In two days, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy has proved, if proof was ever needed, not only that Congress luminaries are toadies of the Sonia and Rahul Gandhi but also that they are egregiously intolerant to any criticism of the Family. The senior BJP leader has been heckled by the Opposition, intimidated (on Wednesday, marshals rushed to the Rajya Sabha well in view of the ferocity of Congress Parliamentarians), and admonished by the chair. And yet, there is no outrage among the popes of public discourse, who claim to the champions of freedom of expression, regarding the muzzling of a lawmaker’s voice.
On Thursday, Chaudhary Munavver Saleem (Samajwadi Party) said that Swamy was part of the 1970s movement to protect the minority status of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). In response, Swamy said that he was not against minority education institutions, but Article 27 of the Constitution prohibits the state from financing such bodies. As Congress MPs continued to make noises, he caustically commented that they knew only about the constitution of a European country, a reference that was expunged by Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.
Kurien went on to say that he was “unnecessarily provoking” the grand old party. “I will take action against you. Subramanian Swamy, you are unnecessarily provoking. I will have to take action against you… you are provoking,” Kurien said.
Meanwhile former Union Ministers Jairam Ramesh and Selja stood up and continuously disrupted the proceedings; they were joined by other party members. This was despite Kurien’s regular pleadings. What is the problem as Swamy’s remark has been expunged, the chair kept asking.
In response, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “The problem is the new gift of BJP. Problem is not on this side,” adding that in his first two days in the Rajya Sabha, Swamy’s remarks had to be expunged twice. “There are 365 days in a year, how many times are you going to expunge his words.”
But Azad did not stop here; he went on to make personal remarks about Swamy, that he can’t differential between street language and parliamentary words. Worse, Azad said, “He does not allow his hair to grey so he can learn and mature.” This statement, which surely doesn’t cover the LoP or the GOP in glory, was not expunged.
On Wednesday, too, a similar situation arose. Azad talked about certain views of Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland deal. Responding to this, Swamy said that if the Congress believes in Michel’s veracity, then it should also know that, in his letter to the Italian court, the same person had said that Sonia Gandhi was the main beneficiary.
No sooner did he utter the word of Sonia than Congress MPs were on their feet. Trooping to the well, they started howling against Swamy.
It is curious that expressing one’s views attracts admonition, but fascistic behavior—silencing the opponent is nothing but fascism—is found acceptable. What is more unfortunate is the fact that it is not just the Congress that behaves in such a reprehensible manner; the BJP and other parties are no better; entire sessions have been wasted because of their unruliness.
The Congress’ unruliness, however, stands out against the backdrop of its recent posturing as a free-speech-loving party. Commenting upon its boisterousness, and especially Azad’s less-than-graceful remarks, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, “We have been headmasters of the school they [Congress leaders] go to.”
It looks like Azad’s colleagues are excelling in that school. At any rate, they are no votaries of liberty.