India’s Functioning Anarchy

John Kenneth Galbraith, who at one time was US Ambassador to India, described the country as a “functioning anarchy.” To understand his point, look no further than India's parliament today.

NEW DELHI – Every year, during India’s rainy season, there is, equally predictably, a “monsoon session” of Parliament. And, every year, there seems to be increasing debate about which is stormier – the weather or the legislature.

Consider the current session, which began on August 1. The opening day was adjourned, in keeping with traditional practice, to mourn the death between sessions of a sitting member of parliament. But the adjournment did not come before a routine courtesy greeting to the visiting Speaker of Sri Lanka’s parliament was interrupted by Tamil MPs from a regional party, who rose to their feet to shout demands for his expulsion because of his government’s behavior towards that country’s Tamil minority. The errant MPs were rapidly silenced, and the visitor received a table-thumping welcome from the rest of the House.

Matters were not so swiftly resolved, however, the next day. No sooner had a newly-elected member taken his oath than a number of MPs from the Bahujan Samaj Party, which rules India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh, stormed into the well of the House, shouting slogans and waving placards in protest against the government’s land-acquisition policies.

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