Dharna day 21, 16 August 2010: Among the parliamentarians

Rachna and Shalini set out early morning for the Parliament. They have been visiting the Parliament since last week in order to get endorsements from different Members of Parliaments. A week later, both of them seem to know a lot more of the Parliament and its many curves and lanes. At the same time, their faces have become familiar to lot more people. No wonder, when one is missing among the duo, the other is often asked by the security guards and other staff, ‘how come you are alone today, where is your friend?” Finding friends in this giant and seeming cold building is no mean task. And this is what both these ladies have been trying to do for the last six days- finding friends for Bhopalis among the Parliamentarians.

The experience so far has been bitter-sweet. Today was no different. They waited outside the Parliament for the person who was supposed to help them with the entry passes. After many unacknowledged, unreturned calls they decided to contact someone they met a day ago in the Parliament. He is Personal Secretary to a MP and he had been very forthcoming with his support. On a single call he ensured we get the passes. Our first stop being the alley near gate 2 close to Lok Sabha Gallery. ‘Abhi aapka stock poora nahi hua madam?’ asked a PS sitting next to us. We smiled and mentioned how we are trying for some more endorsements in order to have representations from different political parties. Two-three more PS sat next to us, discussing among themselves the status of politics, how parliamentarians are now demanding a salary raise from Rs 80,000 per month to Rs 1,60,000 and making playful bet on who would win the elections in Bihar this time and amidst all this euphoria remembering to give us a meaningful nod whenever a MP passed by. Soon we collected ten more endorsements.

We then decided to visit the office of Ms. Sushma Swaraj, senior leader BJP. To our dismay we learnt she won’t be able to meet us due to her prior engagements. Nonetheless, we met a MP in her office who endorsed the petition immediately. It was already lunch time and MPs were rushing to Central Hall where entry is restricted to Parliamentarians and senior journalists. But there are other places where general public can try their luck for instance, elevators where so far we have met two parliamentarians. On an average we get some two to three minutes to explain our cause. In most cases we do not leave till the MP either reads the petition and endorses it or dismisses us with some standard statements like- I will read and get back, I will see you on my way back, or leave it in my party office. Such statements are indicative of their reluctance to engage any further. We take the cue and leave.

We then went to third floor where most party offices are. Checking every name plate and peeking into the office if there was any sound from inside we also learnt which parliamentarians take their lunch in the party office and which never set their foot in. This is how we had stopped at the office of a national party twice in last four days. On both occasions the senior leaders were having their meals inside. We were asked to talk to the MP on his way out however all our patience gave way when the MP dismissed the petition asking us to return only with a petition on the letter head used by Parliamentarians. He retorted, “What will be the beauty of my signature. My name will be reduced to one among the many. Get a letter head and I will consider.”

Well, Mr MP you might have the authority to sign but the decision to seek your endorsement is still ours and so we silently decide to leave in search of not so egoistic and not so egotistic MPs. Our experience has taught us there are many who put the cause before where will my name be in the list of endorsers.

Meanwhile Parliament was adjourned for the day. We now have a total of 62 signatures with representations from 19 political parties. On our way out we met Jayant Chaudhary, a young Parliamentarian from RLD, who gave us a patient hearing but asked us to collect the endorsement next day from his office. We went to meet Sandipto Bandopadhyay, MP- Trinamool Congress at his house and he asked us to wait till Ms. Mamta Banerjee returns. Ms. Banerjee being the party leader needs to be consulted for any political endorsement. Finally we left the petition for Mr. Dara Singh Chauhan, MP- NCP at his house and returned to Jantar Mantar, our home for last 21 days where, unlike us, most of the Bhopalis spent a quiet day. Once back with our friends we get busy with planning for tomorrow. Hopefully, Tomorrow will be another day!

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