Millennium Post

House of disruptions

Never before a session of Parliament was so short as the winter session commencing on 5 December. It is slated to last for barely two weeks. Normally, Winter and Monsoon sessions last for full one month or even more. There is no plausible reason for cutting short the span of coming winter session. One reason may be that since Parliament is disrupted session after session why waste public money on holding long sessions. The way parliament is disrupted is unfortunate indeed.

Contrast the scenario in Parliament to the enthusiasm shown by the people in elections. Record voting was registered in recently concluded elections in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh – about 70 per cent. In distant Mizoram it was 80 per cent. What does it show? Increasing participation of the people in the democratic process demonstrates that the voter wants his representatives in Parliament and state assemblies to be more active, provide good governance and solve the peoples’ problems.

Imagine the disgust of the common man when he sees MPs and MLAs elected by the people do no work and only disrupt proceedings of legislatures. Evidently, he loses faith in elected representatives and a time may come when he may lose confidence in Parliamentary democracy itself. This may be a dreadful scenario. Time has come for the leaders of all political parties – big and small – to pool their heads together and rectify the situation. Though initially dubbed as impractical, ‘right to recall’ the elected MPs and MLAs by the voters if their representatives do not perform or indulge in corrupt practices, is one of the way out. It is for Parliament to find ways and mean of implementing ‘the right to recall’ formula. This was initially the idea of Lok Nayak Jayprakash Narayan but rejected by political parties.

When members conduct themselves like ill-behaved, uncontrolled brats and when admonition and rebuke show no result, the serious deterrence is the only possible solution. A system of penalties should be worked out, at its broadest, embracing, rationally, the very prerequisites that MPs enjoy.

One way to deter improper behavior in parliament would be to cancel the daily allowance of MPs if Parliament has been disrupted for a day. The deterrents may grow in proportion to the scale  of disruption, that is, repeated disruption would not only mean an equivalent loss of daily allowance, but also a proportional decrease in other prerequisites, such as free tickets for travel, and so on. If disruption continues beyond certain stated limits, an MP could be debarred from contesting any election conducted under the Election Commission for a period of time, say, two years. Beyond and besides this, any political party identified as the organiser of disruption for more than one session of Parliament could be treated in the same way, that is, debarred from contesting for a fixed period. These are, of course, suggested solutions to what has emerged as  a major   evil in India’s political life. Deterrents can be evolved on any single principle, the aim always being to create real pressure on errant people’s representatives to behave.

Recall  May 2002 when the Indian Parliament competed its fifty years, the Lok Sabha secretariat deemed it fit to commemorate the occasion by bringing out a handsomely produced book, Fifty years of Indian Parliament.  Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister at that time and he contributed a very thoughtful chapter for this book. His chapter was aptly entitled, Making Parliamentary Democracy Deliver on its Promise. Vajpayee wrote: ‘While constructive opposition is the essence of democracy, opposition for the sake of opposition weakens both democracy and good governance. Any attempt to destabilise a duly elected government disturbs the healthy development of democracy in India.’ These are words of wisdom, acquired over half a century of public life by one of the most respected and admired political leader in India.

To quote Vajpayee again, ‘It saddens me to note that the attitude of wanting to hear the opposite point of view is waning. We are a diverse country. Political pluralism is the very heart of our democracy. It is what lends vibrancy and vigour to parliamentary debate. The first principle of parliamentary conduct is to believe that every point of view has a right to express itself, so long as it is expressed within the rules set by the Speaker.’

The Supreme Court’s verdict stipulating that MPs and MLAs will be disqualified the moment they are convicted in a criminal case has been widely welcomed. The apex court’s yet another order banning persons lodged behind the bars from contesting election to legislative bodies  is a step in the direction of cleansing the nation’s politics of people with criminal records.

If Supreme Court’s twin orders are implemented in right earnest, political parties will think twice before giving tickets to those accused of criminal acts, except where they genuinely believe that the charges are politically motivated.

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