Ranjona Banerji: When governance and opposition happen out of TV studios

27 Aug,2012

By  Ranjona Banerji


Many years ago, the founding fathers of India worked very hard and gave us a Constitution. Because of that, we got a Parliament. You might recognise it from the outside — it’s a roundish building in New Delhi. But you might recognise it better from the inside: Large rooms with circular seating, an imposing looking desk along one wall and lots of people screaming and shouting and rushing to the centre of the room.


You may be forgiven for thinking that these rooms (there are two significant ones) are contemporary versions of the Roman arena, where gladiators killed each other or got eaten by lions and so on. You may even think that given the Indian philosophical idea of non-violence of ahimsa, our founding fathers had created a non-violent arena where people could scream and shout without hitting or of course killing each other.


In fact, no one really knows why this building and these two very specific looking rooms were made. As far as we can see, people shout and the person at the imposing looking desk says “Sit down, sit down”, albeit in Hindi. Sometimes the shouters listen and sometimes they don’t.


Almost no one can understand what is going on. But it’s quite good entertainment. There are smaller versions of this thing in all the Indian states. Here the principle of non-violence does not apply. Not only do people throw things – microphones, chairs, tables – in these state versions of the roundish building but they also beat each other up. If they took off their clothes and exercised a lot, it would be like pro-wrestling (okay, ew!).


Besides, almost everyone knows that every night some of these same people gather in television studios and speak and of course, sometimes shout. All the things that they don’t say in the roundish building, they say in television studios.


The funny thing is that politicians – that is who these shouting people are – work very hard to get into that roundish building. They prepare themselves (no, not exercise, money and support collection) and then they fight elections. The elections give them the privilege of getting to Parliament and in some cases, apparently to govern the nation and in other cases to be the Opposition. At least that’s what that Constitution which no one has read in many years, says.


However it is clear to everyone that the world has changed. Governance and Opposition now happen from TV studios. The roundish building has outlived its usefulness. Would it make a nice multiplex, do you think? Or in keeping with its past, a pro-wrestling arena?


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