A ‘communist’ MP’s ‘boring’ ‘tricks’ and other no-nos

A ‘communist’ MP’s ‘boring’ ‘tricks’ and other no-nos
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First Published: Tue, Dec 30 2008. 01 50 AM IST

Updated: Tue, Dec 30 2008. 01 50 AM IST
New Delhi: The next time an Indian parliamentarian says in the House that a “communist” member of Parliament (MP) is up to his usual “tricks” in making a “boring” speech, the book could get thrown at him.
Tips for MPs
At least if Parliament decides to go by the book: in this case, the latest edition of Unparliamentary Expressions, a 900-page tome published by the Lok Sabha secretariat that governs speech in Parliament and also state legislatures.
“I did not know words such as ‘stern school master’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘shy’ and ‘stunt’ were unparliamentary until I read this book,” said a slightly confused Tathagata Satpathy, a Lok Sabha MP from Orissa. For good measure, the good book says even the word “confused” is somewhat unparliamentary.
The book—the publication of which is being brought to the notice of MPs through repeated Lok Sabha bulletins—lists words and phrases disallowed not only in the Indian Parliament, but also in various state assemblies, as well as some parliaments of Commonwealth countries.
For Rs850, the book tells you that one cannot be “ashamed” in Parliament and cannot address a lady presiding officer as “beloved”. Neither can one simply say “hello” to catch the chair or Speaker’s attention.
Among the more touchy and no-no phrases: “foreign money”, “true colours”, “for Christ’s sake”. And some surprisingly unparliamentary expressions include expressions that are commonly used such as delusion of grandeur, clients, barbarian, common sense, fathers-in-law, joke, giggle, laugh and malpractices.
And in the din of Parliament if one suspects that the presiding officer is not listening to him, he cannot complain, “you are not listening to us”.
The book lists some choice epithets that were used and are now banned.
India’s state assemblies have contributed some bizarre phrases to the not-to-be-used lexicon such as “he has no principles at all. He is an Alsatian (apparently used in the Andhra Pradesh assembly to describe the chief election commissioner)”, “financial bastard (in reference to a finance minister in the Lok Sabha)”, “minister issues cheques in bedrooms and bathrooms (in the Nagaland assembly)” and “a tale by an idiot is full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing (aspersions on the President of India in the Lok Sabha in 2000).”
Several unparliamentary usages listed in the book were used against presiding officers.
“He has become a monkey (aspersions on the chair in the Meghalaya assembly)”, “thou too Brutus (in the Lok Sabha in 1984)”, “a lag unto yourself (in the Lok Sabha in 1985)”, etc.
You cannot use “lost” (with reference to the time taken by a member discussing any matter), “lousy”, “make mess” or “loose talk” in the House. No member can be referred to as “man of flesh and blood” or as a Marwari or a “Marxist capitalist”. You cannot complain that a member is “misbehaving” or doing “mischief” or term the disruptions in Parliament as “mockery”; calling the Speaker a “miser” (in giving time to speak) is a strict no.
Most of the words/phrases listed in the book—being sold at a discount of 25% to parliamentarians—would be unparliamentary if they are used in a particular context. For example, the word “political” has been identified as unparliamentary when an MP used it against the Election Commission in 1995.
In 1988 “Russian guys” was disallowed when a member of the Nagaland assembly used it for a Russian cultural troupe visiting state capital Kohima; in 1977, a member of the Haryana assembly was admonished for using the word “schoolchildren” referring to members of the House.
The compilation of the book, the first that the Lok Sabha secretariat since 1999, has been divided into two parts. Part I contains expressions in English and part II in Hindi. It lists words and phrases disallowed in some of the Commonwealth parliaments and India’s Parliament and state legislatures between 1952 and 2002-03.
Taiyari, or preparation, is an unparliamentary word. When an Opposition MP criticized a minister for not coming prepared to answer the questions, the chair had banned the usage. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s outburst against Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin made the chair ban the word videshi, or foreign, inside the Lok Sabha in 2003.
Names such as Hitler, Mussolini, Idi Amin and Ravan are also considered to be coarse. “Hitler ki aulad (Hitler’s children)”, “Ravan, Kansa...Kauravo ki tarah (like demon characters in Indian epics)” and the like are banished from the Parliament lexicon.
A reference to then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance as “nikammi...hijdhon ka sarkar (inefficient government of eunuchs)” used in the Rajasthan assembly has also found place in the list of expressions that are disallowed in Parliament and state legislatures.
A few words and phrases Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee uses when he gets disillusioned with the behaviour of MPs such as “you should be ashamed”, “insult” and “unfortunate” have also found place in the book.
However, not all are equal.
According to a Lok Sabha secretariat official who didn’t want to be identified by name, “whatever the Speaker allows to go on record in the House proceedings is assumed to be parliamentary”. Interestingly, many MPs that Mint spoke to said they were unaware of the words they couldn’t use in Parliament until they saw them in the book. That wouldn’t be a problem for those MPs and MLAs who can’t read.
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First Published: Tue, Dec 30 2008. 01 50 AM IST