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23 June, 2019 00:00 00 AM

A promising mix?

Popular as Sadhvi Pragya she is well entrenched in the RSS. She is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings where 10 people were killed
Kumkum Chadha
A promising mix?

While Indian Parliament is characterised by unruly scenes, it was unexpected for it to take an ugly turn even before all the members had been sworn in.  Oath taking is usually one in which bonhomie reigns with maybe a few digs here and there, Therefore the newly elected members had perhaps not bargained for a furore that they witnessed on the first day of the 17thLok Sabha. It was also their first taste about what being a member of the Indian Parliament could entail. For old hands this could be routine but for first timers a jolt and perhaps a realization that the Indian temple of democracy could be sometimes worse than a classroom. The trigger was  BJP MP from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur. She created a controversy by suffixing the name of her spiritual guru with hers while taking oath: enough for the  Opposition to be on its feet and object.

The mention of Swami Purna Chetnanand Avdheshanand Giri as suffix to her name Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur evoked sharp reaction from the Opposition members who said that such a thing was not permitted.

Unrelenting Thakur said that the suffix was part of her full name, resulting in an uproar from opposition and slogan shouting in her favour from the ruling benches.

The Pro-tem Speaker Virendra Kumar sought to know from the Lok Sabha Secretary General, the full name. Amid noise and objections, Kumar ruled that only the name written in her election certificate issued by the returning officer would go on record.

Thakur, who took oath in Sanskrit, is not a stranger to controversy.

Popular as Sadhvi Pragya she is well entrenched in the RSS. She is an accused in the 2008 Malegaon bombings where 10 people were killed and several injured. She was arrested on terror charges when her bike was found near the scene of crime.

The BJP handpicking her to contest elections raised eyebrows  and the leadership drew flak for its choice.  But she surprised many when she trounced senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister Digvijay Singh  with a huge margin of over three lakh votes. Ofcourse opinion is divided over whether she should have entered the portals of the Parliament and whether it was right for the BJP to have pushed her into the electoral contest.

The oath taking also witnessed slogans: BJP members raised 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' slogans, after every BJP member took oath. It was an RSP MP who urged the Pro tem Speaker to maintain the prescribed format of the oath.

It was not only about Bharat Matabut also Shri Ram: chants which were heard at intervals during the oath taking in Lok Sabha. In fact when Babul Supriyo and Debasree Chaudhuri, both ministers and BJP MPs from West Bengal took oath in the lower House, they were greeted with chants of Jai Shree Ram.

The political context of this was not lost: it was a jibe at West Bengal's ruling party Trinamool Congress and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who has allegedly objected to uttering of the slogan in West Bengal.  Over half a dozen people  were detained in the recent past  for chanting "Jai Shri Ram"slogan when Banerjee's motorcade passed through North 24 Parganas district of the state.

In another development, Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq refused to say 'Vande Mataram'after taking his oath saying it was  "against Islam".  His statement was followed with chants of 'Vande Mataram'and 'Jai Shree Ram'by other leaders present in the Parliament.

In 2013, Safiqur Rahman Barq had walked out of the Parliament after chants of 'Vande Mataram'.

Earlier in the day, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) President Asaduddin Owaisi was greeted with chants of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'and 'Vande Mataram'. Owaisi responded with Jai Bheem, Jai Meem, Takbeer Allahu Akbar, Jai Hind.

An interesting aside was about Congress President Rahul Gandhi forgetting to sign the Parliament register after being sworn in MP for the fourth time.

After skipping the morning session of the Parliament, Rahul Gandhi finally took oath as a member of the Lok Sabha  on Monday afternoon. However, he forgot that he had to sign the Parliament register: a part of Parliament procedure.

As Gandhi began to walk away from the lectern, it was Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and other members of the treasury benches who signalled that he  was going in the wrong direction. But it was not till a Parliament official’s intervention that  Gandhi realized his mistake and returned to sign the register.

Gandhi who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad and lost from Amethi, took the oath in English.

English was not the predominant language in which members took oath. There were many who took oath in their mother tongue  including Dogri, Kannada, Punjabi, Assamese, Marathi,  Bangla and even Konkani. Some of the  MPs elected from Andhra Pradesh  took oath in Telugu.

An element of surprise came by way of some Union Ministers taking their oath in Sanskrit including  Harsh Vardhan, an ENT surgeon,  Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Pratap Chandra Sarangi.  

While on Sarangi, there was a buzz when he was sworn in as minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers. Popular as  Odisha's Modi, he was elected from the Balasore Lok Sabha constituency.

An RSS pracharak, Pratap Chandra Sarangi had fought the 2009 Odisha assembly elections as an Independent candidate.

As the story goes he was neither denied a BJP ticket nor had he fallen through with the party. The reason was different: while travelling in a public transport, he had  lost his party ticket. Given that the nomination deadline was around the corner, he had little choice but to file as an Independent candidate.

Sarangi’s USP is that he rides around villages on a bicycle, campaigned for the elections in an auto rickshaw and lives in a bamboo hut. This time around he defeated two of the state’s richest candidates.

Popular for his simplicity, he is a two-time BJP MLA and a graduate who wanted to become a monk.  Instead he took up  social work and  opened  schools in tribal areas.

However he does have somewhat a murky past: he was Odisha’s state unit chief of the Bajrang Dal when Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor children were burnt alive by activists of the right wing unit. A few years later he was arrested on charges of arson and rioting following an attack in the Odisha Assembly.

Prominent children of well-known politicians include Rahul Gandhi were among those sworn in:  Anurag Thakur whose father is a former Chief Minister, Agatha Sangma, whose father Purno Sangma was Lok Sabha Speaker, Supriya Sule, senior leader Sharad Pawar’s daughter and Kanimozhi daughter of the former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi and Pritam Munde, daughter of BJP leader Gopinath Munde who died in a road   accident to name a few.

The glamour-quotient was added by sportspersons and artistes including  cricketer Gautam Gambhir, singer Hansraj Hans and Bollywood’s Sunny Deol among others.That apart there are doctors, bureaucrats, cops and businessmen  among others who have made it to the annals of the Indian Parliament. To say the least it is  interesting mix . All eyes are now on how they will fare; their level of participation in meaningful debates; their raising issues of public importance and whether they will actually take their job as an MP seriously.

There are several examples in the past of several MPs including sportsmen and film stars not attending a single session of Parliament leave alone contributing anything.  

Therefore the key question that remains unanswered is:  will the newly elected MPs perform?

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: ([email protected])  



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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