I forced myself to view last night's Issues Before Parliament on TV. Not only is the present government faceless, but also the present parliament. I thought it my duty, journalistic and as a citizen, to families myself with the members.
There were only two familiar faces: Mr. Dinesh Singh, a Congress minister several times over, promted and dempted by Mrs. Gandhi and son, according to their whims and facies; and the other was S. Viswam, fellow-journalist, friend, colleague, my first chief reporter at the Times, and one of only two senior journalists that I have directly worked under whom I have respected and admired.
Dinesh Singh was a handsome man in his youth, or middle youth, but he has not aged gracefully. The strain of continuous efforts to keep a toe-hold in the governmetn may be seen on his face. On the whole he looks like somebody's favourite aunt, short, dumpty, silver-haired and rather sweet. But he made the best contribution to the debate, whatever little there was, though there was no need to bring in GATT. It was lik a bright student showing off in a class of dances.
Age has not changed Viswam. Thirty years ago, he was grey-haired, with large blook-shot eyes that looked you straight in your eyes and the first development of a slouch. He is today exactly the same.
The only other person on the panel with whose name at least I was familiar was Dr. J.K. Jain, he of the Jain Studios and the notorious video cassette. If Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee symbolises all that is worthy in the BJP, Dr. Jain symbolises all that is unworthy.
Dr. Jain had no clue as to the theme of the programme. Instead of discussing issues, he shouted slogans, and he breathed brimstone and fire, though it was a difficult thing to do in that tifht UP-tailored suit. I thoutout the BJP could have found a more suitable talent than Dr. Jain to represent it on the national network, especially now when the party's credobility is so low.
The CPM, in that sense, could not have made a better choice. I do not remember his name, but here was a true leftist and nationalist, a Muslim who was not aware that he was one. It is my opinion that the Communists are the only genuinely secular party in the country. And I think the time has come for us to give the Communists, in their present enlightened form, to come to power at the centre.
As for the Janata Dal and the Janata Dal-S representatives, they could have changed sides and nobodywould have been the wiser for it.
And, finally, what are the issues before parliament? I think all its 500 odd members are the issues before parliament and nation. The sooner we get rid of them and elect a new parliament of honest professionals, the better.