The ugly scenes witnessed in the Lok Sabha on February 13, have roused the ire of the media as few such events have roused in the past. The New Indian Express (February 14 ) said they “have brought shame on Parliamentary democracy’s “most hallowed institution”. What is shocking, as practically every major newspaper noted, is the use of pepper spray resorted to by a Congress MP, L Rajgopal when some MPs started fighting.
Said the paper: “It is indeed a permanent black mark on India’s democratic tradition that Members of Parliament may now be subjected to body search before being admitted to the Temple of Democracy.”
The Times of India (February 14) described the event as “emotional atyachar” saying “such disruptions are homicidal to the very spirit of Parliament.”
Deccan Herald (February 15) said “Indian Parliament hit a new disastrous and shameful nadir in its functioning when MP Rajgopal used pepper spray to disrupt its proceedings” and added: “MPs and parties have increasingly resorted to disruption over the years making a mockery of Parliament” and “the time to think of measures to ensure its smooth functioning is long overdue.”
The Economic Times ( February 14) said “the 15th Lok Sabha has been the least productive one in history with many days lost to bitter bickering among political rivals.”
The Asian Age (February 14) said the conduct of MPs in the Lok Sabha “marked a new negative threshold” and is “a reminder that the worst aspect of behaviour of legislature in the States were exceeded by their counterparts in the Parliament”. Said the paper: “It is regrettable that the top guns of the Government and the ruling Congress were not on the scene to help calm tempers by using their stature.”
DNA (February 14) said “the 15th Lok Sabha, already tottering….has completely lost credibility.” It said: “The 2014 Parliamentary peppery spray attack, silly as it may seem, deserves a strong response because it undermines the very being of our Republic.” The paper demanded that the House “must lodge a criminal case after the precedent set by Somnath Chatterjee in the shameful 2008 cash-for-votes episode.” It further said that Meira Kumar “must set up a Special Committee as in 2005 to swiftly inquire and expel the culprits.”
The Hindustan Times ( February 14) said “our MPs have no respect or consideration for the people who have elected them.” “Those who disrupt the House needlessly must pay a price” said the paper, adding “This revolting spectacle has led many to wonder whether we need such representation at all.” The paper pointed out that what has happened “is a very dangerous for our demography and “unless the institutions of democracy are nurtured we could quite possible see a slide into anarchy.” Saying that “India is often taken as an example of a diverse nation held together by the glue of democracy, at this rate we are in serious danger of coming unstruck.”
The Telegraph (February 14) blamed the Congress Party as it blamed Congress MP L Rajgopal who did the pepper spraying, saying “If Mr Rajgopal smuggled in papper spray, the Congress smuggled in the Bill before its expected time, to catch the MP’s off guard.”
The Hindu (February 14) said “even for a country with a long and unedifying history of parliamentary pandemonium, nothing can be as shameful and disgraceful as the use of pepper spray by a Member ….” It noted that even the Speaker herself was affected by the lachrymatory substance and quite a few Members required medical attention. Noted too was a seemingly brandished knife, something which was denied.
The paper said that the incident raises the question of whether the Parliament should go the way of States Legislatures and resort to eviction of unruly Members to ensure the smooth functioning of the House. En masse eviction of whole groups of legislators, said the paper, is common in States Assemblies” no doubt implying that Parliament too could adopt the same measures.
According to the paper, the BJP’s stand has been ambiguous. As the paper described it, the BJP supports the formation of Telangana in principle, wants the concerns of Seemandhra to be addressed, blames the UPA for the mess in Parliament and has demanded that there should first be order in the House. Having said that the paper opined that “political consensus maybe the ideal way, but legislative activity cannot be forever be hostage to deliberate disorder”.