The campaign for the 2019 general elections was one of the most polarised and parochial in India. Violence, cuss words, personal attacks — all seemed par for the course.
After all that, after the results that saw the NDA stay in power with spectacular numbers, one had hoped that all the viciousness of the electioneering would be forgotten as more serious work of governance and shoring up the shaky economy awaited attention.
Alas, all such earnest expectations seem to be misplaced, if one were to go by what happened as the MPs took oath over the last two days in Lok Sabha.
There was plenty of coarse heckling and provocative shouting, especially by the NDA (the BJP) MPs when members from Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress and Asad Owaisi were being sworn in. Probably for the first time in the history of the Indian parliament, dirty politics has begun right from the oath-taking itself.
Welcome to the next 5 years... #ParliamentSession heckling!— MiddleGround (@ground_middle) June 18, 2019
The acrimony between the BJP and the TMC is scary, as both seem to bring the worst in the other, and it seems a fight to the finish between them.
Mamata Banerjee taking exception to shouts of "Jai Shriram" was indeed puerile and churlish, but to taunt the TMC MPs in Parliament with the same is a dangerous ploy. This is indeed a shameful inkling of what lies in store in the coming days and years. Also, it reduces or debases "Jai Shriram"- a benign and benevolent chant of belief and faith- to an aggressive war cry.
If what the BJP MPs did to the TMC members fell in the tit-for-tat category, they behaved worse against the MPs from Tamil Nadu with targeted ragging.
Tamil Nadu had routed the NDA candidates in 37 out of the 38 seats that went to polls in the State. So when the TN MPs were sworn in Tamil, they were shouted at and heckled by a group of BJP MPs, as if taking oath in their mother tongue (in this case Tamil) was a major crime. To be sure, the DMK members (and in general Dravidian movement) tend to be chauvunistic about their language, but they have every right to take oath in the language of their choice.
It is clear that the MPs from Tamil Nadu will be 'marked' in all sessions, and the exchanges can be expected to be inflammatory as the NDA unfortunately seems to see Tamil Nadu as a hostile territory for the way it had voted in the elections.
The opposition MPs from TN are no saints, but here they were merely taking oath in their preferred way that the Constitution permits. To draw them into a fight is needless and cheap provocation.
The behaviour of the ruling benches was again irresponsible when Asad Owaisi took oath. Owaisi is a stormy petrel and doesn't need extra invitation to wade into a controversy, and that is what happened.
Really uncalled for and juvenile!. Slogans of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ were raised as Hyderabad MP-elect @asadowaisi walked to take the oath today. ‘Vande Mataram’ was also said. However, Owaisi finished his oath with ‘Jai Bhim’ and ‘Allah hu Akbar’. #India #ParliamentSession #BJP #MIM pic.twitter.com/plEsA9j3I4— Rishika Sadam (@RishikaSadam) June 18, 2019
At the start of the session, Prime Minister Narendra had proudly proclaimed that "an active Opposition is important in a parliamentary democracy", and told them not to bother about their numbers and instead actively take part in the Lok Sabha's proceedings.
But if the BJP MPs are going to bait the opposition ranks with incendiary remarks, there is little possibility of Parliament serving its purpose.
The BJP has won a grand victory. They must realise that and show the large-heartedness of a victor rather than the pettiness of a bully.
Also, Parliament is the apex seat of governance and decision-making in the country. It should not be reduced to being the arena for exasperating politics.