Enough is enough. Restore parliament

Rahul Gandhi

The BJP’s protests against Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Cambridge are drawing yawns from the general public by now. News-curious folk who have heard snippets of Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Cambridge fail to understand why Parliament is stalled over a speech that does not even remotely endanger or disgrace the country. The curious ones took it upon them to watch the YouTube laughed off the ruckus it is creating.

Social media is awash with cartoons and comments and a large number of folk are quizzical and critical of the BJP closing the doors of Parliament to a clarification from Gandhi himself. Clearly, most of them, have not even heard the speech. Gandhi has offered to address Parliament on the matter provided he is allowed to speak. A cartoon depicts the plight of Rahul Gandhi tersely. A large hand blocks Rahul Gandhi’s mouth and the imaginary face behind the hand states “You can’t speak in Parliament”. Rahul Gandhi’s image states: “That’s what I said in London”. Gandhi avers that if democracy was, indeed, genuinely operational, he would be allowed to speak in Parliament. Regardless of what anyone says, democracy in India is in peril depending on what one politically stands for and ones identity.

Ruling parties in India, tend to control legislative spaces when they hold a majority. The BJP has achieved particular notoriety in obstructing parliamentary proceedings – whether in Opposition or in the ruling space.  Legislative spaces have become perfunctory in scope. Short sessions, no substance – this is the emerging downbeat model of democracy. Citizens watch helplessly as their elected representatives take home pay packages and more-than-decent allowances, but hardly practice democracy as it pertains to governance in various spheres of the political arena. This is particularly evident in Goa over the last decade – short sessions and an overcrowded agenda. The Opposition protests and calls for extended sessions and inclusive agendas all of which are thrown out of the window. Gone are the days when citizens would collect ‘passes’ to go and be informed by classic deliberations on matters concerning the future of the country and/or the State. Sober debates are out of fashion.

Back to the feral allegations that Rahul Gandhi had disgraced the country in Cambridge. When he arrived in Parliament to make his submission, they adjourned Parliament. Delhi Police issued him a notice and now a Committee will discuss whether to have him hurled out of Parliament.

In London, Gandhi made the point that democracy was at risk. Back home, the Godi-media has gone berserk without having actually listened to the entire speech. The media, today, are the greatest possible violators of democracy by their one-sided, corporate sponsored cacophony night-after-night. Gandhi has rightly observed that the BJP’s protests over his remarks are their attempt to interrupt thinking people from staying focused and critiquing the multiple issues and questions that affect the country and around which BJP has utterly failed.

Gandhi had planned to raise issues on the American securities research firm Hindenburg Research’s report on fraud and stock manipulation by Adani.  In the interim, the BJP has plainly accepted Adani’s denial. Democracy is at risk after 2000 police personnel barricaded the Opposition from marching to Parliament to protest Adani’s alleged misdemeanors. One gets the feeling that we exist within a police state. When big names in Parliament are treated as such, what becomes of the plight of the common citizen.

Anurag Thakur Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting is vociferous. Borrowing the quote: “Facts are sacred and opinion is free”, the Union minister said, “The democratic structure of our great country will always remain what it is. Thakur himself violated the democratic spirit of the nation during the anti-CAA agitations when he screamed out during the protests: “Goli maro salon ko”. With that kind of spirit, it is not clear to this writer that democracy is in safe hands.

In defence of himself, Gandhi reminded a group of Indian Journalists’ Association that it was the Prime Minister who had on occasion defamed India when he declared that nothing of any worth had happened in India for 70 years until the BJP arrived on the ruling stage. It was the PM who talked about endless corruption in the country when, in fact, today it is  happening right under the nose of the very government he heads.

Study the contrasting narratives. Indian democracy is under attack and vital institutions including the judiciary and media are under threat. Minorities are under threat. Gandhi narrated them and, further, described the growing phenomena of how Pegasus has invaded us. Developed by the Israeli cyber-arms company  Pegasus can be covertly installed on mobile phones (and other devices) running most versions of iOS and Android.  By 2022, Pegasus could read text messagestrack callscollect passwordslocate tracking, access the target device’s microphone and camera, and harvest information from apps. It can infect cell phones and is a perilous incursion on people’s freedom.

In Cambridge, Gandhi was constructive. He described Bharath Jodo Yatra as a conversation and negotiation which opportunely turned out to be a massive mobilization of people who yearn for Indian pluralism and national harmony. Gandhi’s full speech is an instructive must-watch for all citizens of the country because it offers constructive forward passages for the future. Gandhi was reductionist in his speech. He conveyed ideas, and intellectual, philosophical positions through live stories and examples. The Godi-media’s narratives of propagandist falsehood, by contrast, deserve to be trashed. In a globalized world, TV channels and print media put out news all over the world 24X7. Gandhi did not open a Pandora’s Box.

With elections in several States and 2024 around the corner, the Ruling party’s has started fretting over the possible reversal of fortunes. Any distraction will do. It is time to utilize Parliament in favour of progressive causes. Parliament is paid for by tax-payers hard earned money. It cannot be squandered in whimsical fashion.

Ranjan Solomon is a political commentator and a human rights activist. Views expressed are the writer’s own.


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