Assembly antics: In Bihar, the theatre of the absurd

by Manoj Kumar

Patna: In politics, said Napolean Bonaparte, absurdity is not a handicap. This fully applies to politicians from Bihar who, over decades, have graduated from shy, self-effacing social workers to publicity-crazy creatures resorting to just any theatrics to be in the news.

Sample this: Last week, a legislator from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Dinesh Prasad Singh, rushed to the state assembly carrying a variety of liquor bottles. The lawmaker dodged various levels of security checks by concealing the bottles beneath the seats of his car. What he did in the portico of the state assembly was quite denigrating of the institution. He sat on a dharna with liquor bottles around and shouted slogans against the government’s new excise policy promoting sale of liquor. As if his antics were not enough, he smashed a few bottles at the dharna site. He was seeking a total ban on sale of liquor in Bihar.

The protest was well-intentioned. Singh was upset over the recent deaths of over 100 people due to consumption of spurious liquor in various districts of Bihar. But what a way to go about it! His protest was dubbed 'nautanki' by other lawmakers. He also attracted derision from other quarters.

Bihar

A legislator from Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Dinesh Prasad Singh, rushed to the state assembly carrying a variety of liquor bottles. Manoj Kumar

During the past few years, the Bihar assembly has been witness to a variety of such lawmakers from both ruling and Opposition parties adopting bizarre methods to draw the attention of the House. Such theatrics, observers say, are, in fact, aimed at grabbing the media attention.

On an earlier occasion too, the RJD lawmaker had resorted to such theatrics. Earlier during the winter session of the House, Singh, who represents Jagdishpur assembly seat, had reached the House on a cart loaded with sacks. This was to protest the government’s failure to open paddy procurement centres, which he said forced poor farmers to make distress sale of paddy at throwaway prices.

A couple of days ago, during the two-day nationwide shutdown called by various trade union over various issues, Awadhesh Kumar Rai, a CPI legislator from Bachhwada in Begusarai district, reached the assembly in a kurta with various slogans printed over it as the cops did not allow him to enter the House with banners or placards in hand. Last year, during the budget session, Jyoti Rashmi, an Independent lawmaker from Dehri assembly constituency in Rohtas district, had entered the assembly with posters and banners. She sat on a dharna in the well of the House. Eventually, she had to be suspended from the House by the Speaker and forcibly shifted by the watch and ward staff.

Even more dramatic was the gesture of Anant Singh, a powerful lawmaker from Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U). Singh, who is known as 'Chhote Sarkar’ among his followers and who loves to sport a luxuriant moustache, had reached the House riding on a tastefully-designed buggy to attend the opening day of the winter session of the assembly. Interestingly, Singh, who claimed to have bought the buggy to cope with the hike in fuel price, is the only legislator in Bihar who arrives at the assembly in a Mercedes. BJP MLA Rameshwar Chaurasia was seen reaching the Bihar assembly on a scooter and later a cycle to protest fuel price hike. It is not known if their protests helped the poor, his photos were splashed in several newspapers.

Old timers say such cheap behaviour is a recent phenomenon. They link it directly to the preponderance of 24x7 news channels. “While the 24x7 news channels want TRPs, leaders want publicity at all costs. The theatrics is an arrangement that suits both,” remarked a senior leader. Who said absurdity is a handicap?

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