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Verbal spats lowering the majesty of Parliament

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Verbal spats lowering the majesty of Parliament
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and BSP leader Danish Ali

BJP MP Bidhuri’s communal slurs hurled at BSP MP Danish Ali in Parliament, have shocked the nation. Does the outburst underscores how strongly the hate has taken root in the country?

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a new chapter in the history of Parliament asking members to “forget all past bitterness”, as they moved into a shiny new building last week, it aroused a new hope.  However, days after the PM’s inspiring words, communal slurs and abusive words were hurled at a Muslim MP by the ruling party MP Ramesh Bidhuri.

The words have been expunged from parliamentary records but Danish Ali of the Bahujan Samaj Party has demanded Bidhuri’s suspension from the Lok Sabha, describing his derogatory remarks against him as hate speech. He even went to the extent of quitting Parliament. The Speaker has issued a stern warning to the BJP MP, but the Opposition has been quick to term it as grossly inadequate. The ruling party has served a show-cause notice on the South Delhi MP, seeking a reply from him for the use of objectionable and unparliamentary words. The Defence Minister expressed regret in the House. But is that enough?

The outburst in Parliament underscores how deep hate has struck root in the country.  While moving into a shiny new building last week the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had observed, “Whatever we are going to do in this new Parliament building, it should be an inspiration to every citizen in the country.”  The conduct of the BJP MP was condemnable and the Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was present during the outrage did apologise to the House for the remarks. But soon after that, the party fielded several spokespersons to explain away the episode, and they accused the one who was at the receiving end of provoking the incident.

The new Parliament building must foster healthy dialogue among members, and between the institution and the people but a sitting Lok Sabha member Kunwar Danish Ali being abused by BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri, who also threatened to settle scores with Ali outside Parliament, is utterly shocking.  Whether the remarks about Ali were off-the-cuff or planned as a part to build a new narrative?

Bidhuri is a Member of Parliament from the South Delhi seat and belongs to the Gujjar caste, recognised as an Other Backward Class (OBC) community. Is this, possibly, an incident that could wade off the potential damage that the Women’s Reservation Bill without a quota for the OBCs could do to the ruling dispensation’s electoral calculations? Is there a long-term strategy to consolidate different social groups?

One could argue that the modality of polarisation emerged from caste dynamics and sensibilities. Communalism and majoritarian dynamics are deeply marked by the sensibilities born out of managing the caste system and inequalities. This is the precise reason why RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has said there can be no Hindutva without minorities.

Members of Parliament have moved into the new Parliament House and on the first day of the special session, held in the old Parliament House, the PM recalled the many bitter-sweet memories of the building.  Scripting a new chapter in the conduct of our MPs would rate high on every citizen’s wish list. The government should work against the possibility of a decline in the respect for the institution which would erode all that the new building sets out to represent.  However, after the high of the ‘Naari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’, the BJP is battling getting a bad name because its South Delhi MP Ramesh Bidhuri got into a spat with BSP MP Danish Ali.  Former Health Minister Harshvardhan was sitting behind Bidhuri and former Union Law Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was sitting right next to Harshvardhan.

The Bahujan Samaj Party MP later called for strict action against Bidhuri and threatened to quit the Lok Sabha itself if Bidhuri walked scot-free. Subsequently, Bidhuri met party President JP Nadda. The Party leader had been served a show cause notice after the outburst in Parliament that was caught on camera. A day after he was publicly abused during Parliament’s special session, a tearful Ali came on record saying that he had been unable to sleep and was on the verge of a mental breakdown.

 After the spat, TMC leader, Mahua Moitra tagging Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla tweeted, “True paragon of impartiality has warned not to do this again. Wow. While other lesser non BJP mortals like Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary and Sanjay Singh suspended for far less. Kya hua Sir-abh maryada, Garima sab bhool gaye? TMC’s Aparuppa Poddar urged Birla to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee. “The precedents and practice show that the Committee of Privileges has the jurisdiction to examine questions of breach of privilege on statements made inside the House,” Poddar’s letter to Birla said.

Moving a privilege motion against Bidhuri, NCP’s Supriya Sule said the BJP MP’s statement “prima facie constitutes a Breach of Privilege and they undermine the dignity of the Lok Sabha.” The CPI (M) said the filthy abusive language used by BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri against Danish Ali ( BSP) on the floor constitutes the worst kind of hate speech indicted by the SC. No MP can claim privilege for such speech. He should be arrested. Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Trinamool Congress have thrown their weight behind Ali by moving privilege motions against Bidhuri.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also called on Ali at his home to extend support. In a post shared on X (formerly, Twitter), Gandhi is seen hugging Ali with the caption Nafrat ke bazaar mein, mohabbat ki dukkan (In this marketplace of hatred, there is a shop of love).” Congress’s leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, also raised the issue with the Speaker, Om Birla, in a letter addressed to him. “Never in the history of the Parliament have such words been used against a member of the minority community, and that too in the presence of the speaker. Considering the circumstances and the brazen violation of all norms and rules relating to the functioning of the House, it would only be appropriate to have the matter examined in detail by the Privileges Committee and punitive action taken against the errant Member,” Chowdhury wrote in the letter. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called Singh’s apology an “eyewash”. “It is a complete shame what Bhiduri said and Rajnath Singh’s apology is not acceptable. It was a half-hearted apology…it is an eyewash.”

Ali has written to Birla asking that Bidhuri’s comments be referred to the Lok Sabha privileges committee. He said that the episode “is most unfortunate and the fact that it has happened in a new parliament building under your leadership as Speaker is truly heartbreaking for me as a minority member of this great nation and an elected Member of Parliament as well”. “Since this is the only way out to discipline an experienced member so that the atmosphere of our country is not vitiated any further. I request your good self to kindly order an inquiry into the matter,” he wrote in the letter. The long wait is for action now.

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