Entertainment is the only reason why reading a newspaper or vegetating while watching TV debates are so popular despite all the hype about people going into depressive states and wanting to switch to becoming a home chef with the single aim of clicking pictures for Instagram. It is the words and expressions used and the way they are intoned that beats the now insipid films that Bollywood releases. The only way Bollywood can be revived is to enlist newspaper reporters and TV anchors to write scripts for short and long films.

When I suggested this to an editor, he shook his head and said – No, no… this isn’t possible. News analysis isn’t as frivolous as some of the comments of our elected representatives who mouth them.

Okay, I said, so be it. But tell me why do our MPs and MLAs utter them?

This isn’t happening only in India but all over the world, he replied. He asked me to go through the booklet of unparliamentary words and expressions which explains everything.

So, I did just that and found that a lot of words and expressions have been quoted from the other Assemblies and Parliaments and include those from Australia, Canada, British Columbia, Ontario, Manitoba, Victoria, New South Wales, and Yukon, to cite a few. In India, Andhra, Punjab, and Karnataka seemed to have been mentioned most times. And the list of such expressions in Indian languages is, of course, just as lengthy, if not more.

As I went through the listed unparliamentary words and expressions I regretted having spent so much time and money on buying tickets to see plays in theatres. I could just have sat at home and channel surfed to the live telecast of whatever goes on in our Assemblies. These guys just stand and there and call each other treacherous, traitors, touts, wicked, windbags, ruthless, rubbish, rowdy, rascal, racist, prostitute, poster-boy, chhokra, chela, and chamcha, to quote a few. They shout about slush fund, snoopgate, behri sarkar, and scandal calling their smug colleagues mama, mafia, and goon. If you are fortunate, you might hear some member call someone else a poodle, pet-dog, donkey, or even pig-headed. The truth is that words like fraud, foolish, fake, greed, greasy, and gossiper, even though qualifying to be in the list expunged terms, sound innocent. If you think our parliamentarians use only words that sound cliched, just brace yourself because they are constantly updating their treasure of ‘unparliamentary words and terms’… and we find jumlajeevi, taanashah, covid-spreader, khalistani, anarchist, baal-buddhi, and even vinash-purush added in recent times.

Unparliamentary words - artwork by Arvind Passey
Unparliamentary words – artwork by Arvind Passey

This cache of unparliamentary words is enough to spur a script writer to dash off and prepare a sumptuous dish to be served as the next episode on any of the channels on the television.

Ever since I have read through this thoroughly entertaining list of words, I have often wondered why they need to be expunged from official records. Why not let the future generations read and know the way our elected members communicated with each other while legislating? The future has a right to know how we hurtled words to maim thoughts, doesn’t it? Moreover, even in present times, such exchanges not only expose the hollowness and shallowness of leaders but also makes the unaware understand the importance of good communication. After all, simply raising your voice or using abrasive terminology to get your way is not ever going to get classified as effective. This is one reason why even loud and meaningless television debates can also serve a purpose. We learn.

By the way, none of these expunged words or phrases have been banned, as the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla has already clarified according to newspaper reports and has added that this action is entirely at the discretion of the Speaker. Another report in the dailies points out that Rule 381 clarifies: ‘The portion of the proceedings of the House so expunged shall be marked by asterisks and an explanatory footnote shall be inserted in the proceedings as follows: ‘Expunged as ordered by the Chair’.’ Actions that expunge words are merely to inform parliamentarians that there are limits to freedom of speech. Words can make a comeback as did ‘Godse’ on a plea made by Shiv Sena MP Hemant Tukaram.

What is worse than unparliamentary words is when our MPs smash furniture inside the Assembly or go around boxing and slapping each other or are reluctant to debate and discuss an issue. We have all watched them create a ruckus instead of using logic and facts to strengthen their views and when even this does not satisfy them, they walk out. Imagine a group of intelligent and resourceful people doing this in the false belief that walking-out is a powerful tool of argumentation. It is not. It tells me that some people are running away when they realise that their point-of-view is indefensible.

It is vital for our MPs and MLAs to know that neither the use of unnecessary words nor irrelevant actions can make their point-of-view stand upright. Only thorough research and the ability to communicate clearly has this power. So long as they continue to do this, there will always be people who may continue to call them entertaining buffoons.

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Arvind Passey
25 July 2022