Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chidambaram the lawyer, Advani the appeaser, Kapil Sibal the Mark Antony of St. Stephen's College Dramatic Society in Lok Sabha on Dec 17, 2008




The occasion: Debate in Lok Sabha on the National Investigatives Agency (NIA)and amendments to the Unlawful Acts Prevention ACT (UAPA)on December 17, 2008.
Home Minister P.Chidambaram explained in his lawyerly manner what it sets out to do. He said that the concerns of human rights activists have been taken into consideration along with the views of those who demanded a strong anti-terrorist law. He said that the question whether prosecution should be taken forward or not will now be decided by a legal team. He appealed to all to pass the bill now, and if they do have further suggestions on amendments they could do so when the House meets agains in February 2009.
Leader of the Opposition and of the BJP, L.K.Advani spoke with his usual sarcasm wrapped in sweet reasonableness. He said that Congress has learnt the need to fight terrorism at last. And he told the communists that tomorrow's papers will say that the Left has voted along with the BJP! And he also said that unlike the communists, BJP does not believe in political untouchability. The whole tone of Advani's speech was one of reaching out to everyone, including the Congress Party and Sonia Gandhi. Advani betrays an anxiety that he and his party should be accepted by all and liked by all. There is a deep sense of insecurity within the BJP psyche. And their belligerence also seems to stem from this sense of being kept out of polite society.
After Advani it was the turn of Congress' Kapil Sibal. He launched into an aggressive attack on BJP and Advani in response to the taunt that Congress has at last learnt its lessons on terrorism. Sibal said that it was the Congress which first ligislated a very stern anti-terror law in the form of TADA (Terrorism And Disruptive Activities) Act in the late 1980s, and it allowed it to lapse when it was found that it was misused and that innocents were imrprisoned under its provisions. He said that in 1999 when Shiv Sena and BJP came to power in Maharashtra in 1999, they brought in MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act), which was an exact replica of TADA Then he told Advani that the BJP is still resistant to the idea of secularism. This was the first half of the speech.
In the second half, Sibal changed his tone, tempered his aggression, and he quoted from Homer's Iliad, which must have been real Greek to most members of the House.
Advani and Sibal were really making stump speeches inside the parliament.
Advani was trying to rerieve lost ground for the BJP. He seems to have realised that by bringing in the NIA bill and the amendments to UAPA, Congress has now taken over the high moral ground of being touch against terrorism. So Advani tried his best to save the day for his party. Sibal grabbed the opprotunity to hit out against the claims of BJP of being tough against terror.
Sibal's performance was very much like that of a member of the dramatic society of St. Stephen's College, his alma mater. It was a good show as far as it goes, but it is of doubtful quality in terms of the norms of parliamentary debate.

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