The Assault on Parliament – An Article by Arun Shourie

(Rahul G during the course of the his recent interview with Arnab G mentioned two things, seemingly unconnected. Indira G being arrested and BJP not allowing the Parliament to run. I was less than 10 when Janata Govt. was in power and would not be able to say with first hand knowledge. But when i went through contemporary records, I find two interesting things:

1. Indira G was arrested twice. But these arrests created sympathy for her and ended in avoidable fiasco. They only strengthened her hands.

2. Indira G provoked her second arrest by systematically harassing the Janata Government.

I have given a complete article published in August 1978 (the article is reproduced in the Book – Institutions in the Janata period) that talks about her attitude towards the parliament. – This is my [Sridhar Krishnaswamy] introduction to the Shourie Article. You can read the article from here.)

During the past fortnight the country has had three examples of Mrs Gandhi’s politics: the “Save India” rally, the behaviour of her followers in the Rajya Sabha and the behaviour of her supporters in the Lok Sabha. Each of these documents Mrs Gandhi’s intent as well as her strategy.

The “Save India” day was preceded by great and studious build-up: “It wiII mark a turning-point in the politics of mass action… every corner of the country wiII rise… every section of the people will be mobilised”, screamed her servitors. With complete shamelessness, they chose to hold the rallies on a day that is one of the most sacred days in the history of our independence struggle, the very day on which Gandhiji launched the “Quit India” movement.

And so deep was their determination to “Save India” that a few hours of rain made them postpone the “saving” of their dear and beloved motherland to another day: “India, I say, will you please manage on your own till we can find a comfortable enough day to save you?” Akbar Illahabadi had long ago taken the measure of the concern these “leaders” have for our country and our people. He too knew of “leaders” who spent long hours dining and wining with the British rulers, passionately discussing with them the plight of our countrymen, the wretched state of Our country: Kaum ke gham me khaate hain dinner hukumaat ke saath, Ranj bahut hain hamaare leader ko par aaraam ke saath…

But what if the rally had been held? Whom was it to save’? Here is the text of the pledge that the faithful were asked to sign: “I. .. resident of … believe that the Shah Commission is a politically motivated Commission and that any action which the Janata Government will take against our leader and President, Smt. Indira Gandhi, will be strongly condemned in a non-violent manner by the paths shown to us by Mahatma Gandhi. I solemnly pledge to court arrest as a sign of solidarity and support to our beloved leader Smt. Indira Gandhi. .. (Signature)… (Date)”.

Not a word about India! At least the draftsman was honest. And how totally sincere he was about following “the paths shown to us by Mahatma Gandhi”. Yes, that is exactly what the Mahatma taught: turn tail if it rains.

But the assault on Parliament is a more sinister, an infinitely more serious matter.

For weeks on end members of Mrs Gandhi’s party paralysed the Rajya Sabha demanding that it should discuss the charges of corruption against Morarji’s son. On the twelfth they paralysed the Lok Sabha arguing, in effect, that it should not discuss the substance of the charges. They are determined to paralyse the Lok Sabha if it discusses the charges and to paralyse the Rajya Sabha if it discusses anything but the charges. When the Lok Sabha was considering whether or not the correspondence between Morarji and Charan Singh should be tabled in the House, it was pointed out that the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha had been charged by the Upper House with the task of finding a solution and that the Lok Sabha should defer a decision till the Rajya Sabha Chairman had given his ruling. The members shouted, “The Lok Sabha is sovereign, we shall not be dictated to by the other House”. Now when the Lok Sabha was about to begin discussing their motion about charges of corruption against Morarji’s son, they shouted and screamed that the Lok Sabha should not discuss the very motion they had earlier insisted it discuss on the ground that the Upper House had already taken a view on the matter.

Mrs Gandhi’s strategy in all this is clear. In the words of her great mentor the strategy is to “destroy democracy with the instruments of democracy itself”. Her hirelings will paralyse the courts, her supporters will paralyse the Parliament until a disgusted and confused populace throws up its hands, “These fancy institutions are not for us; India can only be run by the danda”. And at that moment our swadeshi Joan of Arc will present herself as the only one who can wield the danda the country needs.

She has two allies in carrying out her plan.

Her most potent ally is the Junata leadership. These self satisfied mules are her real election agents. They will not leave a single stone untumed to help her. On every issue they will adopt the one stratagem that is guaranteed to put them on the defensive. Sanjay had his panch-sutri-karyakram, Mrs. Gandhi had her bees-sutri-karyakram. Our friends here are single-minded. They have an ek-sutri-karyakram: “Hand power back to Indira Gandhi”.

They will not stop till they have enabled her to start the 1974 Gujerat movement in reverse-a movement to demand a mid-term poll in, say, V.P.-and thus crush whatever residual legitimacy their governments may have. For the central government will then be in the same position in which she was vis-a-vis the Gujerat movement: if it does not concede the demand for a mid~term poll, it will be open to the charge of being authoritarian; if it concedes the demand, it will receive a drubbing from the electorate and thus lose such credit as it may still have.

Mrs Gandhi’s second set of allies are her followers of the moment, the professional servitors, the opportunists-on-principIe. They shout when they are ordered to shout, they shut up when they are ordered to shut up, they walk in when they are ordered to walk in, they walk out when they are ordered to walk out; at party conclaves and the like they pass resolutions when they are ordered to pass them, they block resolutions when they are ordered to block them. I am truly amazed at the total lack of self-respect, at the abject servitude by which such individuals allow themselves to be used as the tools and megaphones of another.

The havoc that this is doing to the Parliament cannot be described in Words. Unless you were physically present in the Lok Sabha on the afternoon of the twelfth you just cannot picture the state to which that body has been reduced. Words like “bedlam” which have been used to describe what transpired are so totally insufficient to describe the chaos.

And yet the citizens have a right to know. They have a right to know how their elected representatives are using an institution in which the people have reposed some faith. The publication of even a comprehensive, verbatim record of the proceedings will not do. Enveloped by din the poor stenographers can only record “inaudible”, “incomprehensible”. Even if the impossible were accomplished and every single word were transcribed, the reader would not get an idea of the confusion and chaos. He would be reading the words in sequence laid out neatly one after another on a page. But the shouting, screaming,jostling, the marching up and down are all occurring simultaneously. What printed words will convey that?

The only way to inform the citizens-who, after all, are paying for all tllis chaos, whose fate, after all, will be sealed when these institutions are ultimately paralysed-about the state of these institutions is to broadcast and televise the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament.

“But will this not encourage the MPs to shout and scream even more?” That is impossible. Shouting and screaming more than they are already doing is just physically impossible.

“But will the people not be shocked when they hear and see What is going on? Will that not turn them away from these institutions altogether?” If the state of affairs is indeed shocking then it is high time that our people were shocked out of their apathy. For it is their future that is being drowned in the shouting and screaming. My guess is that at first the people will be disgusted and shocked-as they should be disgusted and shocked-at the institutions themselves. But soon enough they will begin to see who is paralysing the institutions and to what end.

Can the Janata Party bring itself to pushing such a measure through the Parliament? Indeed, there is a more general question: can the Janata Party-that handleless axe without a blade at all hack the noxious, fascist vine that grows by the hour?

(We have seen similar incidents later when the National Front was in power in late 1980s and then when NDA was in power between 1998 and 2004. Rahul G would do well to read upon his Naani and her “democratic ways.”)


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