Parliament must stoop to conquer
My respect for Parliament is anchored in my commitment to parliamentary democracy. For that reason, I’m convinced that citizens should be deferential towards elected bodies — from the gram panchayat to the Lok Sabha.
But at a time when the credibility of the political class has touched its Nadir, a greater responsibility devolves on parliamentarians to desist from actions that bring them in the line of public ire. It’s for this reason that I consider as an act of misplaced arrogance the bid to haul up Anna Hazare’s associates for breach of parliamentary privileges.
This is not to suggest that I in any way approve of Kiran Bedi’s on-stage antics, Arvind Kejriwal’s self-righteous hyperbole and Prashant Bhushan’s insinuations against members of parliament. But Parliament has to show greater maturity and tolerance as an institution designed to serve rather than punish people. The privileges it has invoked are meant to be used as a shield— and not as a sword.
More importantly, public perception is supportive of Anna’s teammates, not the action Parliament has proposed against them. People believe the trio is persecuted for having humbled the government in particular and parliamentarians in general. The idea clearly is harebrained even if somebody believes that booking the anti-graft activists for being disrespectful to Parliament would pit them against the institution nobody wants insulted or diminished.
Purely for the sake of form, the best course available to MPs is to restrict their expression of annoyance with the unapologetic threesome to a reprimand or a censure. Sending them to jail will be as big a blunder as their August 16 detention alongside Anna.
This makes sense to me because as the highest law making body, Parliament has to be an embodiment of tolerance and forgiveness. That alone will restore to the institution fighting for its honor, the legislative and moral supremacy vested in it by the vote of the sovereign, which is the people.
In that limited sense, Anna’s right when he says people are the masters, politicians the servants. To conquer therefore, Parliament must stoop.