Sacrilege in the “Temple of Democracy”

I have a cousin who works for the hospitality sector.  Long years back he was the general manager of a public sector 5 Star hotel in Mumbai. Since I used to stay with him on my frequent and long trips to the place, I got introduced to a lot of his colleagues and professional friends.  I used to meet them at my cousin’s place and also got to see them interacting with their guests at workplace.  These people – all of them, without any exception – used to speak rustic Hindi, were loud, used a lot of cuss words, were aggressive in displaying their political affiliations and prejudices and had an absolutely uninhibited and unrefined conduct when one met them socially.  At workplace they would go through this transformation and would speak only in English, spoke very softly – almost in whispers, showed enormous courtesy to guests (and even friends when in public gaze), were ever smiling and gave an impression that and they were designed to be courteous, suave and cultured.

It took me some time to realise that all of us – for some good reasons – customise our approach as it is difficult to have a uniform approach in dealing with different situations and people.  One cannot behave at workplace as the way one behaves with friends. Employers have certain expectations in respect of conduct at workplace and if these are not met, one is invariably shown the door.  That is a good reason for people to conform to expected standards to retain their jobs.  Even if a code of conduct is not defined, it is expected that educated people in white collar jobs are smart enough to understand the expectation that colleagues and seniors have from them in respect of inter-personal interactions.

Mr Ramesh Bidhuri is a seasoned politician and has been a Member of the Legislative Assembly for three terms (2003-2014) and is serving the second term as a Member of the Lok Sabha and has been there for a little over nine years (2014 till date).   He has a commendable political background and there is reason to believe that he must have done some great work at the ground level to be able to get the party ticket and also people to vote for him.  He would have, obviously, created an impression on his political masters about his winnability and his adherence to the values that the party believes in.  Otherwise, he would not have been the party candidate for the five elections that he has contested and won.

It is really surprising that a seasoned politician like Mr Ramesh Bidhuri should get provoked to the extent that he uses language against a person and his community that he, probably, must be using when he is with his friends and political friends and supporters.  Just as we expect everyone who is in a job to behave in a manner that is required and expected at workplace, it is prudent to expect a parliamentarian to not let the pressure valve blow off – even if provoked – and not come up with expletives that are a blot on parliamentary conduct and secular democracy that we profess.  It was, indeed, very dignified and magnanimous on the part of the Defence Minister to express regret on the incident.  Expressing regret is accepting that Mr Bidhuri has made a mistake and given the fact that BJP is a disciplined and cadre-based party, it would have been better if the senior leadership of BJP had insisted that Mr Bidhuri apologised and, in fact, he should have been made to apologise.   Also, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha should have been a little sensitive and concerned about the disgustingly ugly and low benchmarks in parliamentary conduct that have been set up by the errant MP.  The ruling party, by not taking Mr Bidhuri to task and the Speaker just about issuing a warning to him have sent a clear message that what is seen as a misdemeanour, and not an offence, is something that can be lived with, and even pardoned and, in fact, eulogised, in the emerging political narrative that has found a strong foothold.

When Mr Modi entered the Parliament building the first time after being elected to the Lok Sabha, he prostrated at the entrance in reverence to the “temple of democracy” that he was entering.  It was a huge visual statement and had a left an indelible impression on the minds of people.  Even if Mr Bidhuri is not smart enough to customise his conduct to conform to the standards that Parliament ought to have for its members or conform to the standards that his party should have set to raise the bar for the effective functioning of the largest parliamentary democracy of the world, he could have – at least – considered the reverence that his, and his party’s, supreme leader has for this “temple of democracy” and refrained from saying something that that would send a message out that the PM is not able to align his partymen to his political beliefs.  Instead of trying to defend his indefensible conduct, it would have been better to force him to apologise. An apology from Mr Bidhuri would have increased his political stature, helped BJP to dust off a bit of the ‘communal’ dirt that it has been collecting on its political clothes, taken the wind out of the opposition’s campaign against the BJP on this issue and also send a message out that the PMs grandiose political statement that he believes in, “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas, Sab Ka Vishwas”, is not just a Jumla.



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