A dismal debate

Two things depressed me about last week's debate in the Lok Sabha and neither had anything to do with FDI. The first was the sight of the political princelings and princesses who now appear to constitute the bulk of our younger MPs. On a discreet backbench sat Rahul Gandhi chatting to Milind Deora and Jyotiraditya Scindia. In another corner I spotted the heirs of Sharad Pawar, Chandrashekhar and Chaudhury Charan Singh in a huddle and, unless Doordarshan was making a sly subversive point, its cameras made it seem as if there was not a single row in which a princess or princeling was not seated.

If proof were needed that hereditary democracy is a bad idea, it came in the inanity of some interventions. As I listened to Mrs Sukhbir Badal, I found myself mentally giving her first prize for worst speech. She sounded as if she were reading a school essay written for her by the head girl. Then, when some Punjabi MPs interrupted to create domestic discord by revealing that while she was opposing FDI, her husband had openly supported it, she became so shrill that I had to mute my television set. In the moment of silence that followed, I became quite nostalgic about the old days when I used to cover the Lok Sabha and the only prince in it was Rajiv Gandhi.

The second thing that depressed me about the FDI debate was the startling discovery that everyone in the Bharatiya Janata Party seems now to have become a dedicated communist. As I listened to speaker after speaker rave on about how India would be destroyed by FDI in the retail trade, I found myself wondering how us hacks had once described the BJP as the 'right wing, Hindu, nationalist' party. Is there nobody in our main Opposition party who has been paying attention to how economic history changed all over the world in the past two decades? Nobody who has noticed that the East India Company existed in a very different time and a very different world?

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