Call to order

Use the controversy provoked by Mayawati in Parliament to empower the Chair

Mayawati has been quick to make amends for the intemperateness of her tirade against Vice-President Hamid Ansari in his capacity as the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha. A day after she tore into Ansari for not ensuring uninterrupted proceedings in the Upper House, she pledged him respect and "full faith". Mayawati's original cause of frustration was the House's inability, on account of repeated adjournments, to take up a bill to provide SCs and STs a quota in promotions. On Thursday, she changed her tone, to express the hope that the Chair would oversee a way out of the impasse, so that the bill may be passed. Mayawati's outburst was unfortunate, as it broke a convention of not personalising remarks addressed to the chair in either House of Parliament. In fact, the thick red line she transgressed was promptly highlighted by leaders of different blocs in the House, including the prime minister and opposition MPs, who assured the Chair of their support. But now that the BSP leader has also fallen in line and decorum been restored in interactions with the Chair, it would be a waste of a controversy if the substance of her complaint was not heeded.

Mayawati's parliamentary strategy for the winter session is focused on the bill for a quota in promotions but even as she deplored the disruptions by other parties trying to ensure this bill is not taken up, her own MPs have been using it as a pretext to disrupt proceedings in both Houses. The spectacle is of a piece with an approach that has come to mark the recent parliamentary conduct of many opposition parties, notably the BJP. Each insists that its agenda be adopted, whatever the scheduled business of the day, and all too often, disrupts Parliament to this end. If Mayawati's outburst has a silver lining, it is this: her outrage, as well as the contrite words of assurance to the Chair that it provoked from others, shows that this situation cannot hold without the House's dignity being compromised.

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