Was it orchestrated? Was it not? As usual, we will never get the answer. It’s a free country and everyone is free to draw one’s own conclusions. The only thing certain is Rajniti Prasad of the RJD is immensely proud of his action in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. Whether he was being impulsive while tearing up the Lokpal bill or his bout of wildness was remote-controlled is another issue.
The day after the rather memorable evening, things are rather predictable. It’s the usual entertainment, tad staid one must say, on television with the Congress and the BJP running down each other with good choice of words and phrases. There are quotable quotes and personal attacks; anchors loading their questions with bias, and Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal expressing outrage. It’s not clear whether yesterday’s developments were fixed, but activities on television leave you with little doubt.
Leaders of the BJP retain their way with effective and aggressive words.
"Yesterday UPA's managers and fixers failed in Rajya Sabha... Government ran away from vote. Biggest ever parliamentary fraud was committed at the stroke of midnight...If it was freedom at midnight on 15 August, 1947, it was 'flee-dom' at midnight yesterday," said senior leader Arun Jaitley.
Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition, summoned parallels from mythology to add edge to her criticism. She compared the episode to the disrobing of Draupadi in epic Mahabharata and called it the "disrobing of democracy".
"Even in the Mahabharata, while Bhishma and Drona sat silent when Draupadi was disrobed, yesterday the disrobing was done at the instance of the PM and Pranab Mukherjee,’’ she was quoted as saying by a news television channel. BJP chief Nitin Gadkari said the happenings of yesterday were an "insult to parliament". The government ran away from voting on the Lokpal bill, he added. There were others talking about the murder of democracy.
Yawn. The BJP has overdone the rhetoric. It excites no more.
The Congress leaders, old fashioned and rarely impressive with words, were playing catchup. Their new-found aggressiveness does not quite fit into their image of sly, backroom operators but they deserve some marks for trying hard.
So we had Home Minister P Chidambaram, fresh out of the cold storage, waging a dour fight for the government. "The BJP had no intention of passing the Lokpal Bill in Rajya Sabha, that is why 187 opposition amendments were moved in the House...By no stretch of imagination 187 amendments could have been examined, analysed and accepted or rejected in the time available. How can a minister accept amendments being forced down his throat?’’ he asked.
However, he assured the world that the bill was safe. "The Bill is still safe. It has not been defeated in Rajya Sabha. It will be taken up in the Budget session," he said.
Abhishek Singhvi, the Congress’ spokesperson was more interesting. "It was obstructive, dilatory, politically expedient, opportunistic conduct by BJP...Every possible trick was used to prevent the bill from being passed in Lok Sabha. It shows the intent of UPA government. We were flexible, we reached out beyond the limit,’’ he said.
"...It is for the BJP to decide, as it has been showing a double face, hypocritical face on the issue. They are trying to get over the problem by putting conditionalities...Assassins are blaming the victims. BJP is the true murderer of the democracy and Lokpal Bill," he added.
Good try Mr Singhvi. But you just don’t look the part.
The Congress surely has some learning to do to be impressive on television. Or, at least it can unleash some young faces like Sachin Pilot and Jyotiraditya Scindia. If they don’t have experience or expertise to handle questions, it does not matter. On television nothing does.