Has anyone ever heard of a Speaker using unparliamentary language? It may not be a first but Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker Tammineni Sitaram stunned one and all with his unusual outburst on the TDP outside the House the other day. The immediate trigger for him to lose his cool was a query on the TDP’s insistence that Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy sign a declaration before entering the Tirumala temple.
As the Speaker holds a constitutional office, it is his responsibility to set an example and walk in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors, at least some of them, who have set high standards of conduct.
The Speaker’s role outside the House may be minimal but he ought to be not only impartial but also appear to be so at all times. Excuses by his supporters that his comment should be seen in the right context and that he could not be compared to his immediate predecessor as far as his conduct is concerned do not hold water.
More so due to the ongoing slugfest between the ruling and opposition parties wherein ministers and TDP leaders have made expletive-laden language a part of their daily diatribes. Usage of objectionable language is nothing new but the alarming regularity or rather, its normalisation, is definitely a new low. Words are associated with images and if leaders with considerable following call each other animals and worse, it deepens enmity between the two sides on the ground and online. Physical violence would be a natural and logical end to this behaviour, and could well wreck local elections scheduled early next year. Besides, bad language is bad strategy for it deprives its user of dignity and respect.
These leaders would do well to learn from British MPs who have launched the #StopTheNastiness campaign to ensure that hate language doesn’t find a place in the general election. It has found support from all the parties though they are deeply polarised over Brexit. If they don’t want to go that far, they could learn to use better Telugu, their mother tongue, which is an exquisite expression of a unique culture.