"Dear BJP, I'm no Nirupa Roy," said the angry PM. Err... he didn't exactly say those words, but in the great filmi spirit of our country, that's the essence of the shut-up-or-i'll-box-your-ears speech that Manmohan Singh lobbed at the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha today.
Nothing about our PM inspires much imagination. Firstly, you can't say if he is asleep or awake in the House.
However, today was different. And today, you want to like him. And for the official face of the UPA government, that's a big deal!
Firstly, if you have had the misfortune to watch how the two houses of the Indian parliament function, you'll want to give yourself one good kick you know where. The Indian parliament stands for everything that is wrong with human behaviour. People screaming, people shouting, people talking to themselves, ten people saying ten different things as the Speaker looks on, desperation writ large on his/her face. A normal day in the parliament is what apocalypse might look like in the present day.
So when Singh questioned, "Have you ever seen a country where the PM is not allowed to speak," he hit the nail right on its head. The business of the Parliament is not to call each other names like middle school boys fighting over who gets to captain the football team. Forget respect, if you don't let the head of the government speak, how pray, is a 'discussion' supposed to take place? In fact, if the agenda of a group of people is to arrive to a solution through debate, the first requisite of the same is letting everyone speak without interruption.
Secondly, he didn't shout or gesticulate like a mad man, the way MPs of his own party and the Opposition party are used to. Addressing the chair person, whose role and designation allows him to ideally preside over the proceedings of the House, he asks, "Have you seen the Opposition MPs call the PM chor (thief) and storm the well of the House?"
Yes Mr Salman Khurshid, listen to what you own Prime Minister has to say about that brand of politicking. Calling Narendra Modi 'khalnayak' is not respectable by an book of politics.
And as if juvenile name-calling was not enough outside the Parliament, our MPs have to take it inside the House where the business is to debate policy and important national strategies. How does one benefit from mud-slinging except for telling the voters, us citizens, that we can only choose from the devil and the deep blue sea while electing a government. If you can't mind your own petty businesses, how are you expected to run and monitor the business of a country?
Thirdly, he said, "Building of a consensus is the responsibility of the government and the primary Opposition." This might well be a lesson that his own party has failed to follow in the past, but this needed to be said. The function of an institution like the Parliament is not only to say 'yes' and 'no' to policies, it's function is to facilitate governance, critique the same and hence make it more efficient. There's a lot more in the political playing ground to play nasty tug-of-wars for votes, over.
For an outsider, not aware of the down-and-dirty brand of Indian politicking, the Parliament shows India as a country led by two groups of people. Who shout equally loudly. And equally incoherently. And if those are who the rest of the country has elected as representatives, it wouldn't be too misplaced to suspect that elephants roam the Indian roads and snake charmers entertain wedding guests. The Parliament makes us all look terrible. And the Prime Minister just showed it the mirror.