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Yellow and red cards

Recently, the DMK’s deputy floor leader in the Assembly, Durai Murugan, was suspended by the Speaker of the State Assembly for five days on his protest over an issue that arose during a discussion. The Speaker, as usual, was supportive of the ruling party to which he belongs.

Our legislatures, including the Parliament, are witnessing unruly scenes almost on a continuous basis. There has been little legislative business. The principal opposition party, the BJP, disrupted activity for several days during 2012 and 2013. The current year witnessed irate MPs from Andhra causing such disruptions over the Telangana issue. Members from Tamil Nadu rushed to the well of the house over the fishermen issue. The current session witnessed a MP spraying pepper on other MPs with another sporting a knife. On 19 February a Telugu Desam MP manhandled the Secretary General of the Rajya Sabha in full glare of TV cameras, trying to snatch the   bifurcation papers; the Deputy Chairman had to adjourn the House.

The same day the J&K Legislature witnessed an ugly scene when an opposition PDP legislator slapped a marshal of the house while some of them were removing the legislator out of the House. In the UP Assembly, two RLD legislators took off their kurtas in protest against the SP government for allegedly not paying the arrears of cane growers of western Uttar Pradesh, terming the state

government anti-farmers. Nearer home at the Chennai Corporation Council Budget presentation on 19 February, opposition members were evicted after they tore copies of the budget speech.

Legislatures meant for enacting laws, functioned for the least number of days with disruptions causing loss of business for several days. During the 15th Lok Sabha only 165 bills were presented and nearly 35 per cent of these were passed with less than an hour of debate.

There are two basic reasons for the increase in incidence of such unruly behaviour: first, the inability of political parties to select candidates with clean image to get elected as legislators. With money power being the determinant, nearly a third of the legislators elected have serious criminal records, including murder and rape.

The extent of the power of money should be evident from political parties, especially in Tamil Nadu, getting flooded with applications with hefty fees for getting selected to contest elections. The Aam Aadmi Party breathed some fresh air into this system in the recent Delhi elections. But with high costs of contesting elections, it has become impossible for the ordinary people, the aam aadmi, to aspire to become a legislator.

The second reason for unruly behaviour in the legislature is the compulsions of coalition governance. From 1989 the Central government has been run on such coalitions. The delicate balancing act makes it difficult for the lead partner to enforce basic discipline on fears of loss of majority and hence of power.

One wonders why the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha presiding officers could not take stern action against

parliamentarians indulging in unruly behaviour. Kiran Bedi, political activist, suggests a system of yellow and red cards leading to suspension of a MP for a short period and for longer ones including a ban to contest elections for a period as punishment for unruly behaviour. This suggestion seems worth consideration.

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