted. Honourable fists laid into honourable noses; someone threw a smoke bomb that all but obscured the voting board tally; lots of people bled profusely.
I almost wept with relief.
Then I went online and looked up more reassuring photos—of that time in July 2009, when the honourable members of the parliament of South Korea leapt upon the dais to prevent the passing of a controversial media bill, and attacked each other with screams of abuse, hair streaming with sweat in their efforts to deck rivals and almost tear off their clothes. It is something to watch a delicate, business-suited Korean woman emitting blood-curdling screams as she falls upon/is fallen upon by another with the aspect of a rogue pterodactyl. I checked out Taiwan’s legislators honouring a longstanding tradition of brawling like schoolchildren.
In other words, our elected representatives don’t make the only ugly scenes in the world—though, as a patriotic Indian, I root for ours being the ugliest. Remember the Uttar Pradesh Assembly back in 2006? MLAs stormed the well of the house and then, deciding that this kind of thing was for wallflowers, began to rip out microphones and either club their colleagues over the head or launch them at each other like javelins; they sent furniture flying through the august hall; and they candidly just beat each other to pulp with their bare fists.
Remember the cash-for-votes scandal of July 2008, when BJP MPs ran down to the well and began to throw wads of money around which they alleged served to buy the government votes to survive the no-confidence motion after the Left withdrew support over the Indo-US nuclear deal?
Of course, everyone knows that in that instance, while every party had issued a clarion call to all its MPs, appealing to them to come forth from their hospitals and prison cells, to vote, the man who really swung it for the UPA was the Samajwadi Party’s Kishore Samrite. This guy spent Rs 17 lakhs sacrificing over three hundred animals in a ten-day yagna at the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati. Animal rights activists led a delegation of outraged animals to the Speaker of the house in protest, but I’m not sure that that got anywhere.
Then there was the Maharashtra state Assembly that dissolved into fistfights and hardbound book-throwing in April 2008, apparently because of poor time management that left some people without the time to speak. It ended with cut and bleeding noses and six MLAs being suspended for a year.
There are endless examples, across our great land, of unparliamentary behaviour. All in all, the Ukrainians can keep their silly umbrellas. I’m reassured that if we’re not the only ones, at least we’re the worst. However, while I don’t really mind if our representatives knock each other’s brains out, I just wish they’d leave the furniture alone. We pay for that.