Diff’rent folks, diff’rent strokes

A four-minute video clip from the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian Parliament, is making the rounds, much to the amusement of Indian parliamentarians and the media.

There were no grand speeches made or the leader of a foreign nation addressing the Upper House.  In welcoming a delegation of Bhutanese parliamentarians, led by the Speaker and the Chairman of the National Council, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, expressed his hope that the delegation would “see and learn more about our (India) parliamentary system.”

This was probably not a tongue in cheek remark, but the mere mention of ‘learn’ made the house burst into laughter.  Looking awkward at first, the Bhutanese delegation joined the house as they smiled at the reaction, if not for the welcome message.

The Indian Parliament is notoriously known for continuous disruption, as debates are highly charged and most of the time inaudible.  Quite often, the sound of banging table or shouting members overshadows debate and creates chaos.  In the backdrop of what happened in the recent monsoon session, it was an ironic message to the parliamentarians.

They laughed because they know it is different in Bhutan.  Some visitors have called our parliament session an epitome of decorum, while others feel it is boringly disciplined.

Not to deride the august house, Indian Parliament is interesting to watch.  If not for the debate, there is always a drama.  Not many listen to a submission, unless it is the MP from Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav, speaking.  In some sessions, they request him to speak in his Bihari English.

But despite the adjournments caused by disruptions, the pandemonium and the disorder, the Indian Parliament has functioned well for decades.  The Indian democracy is greatly admired and, albeit the disruptions, it has worked well.  We cannot compare the two Parliaments.  Like we find some interesting, because at times even MPs exchange blows, others find ours dull.  What matters is the role of the parliament.

It will be difficult to control the Parliament of the biggest democracy on the planet.  But what matters is normal functioning.  The Indian Parliament is not paralysed even if it is disrupted.  That is the charm and beauty of Indian democracy.

Back home, it is different.  While there is legislation for members to maintain decorum, the decorum does not come from the book.  High in the Parliament house is the Golden Throne.  Everybody respects the Throne, a symbol of unity and seated high above the political sphere.

Left unchecked, a place where the ruling and opposition parties engage in heated debate, sometime bordering politics and personal, ego could take over reasoning.  Like someone remarked, if our parliamentarians engage in a throwing battle, it would be the ceremonial swords and not blows or shoes.

The omnipresence of His Majesty the King, symbolised by the Golden Throne, makes our parliament a most unique system.  It is undoubtedly one of the most important symbols of national unity.

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