With politics turning into an ‘animal farm’, do politicians need a code of conduct ?

Juvenile acts of calling each other names, making cat calls, morphing images, being rude and stooping low to hit political rivals below the belt becoming rampant, is a code of conduct needed?

With politics turning into an ‘animal farm’, do politicians need a code of conduct ?

Rahi Bhide

Abhyasoni Prakatave’, study, think and reflect before saying anything, is what several saints in Maharashtra have advised. But politicians in the state have stunned people in recent weeks by referring to each other as dogs and pigs. It all started with Nitesh Rane, MLA and son of Union Small Industries Minister Narayan Rane, making cat calls on the stairs of the Assembly at Aaditya Thackeray, triggering a public debate on his conduct. Are the younger politicians taking a leaf from their seniors is the question being debated.

Nitesh Rane is acknowledged as a good legislator, who raises several important issues of public concern in the assembly. Did he have to needlessly stoop and make cat calls? He has been also rude and insensitive when the chief minister was confined to bed following a minor surgery. “He stays at home even when he sneezes,” Rane had said irreverently.

Ironically, while even Devendra Fadnavis deprecated Rane junior’s behaviour, some MLAs from the ruling alliance demanded his arrest. Narayan Rane himself saw a conspiracy against his son and family! Politics of vendetta, he fumed.

The public behaviour of both more senior political leaders and younger heirs like Nitesh Rane, Aaditya Thackeray, son of the chief minister, Rohit, nephew of Sharad Pawar, Aditi, daughter of NCP MP Sunil Tatkate and Vishwajeet Kadam, son of late former minister Patangrao Kadam are under scrutiny.

There is general agreement that both Uddhav and son Aaditya conduct themselves with dignity. Despite the hostility between the Thackerays and the Ranes, Aaditya has been restrained in public, even ignoring the cat calls by Rane Junior. Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Aaditya Thackeray, both the father and son are polite and rarely, if ever, rude.

NCP spokesperson and minister Nawab Malik jumped into the ‘cat call’ controversy by tweeting a morphed image of a cat and a hen, the latter a dig at Rane senior who was referred by late Bal Thackeray as ‘Kombdi Chor’ (Murgi Chor). Nitesh Rane retaliated by sharing the image of a pig with Malik’s face morphed on it. Referring to Malik’s ancestral business of dealing in scrap, Rane asked people to identify the specie ‘found in scrap’. A rebuke by Fadnavis also failed to cool tempers with Bhaskar Jadhav imitating the Prime Minister. Not done, was the consensus though people recalled that PM Modi had often mimicked Rahul Gandhi.

Several MLAs, cutting across parties, spoke of a code of conduct on how MLAs should behave outside the House. Others asked if this is what politics is all about. Political discourse, they felt, needs to rise over petty point-scoring and the language of politics should reflect maturity.

Older political leaders like Sharad Pawar and Nitin Gadkari have friends across the political divide. So did Gopinath Munde and Vilasrao Deshmukh despite political differences. Exchange of barbs, insult and allegations once ended after elections. Balasaheb Thackeray and Sharad Pawar retained their friendship despite opposing each other politically.

Leaders like Madhu Dandwate, Madhu Limaye, George Fernandes, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mohan Dharia are still talked about for their well researched speeches without theatrics.

In Maharashtra itself Uttamrao Patil, Krishnarao Dhulap, prof N.D. Patil, Mrunal Gore, Nanasaheb Gore, Bhai Vaidya, B.T. Deshmukh and Keshavrao Dhondge were exemplary legislators without ever being brash or aggressive. Why is it so difficult to emulate their example?

(Translated from Marathi by Abhir More)

This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.

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