Appalling rowdyism in Kerala assembly

Slanging matches and disruptions are for long the norm in most legislatures. But the raucous and rowdy scenes witnessed in the Kerala assembly last week are not the usual fare. State Assemblies in South India have conducted themselves better than those in other parts, and the Kerala assembly actually has a record of holding more sittings and spending more time on House business than most others. But last week’s incidents have blotted its book and marked a shameful low for disorder and bad conduct. The opposition Left Democratic Front MLAs created much of the mayhem because they wanted to prevent finance minister K M Mani, who is facing corruption charges, from presenting the budget. The protesting members destroyed the Speaker’s podium and other furniture and forced the minister to go through the motions of budget presentation in just a few minutes. Even if the opposition had a case, it was wrong to create unruly scenes to press it.  The LDF has been carrying on an agitation for Mani’s resignation ever since the charges against him came into the public realm, but violence and physical battles in the House cannot promote its cause.

The UDF side also does not come out as blameless. Some of its members have been accused of misbehaviour with women members of the LDF. The UDF establishment has defended Mani from the beginning, though by principle and by precedent, there is a case for his resignation. The charges against him are serious. A case has been registered against him and investigation is under way. The LDF has a point in arguing that the investigation by a state government agency against senior minister would not be fair. The chief minister is unable to take any action because the party led by Mani has more than the strength needed to bring down the government. The UDF government also has a history of ‘’managing’’ investigations in such situations or brazening out charges. The impropriety of Mani continuing in the ministry has been clear to even some on the UDF side. But he says he won’t resign even if he is charge-sheeted.

Five opposition members have been suspended for the rest of the session. The state governor has also taken note of what happened in the House and reported to the President about it. But his mention of Article 356 in that context would be considered unnecessary, if not mischievous. Standards of political and parliamentary conduct have unfortunately been plumbing new depths in spite of the disgust and revulsion it invokes among the public.

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