The House Of Lards
Not since 1653 when Oliver Cromwell disturbed the House of Commons by sacking parliament with the plaintive cry, “In the name of God, go,” has there been an adjournment or suspension of the UK parliament. Since most of our democratic practices and institutions are based on the British model, this smooth running of the mother of all parliaments stands in direct contrast to the mayhem and vandalism seen here. There is no shortage of heated debates in the Commons, much shouting, even some booing, but no member of parliament leaves his seat, much less enter the well of the House and challenge the Speaker. In the early ’60s, the leader of the opposition, Harold Wilson, threw a box of matches at prime minister Alec Douglas-Home to help him do his sums in a debate on the economy. That’s about it.
The free-for-all which goes on in our Lok and Rajya Sabha is entirely a local growth. It is a creation of our domestic bickering. As we contemplate the washout of the monsoon session, it is time to ask why disrupting Parliament is considered the highest form of parliamentary protest. Perhaps the Lok Sabha secretariat can confirm this, but the almost daily interruption of Parliament is a recent phenomenon, a creature of coalition politics and the intellectual bankruptcy of our political establishment, unwilling or unable to engage in meaningful and calm debate.
Also routine are constructive recommendations to reform the functioning of the House. Actually, the solution is quite simple. Any MP entering the well of the House should be named by the Speaker and suspended for the session. And since the MP is a mere footsoldier being manipulated, the party he represents should be shown a yellow card and punished. An all-party committee can decide on the nature of the punishment.
Will our political parties agree to abide by this kind of self-regulation? Absolutely not.
When The Rationale Is Sketchy
When I look at the young cartoonist Aseem Trivedi and then look at the crime he is alleged to have committed, the crime assumes large elements of farce. We are not sitting in judgement on the young lad’s proficiency and skill in drawing cartoons. Indeed, if he has to be punished, punish him for terrible and crude sketching. Unfortunately, the sedition charge presumes Trivedi has the capability to overthrow the Indian state and a magistrate has found, prime facie, enough merit in it to send him to jail. The law is an ass and its gross misuse can be seen in the Trivedi case.
Cartoons are not supposed to be fair or objective or balanced. The cartoonist’s job is to demonstrate absurdity by distorting, exaggerating and hitting below the belt. Trivedi’s efforts must be seen in that context. It is often said that Indians in public life have no sense of humour. They are pompous and take themselves far too seriously. If our Constitution cannot withstand the admittedly crass and coarse lampooning by this novice and hopeless critic, then it is not worth having.
Since every Sunil, Ravi and Ayaz has had his say on why the little master is looking pathetic on the cricket pitch, here is my take. It’s not the gap between bat and pad or the slow reflexes or just old age catching up with Sachin, it is the new hairstyle. Not only is it awful and makes Tendulkar look like an unsuccessful Page 3 showbiz animal, it has altered his whole personality. Instead of the solid, no-nonsense, dependable Sachin, we have a fake Sachin, someone who is not sure who he is or who he was. Perhaps the change in hairstyle was suggested by the Bollywood types Sachin increasingly hangs around with these days, perhaps his agent is the culprit trying to polish up his client’s image in order to make him appear glamorous to advertising agencies. Whatever, the project is a disaster.
Every time I see Sachin on screen, he doesn’t remind me of the person I’ve known, metaphorically speaking, and admired, for over two decades. I plead with the world’s sanest cricketer with all the conviction at my command—please come back to your earlier self; the gap between bat and pad will disappear once you are Mr Normal again.
Paint Me Black
Recently, I went to one of Delhi’s most talked about joints, The Blue Frog, where my friend Manu Joseph’s new novel was being released. I may be showing my age, but the place was pitch dark and we needed a torch light to move around. I stumbled quite a few times before finding my seat. Being a nosey sort of chap, I proceeded to investigate the darkness. It seems currently India’s state-of-the-art taverns are designed on the assumption that faces are irrelevant, only voices matter.
The well-known journalist Kanchan Gupta accused me on a website of wearing a “funny pair of trousers” twenty years ago. Before I take action on this slander, I expect either a full apology or proof.
Vinod Mehta is editorial chairman, Outlook, and its founding editor-in-chief; E-mail your diarist: vmehta AT outlookindia.com
Apropos Vinod Mehta’s Delhi Diary (Sep 24), I can’t believe Mr Mehta is seriously suggesting that MPs who enter the well be named. The bjp is not alone in practising this privilege. When it was in opposition, the ‘holier than thou’ Congress was equally guilty.
N.S. Rajan, Bangalore
It’s because there is a well in the House that MPs feel obliged to enter it. Why not ‘fill up the well’ to prevent MPs from jumping into it, ha ha.
K.P. Rajan, Mumbai
Aseem Trivedi did violate established norms, but charging him with sedition is too much. He can only be prosecuted for insulting our national symbol.
Ramesh Raghuvanshi, Pune
As far as Trivedi’s skill as a cartoonist is concerned, I’d only say he is a work-in-progress. I found two or three of the contentious cartoons brilliant, though the ‘pigvijay’ series is rather unimaginative.
Santosh Gairola, Hsinchu, Taiwan
A lot of people have expended loads of technical nonsense about Sachin. Only Vinod Mehta hits the nail on its head. Sachin needs a close crop.
Manish Banerjee, Calcutta
Sachin’s hairdo is weird and he appears washed out. Strange that he, of all people, fell for this cheap stunt.
Ajit Mishra, Nagpur
Sachin’s look doesn’t suit his personality. When he tries to look young and cool, it looks odd. As for his batting, he should retire now. Period.
Lata Mehta, Madrid
Why call for an apology about funny pants, sir, when you should be thankful you were never caught ‘pants down’!
V.N.K. Murti, Pattambi
Dude, we all had a “funny pair of trousers”. Remember those pure polyester bell-bottoms? Thank god, it’s one trend that hasn’t come full circle.
A. Maheshwari, Bangalore
Vinod Mehta’s caustic comments on the non-functioning of Parliament are an eye-opener (Delhi Diary, Sep 24). During Jawaharlal Nehru’s regime, when a railway accident took place, Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned as railway minister. Similarly, when irregularities were pointed out, T.T. Krishnamachari resigned as well. And Pattom Thanu Pillai, the first chief minister of Kerala, left the Congress and floated his own party when a whisper campaign against him began. He returned to power as the head of the Praja Socialist Party. We had such leaders of stature then.
Vinod Mehta >> Will our political parties agree to abide by this kind of self-regulation? Absolutely not.
Political parties may not abide by self regulation but atleast they are accountable to the people of India and they have to face the MUSIC every 5 years..
But what about Media houses like yours which shamelessly use print space to promote a particular family or dynasty ? Why dont we have some kind of regulation to prevent misinformation and maligning communities and regions that happens in media houses like yours, in the name of freedom of expression?
Your last week edition that made a shameless attempt to malign one state in India (AP/Hyderabad) as the center of scams, without a word on the role of the Great YSR in all those scams is one such example of why self centred media houses with a pervert , covert agenda should be Shown the "YELLOW CARD".
Vinod Mehta >> Before I take action on this slander, I expect either a full apology or proof.
Mister Vinod Mehta, the people of India are not going to expect apology for your unabashed, and shameless promotion of Saint Sonia and her party in your news magazine all these years and the consequent damage to Indian economy and livelihood of millions. And there is no action to be taken to your "good work" in contributing your bit to extend the misrule of the party that has ruled India for decades. Wait till next elections 2013 or 2014 to understand the proof of how wrong your support for Saint Sonia was.
Maybe Kanchan Gupta was accusing the other Editor . . . the mutt.
I fully agree with Mr. Vinod Mehta's comments on Sachin's hair style. The hairdo is weird and he appears washed out. It is strange that Sachin, of all the people, fell for this cheap stunt. He looked so serene and attractive earlier. He should revert to old style.
>> but the almost daily interruption of Parliament is a recent phenomenon, a creature of coalition politics and the intellectual bankruptcy of our political establishment, unwilling or unable to engage in meaningful and calm debate.
Maybe, but more than anything else, it is a product of the govt, the current one in particular, to use the bogey of secularism, the use of money power, and the threat of CBI, to coax, cajole, bully and threaten allies, indulge in massive loot, orchestrate cover ups, denigrate institutions, villify opposition, cultivate friendly media, and use any and every means to ensure that it gets away after presiding over the biggest loot in our independent (or ever?) history.
Had you been a responsible journalist, you would have been focusing on that, instead of asking speaker like Meira "Shant ho jaiye" Kumari to act as referees in a little league game.
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