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Abusing Privilege

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The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha rightly suspended eight opposition MPs for a week following their rowdy behaviour in the House. Leading this ignoble charge was Derek O’Brien, who has taken his leader Mamta Banerjee’s ‘rude politics’ to quite another level. This lack of fundamental respect for others is also the hallmark of Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh. Adding insult to injury, not only did these MPs refuse to withdraw from the House, they continued to disrupt proceedings, seeking justification for this in the ‘nobility’ of their cause. The proceedings had to be called off for the day on Monday as they could not be persuaded to accept the Chairman’s ruling.

This incident is just one of the many ways in which these privileged persons undermine the very democracy that has endowed them with such power. In Uttarakhand, for instance, the Leader of the Opposition, after testing positive for Covid-19, did not think the arrangements in several hospitals, government and private, good enough for her. She was flown by helicopter (at public expense, of course) from Haldwani to Dehradun and on to Delhi to a ‘five-star’ hospital of her choosing. All these politicians have so successfully gamed the system over the years that the general public accepts such tantrums as par for the course. Those who see conspiracies in the present length of Prime Minister Modi’s beard fail to see the real dangers in such entitled behaviour.

With such conduct so common in high places, why should one be surprised by the lawlessness that exists in everyday life? Respect for the law, as also the conventions, is the foundation of democracy. The more they are undercut, the greater is the encouragement provided to ‘might is right’. What was done by Derek O’Brien in the Rajya Sabha would have been considered ‘assault’ in any other setting, inviting even imprisonment. His punishment needed to be much stricter, preferably a year’s suspension. But, for some reason, the system does not have the guts to act against such transgressions; with what resolve can it be expected to stand up to Chinese violations of the border? It is ironic that the Modi regime is constantly being vilified as ‘facist’ by its critics around the world, but fails to live even one percent up to that reputation. The Opposition, which claims to be inspired by ‘(Mahatma) Gandhian’ values, is actually, through such behaviour, subtly giving the thumbs up to violence on the streets in the coming confrontation between ‘farmers’ and the police. It is important to see through this charade if things are to get better.