"If I speak, there will be an earthquake," warned a phlegmatic Rahul Gandhi outside the Parliament on Friday. The Parliament has witnessed many 'giants'. Stalwarts who have delivered moving speeches in the Constituent Assembly, but none have had the audacity to make claims such as Gandhi.
Take for instance former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's famous 'Tryst with Destiny' speech. Or the speeches by known precocious socialist Ram Manohar Lohia. These are considered as key speeches that have come to define Indian history.
Back then, Lohia used to drag Nehru into his speeches. He fiercely criticised Nehru's policies on China and openly questioned his economic strategy.
In a speech that was clearly a dig at Nehru, Lohia had said, "He spends more on his dog than on the common man." In spite of their hostile exchanges, they shared amicable relations.
Similarly, despite their rivalry, the relationship between Indira Gandhi and JP Narayan never lost its quality. The George Fernandes-Atal Bihari Vajpayee combine was another example of this tradition. During his tenure, Vajpayee had made some sharp remarks about CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee, for which he later publically apologised. Being opponents, however, did not deter them from sharing cordial relations.
Similarly, during Vajpayee's rule, on one such occasion, Sonia Gandhi lost her composure. Sonia's abuse directed at Vajpayee echoed in the House long after the house was adjourned. LK Advani tried to warn Sonia but she continued to abuse the prime minister anyway. Days later, however, when a group of terrorists attacked the Parliament, Sonia gracefully called the prime minister to ask about his health.
Vajpayee proudly proclaimed in Parliament that in a democracy where the Leader of Opposition was concerned about the health of the country's prime minister, nothing could go wrong.
These things seem fanciful today, only because the behaviour of members of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha has become undemocratic off late.
In the Rajya Sabha, Naresh Agarwal, Pramod Tiwari, Sharad Yadav and Sitaram Yechury have monopolised the Opposition's discourse. Even the disciplined MPs do not get a chance to have their say. The Lok Sabha is struggling in a similar way. The level of debate is pedestrian at best.
A sad fact is that the level of discourse at the ghats of Banaras, or the coffee house in Hazratganj, Lucknow, or that in Allahabad's Civil Lines is higher than that of Parliament's two houses. It is not a reflection of all of those elected, however, as whenever a new voice is allowed to speak, the level can be seen rising.
Rahul's statement is interesting in this context. Leaving aside the earthquake superlative, Rahul is expected to deliver more sensible statements like his grandfather Feroze Gandhi had done. In 1950 Feroze, an MP from Rae Bareli alleged that the Nehru government had indulged in corruption. He alleged that industrialist Haridas Mundra was sanctioned illegal loans.
Following the accusations, Nehru-Indira's relationship with Feroz soured. The then finance minister TTK Krishnamachari was also forced to resign. But, even though Feroz managed to shake the foundations of the government, he made no such bold claims as Rahul.
It seems that it would be a better strategy on Rahul's part to follow the footsteps of his grandfather. On the face of it, Rahul's speeches appear to lack the seriousness and sincerity displayed by Feroz. Better late than never, as they say.
Updated Date: Dec 10, 2016 09:05:07 IST