India Today - - UPFRONT -

The first day of the first session of Par­lia­ment saw the swear­ing in of MPs, but Rahul Gandhi only showed up at four in the af­ter­noon. Per­haps he wanted to avoid the love-in for the prime min­is­ter, the chants of ‘Modi, Modi’ re­sound­ing through the hall. Pre­dictably, Pragya Thakur’s induction met with protests. She took her oath in San­skrit and ap­pended to her name both the ti­tle of ‘Sad­hvi’ and the name of her guru, caus­ing con­sid­er­able con­fu­sion and prompt­ing a re­minder that she could swear only upon God or the Con­sti­tu­tion. It took three at­tempts to qui­eten the protests. The hash­tag #Ashamed trended on In­dian Twit­ter, with many users claim­ing that seeing Sad­hvi Pragya take her seat in Par­lia­ment made them feel ashamed. This, in turn, caused a lot of pi­ous har­rumph­ing from BJP sup­port­ers. Feel­ing shame and anger at the sight of a woman still fight­ing ter­ror charges in court be­com­ing a par­lia­men­tar­ian, they ar­gued, amounted to dis­re­spect­ing democ­racy and the choice of the peo­ple. It’s spe­cious non­sense. As cit­i­zens in a democ­racy, we must re­spect the right of all vot­ers to have a choice. But why should any­one re­spect the choice itself? Lots of aw­ful, even vil­lain­ous, peo­ple have won elections. And even if not aw­ful or vil­lain­ous, one can pro­foundly dis­agree with the elec­tion of an MP on ide­o­log­i­cal grounds or oth­er­wise. These dis­senters are not ad­vo­cat­ing over­throw­ing the gov­ern­ment; they know they will have to tol­er­ate the par­lia­men­tary pres­ence of those whom they find un­palat­able. But, surely, they can voice their re­sent­ment and dis­gust. That’s democ­racy—to bor­row the phrase right-wingers trot out so smugly when­ever any­one ex­presses de­spair over the elec­tion re­sult.

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