After months of sound and fury with little real debate the Indian Parliament offered a rare treat to the nation and its own members. It was a moment to savour when the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition rose above the normal accusatory exchanges, exacerbated by gossip generated by WikiLeaks exposes, regaled each other and the nationwide galleries via television.
The Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, took Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to task in a tickling, taunting, poetic vein with Urdu couplets:
“Na idhar udhar ki tu baat kar, Yeh bata ki kafila kyun luta.
Hamein rahzano se gila nahin, Teri rahbari ka sawal hai.”
(Don’t talk about this and that, Tell us why the caravan was looted.
It’s not so much a complaint against the looters, It’s your leadership which is in question.)
Like a spurned suitor, Singh said to her:
“Mana ki tere deed ke kaabil nahin hun mein, Tu mera shauk dekh, mera intezar dekh.”
(I admit I am not worth your glance, But appreciate my zest and my wait for you.)
There were smiles and giggles all round. Even Lal Krishna Advani, a long-time prime ministerial hopeful of the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and the fiercest critic of the Prime Minister, had to wear a smile when he was dealt the fiercest blow of his parliamentary career. Singh said to him in respectful (ji) words: “Advaniji believes being Prime Minister was his birth right, and, therefore he has never forgiven me. All I can say to Advaniji, the people of India have voted us to power in free and fair elections. Please wait another three-and-a-half years (till the next elections).”
Singh’s cutting riposte came after the latest in a string of allegations accusing his Congress party of bribing opposition MPs during the 2008 no-confidence vote (after a sting operation).
Next day, before the budget session concluded, the house saw even greater bonhomie when the BJP supported the ruling coalition’s bill on pensions, much to the chagrin of the Leftist MPs who had made common truck with BJP to destabilise or dethrone Singh’s government.
Genuine humour in true Indian style was the hallmark of the concluding two days of the budget session as poetic banter replaced the normal sarcasm of exchanges. There was complete informality bordering intimacy between members. Not the British style vocabulary of “right honourable member on the treasury or opposition benches.” More the French tu, toi , not even vous (aap) and votre (aap ka).
Many happy returns to this poetic celebration of democracy!
By Subhash Chopra