PRITHVI DATTA CHANDRA SHOBHI writes: Tuesday’s newspapers had two news stories. The first contained the infamous threat of former Assembly speaker Ramesh Kumar to tourism minister D.T. Jayakumar, on the floor of the august house: “I will kill you.”
The second, a smaller story in the inside pages, reported the advice H.S. Ashokananda, the director of Abdul Nazir Sab State Institute for Rural Development, gave to Zilla Panchayat (ZP) members in a workshop.
Which story would offend the legislators, I wonder.
Yesterday, in the Karnataka Legislative Council, members cutting across party lines, condemned Ashokanand, asked the government to suspend him, and demanded that the speaker bring him to the floor of the Council, so that he could be admonished.
What crime did Ashokanand commit?
According to newspaper reports, in a workshop to train ZP members, here is what Ashokanand said: “Government grants to local government institutions is the right of the people and not charity. ZP members should fight with the government to get their rightful share. They too should ask for separate grants, as is the case with Taluk and Gram Panchayats.
He also asked them how many Legislators speak in the Assembly and Council on behalf of ZP members and their constituencies. Ashokanand further advised the members to consult each other, organize themselves (as local body members do in Kerala) and fight for their rights. Even a military dictatorship such as Pakistan has a better decentralization system.
All right. Note that this is a workshop to train members about their responsibilities and rights. If this bureaucrat-pedagogue cannot speak freely and honestly to his trainees, when will he do so? I don’t find anything offensive in his reported speech.
On the other hand, Ashokanand should be commended for his forthright views and the appropriate forum in which he chose to express them.
Ashokanand ought not to be the story here.
We have to ask our MLCs a simple question: why don’t they feel any outrage when a senior member, a former speaker no less, threatens to kill a serving minister? If Ramesh Kumar had said that anywhere else, he would have been behind bars. But he cannot be prosecuted for anything he would say on the floor of the Assembly.
That privilege, that freedom of speech, especially in the Assembly, is critical for the functioning of our democracy but that same freedom ought not to be abused.
Where is the outrage among our legislators?
Where is the condemnation?
If our MLCs are so concerned with their hakkuchyuti (violation of their rights), “We, the People” will have to be so concerned about their padachyuti (removal from office). When they lose any sense of proportion, this is what we will have to do.
Let Chidananda and his MLC friends remember that.