Between civility and political barbarism

At a time when Punjab’s Akali-BJP government finds itself in the dock due to its non-governance, the Congress legislators’ unruly actions in the House turned the party from being an accuser into an accused.

The bedlam indulged in by the Congress members followed the Congress Legislature Party leader Sunil Jakhar’s bringing the Dalit girl, the victim of the thrashing by Tarn Taran policemen and her father, into the CLP office located in the Assembly complex without passes which ‘were not issued despite my having completed all formalities.’

Jakhar protested against the plainclothes policemen, claimed to be the members of Assembly’s watch and ward staff, for ‘raiding’ the CLP office for removing the ‘illegal entrants’. They were manhandled by some Congress MLAs who later protested in the House, which caused a pandemonium. The episode resulted in the suspension of nine party MLAs. All the Congress members walked out of the House declaring they would not end their boycott till the suspension of the nine members was revoked.

Although the actions of the Congress MLAs were inexcusable (Jakhar later owned the responsibility saying these should not have taken place), yet what happened is not a rare happening. Such actions have become common in the country’s Legislatures. In support of their demands, the members rush to the well of the House, resort to physical brawls, throw missiles, break furniture and even pull out microphones. However, what invited condemnation of the Congress MLAs’ actions in the Punjab Assembly was their mounting the Speaker’s podium and one of them even occupying the Speaker’s chair.

The last week’s incident was not unprecedented. The Punjab Assembly had atleast twice witnessed similar incidents in the past. Once, when the Akali rebel Lachhman Singh Gill was chief minister (25 November 1967 to 23 August 1968), some Akali members had climbed to the Speaker’s podium and gheraoed him. In the second incident in which chief minister Parkash Singh was also involved happened in June 1986 when Surjit Singh Barnala was chief minister (29 September,1985 to 11 June 1987). A group of Akali Dal MLAs led by Mr. Badal had dragged Speaker Surjit Singh Minhas, also a SAD member, from the chair and in the melee his turban also had fallen off. The din in the house occurred after the Badal group MLAs parted ways with the SAD led by Barnala.

The last week’s developments have turned the focus, even if temporarily, away from the Akali-BJP government’s failures on the governance and performance fronts. But it is not going to take long for such lapses to start haunting the ruling leadership. The question arises if the dominant ruling Akali leadership can start performing and end its non-governance? Signs of anti-incumbency sentiment are already gaining ground here.
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