Dharmendra Jore: Setting the house in order
Let's hope extended punishment for MLC Prashant Paricharak who insulted army wives last year acts as a deterrent for unruly public representatives
Does a year-long suspension suffice to punish a public representative, a member of the elders' house of the Maharashtra Legislature, for saying that army wives are unfaithful to their husbands? Not many of the angry public think so, after the upper house scrapped the sentence last Wednesday.
A probe committee of the house recommended that the accused MLA, Prashant Paricharak, be allowed to work in the ongoing budget session. The decision set political circles afire. The Opposition and the Shiv Sena want Paricharak to stay suspended till his six-year term ends. The ruling party is blamed for pushing the rescue button for the independent MLC. Paricharak's fate will be decided on Monday when the house takes up the issue, yet again.
Last summer, Paricharak shamed the elders' house which is supposed to be a gathering of highly sensible, immensely articulate and pro-people policy makers not only from political parties, but also from various walks of life. The MLC's behaviour did reaffirm a belief that the upper house needs an overhaul.
Gone are the days when even a pauper in the socio-political sphere would be sent to the Legislative Council. In the past two decades, the constitution of the house has changed drastically. Parties have representatives that set themselves apart from predecessors for all wrong reasons. These days, grabbing a Council seat is easier than reaching out to the public for seeking votes. The vote banks of the Assembly members, local self-governments, teachers and graduates are much in demand. And if these options exhaust, then, the government can use its discretion to nominate 'persons of eminence in public life' to the upper house.
The likes of Paricharak, who managed a backdoor entry to the legislature as an independent candidate, speak for themselves as far as their 'winning might' is concerned. Their utterances mar a glorious tradition of the house. Incidents such as these also bring forth the arrogant side of politicians' persona that makes them think that they can get away with anything. Recently, the BJP sacked its deputy mayor from Ahmednagar for passing derogatory remarks against Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. So many others, directly elected or indirectly elected parliamentarians and members of legislatures, grab the headlines for making unsavoury statements. Not all are punished. Most apologise or say that they were misinterpreted.
Will he, won't he?
Last Wednesday, the resolution to free Paricharak came up amidst the din in the house and got prompt approval, without the members getting an opportunity to express their stand over the issue. Last March, the members had demanded Paricharak's termination from the house. Instead of termination from the membership, the MLC was suspended on March 9, for 18 months. A probe committee was constituted to look into the charges against him. The majority of the house has questioned the committee of seniors – the council chairman Ramraje Nimbalkar, Narayan Rane, Dhananjay Munde, Sunil Tatkare, Sharad Ranpise, Neelam Gorhe, Bhai Girkar, Kapil Patil and Jayant Patil - for recommending the revocation of suspension, and wants the BJP government to say why it accepted the proposal.
Following Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray's directives, party members created a ruckus on Thursday in the house, seeking a review. The house will take up the issue on Monday. Sources said the Sena members have been waiting for Paricharak to be seen on the Vidhan Bhavan premises so that they can 'treat' him in their own style.
Sentiments not technicality
The controversy refuses to die down, thanks to a compassionate view taken by the probe committee which said that the records from the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and other state assemblies were considered while revoking suspension. The committee said that the MLC had apologised and assured to not repeat such an act. Technicality of Parliamentary laws supports Paricharak, because the incident did not occur in the house or on the Vidhan Bhavan premises. However, most members feel that sentiments count more than technicalities.
According to the opposition and Sena, Paricharak, the independent MLC, is backed by the BJP, which has been rejecting the affiliation ever since the legislator courted controversy last year. It was at a ZP election rally at Pandharpur last year that Paricharak had said that soldiers distribute sweets at the border after having babies, when they have not even come home for a whole year.
The budget session was disrupted for four days last year demanding action against Paricharak. The BJP hasn't said much, possibly because it sees embarrassment coming. Since the ruling party doesn't have a majority in the upper house, it may have to go with the popular sentiment for extending suspension. Termination of membership could be an option as well, but nobody is sure if the law allows it. Let's see how strong a punishment is handed to Paricharak.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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