The Great Indian Vanishing Act

The more things seem to change in India,the more they remain the same.The last General Elections for the 15th Lok Sabha might have thrown in a hint of youthful exuberance and energy into our political system,but the graceful unwillingness of our MP’s to attend parliamentary proceeding is threatening to play truant with the India 2020 dream.Apart from the ongoing faux pas,the unruly behavior of our leaders and their theatrics in the parliament  disregard the very concept of a fruitful democracy.It was a decade of change,the common Indian man made careful and alert choices,when deciding their representatives.But it is customary for our leaders to take the people’s mandate for granted.That is being reflected in their dismal performance in the parliamentary debates and long,unexplained absence from the Parliament.As the nation debates about the missing MP’s from our Parliament,it would be interesting to ponder over a more realistic issue,is our democratic system responsible for this devil-may-care attitude?

The lackadaisical attitude of our leaders costs the exchequer dear.An estimated amount of Rs.14 lacs is spent for each hour of a parliamentary session.The abysmally low attendance accounts for the maladroit handling of our democratic system at the hand of our leaders.To our pre-1970’s leaders, parliamentary sessions were a means of intellectual brainstorming and a ritual which they sacredly adhered to.To the present genre,its all about useless rants or walkouts.That consultations can take a country forward,is a truth that our leaders have failed to grasp.

The trend of political parties fielding star candidates is not new.People like Govinda,Dharmendra,Hema Malini,Jaya Bhaduri,Bimal Jalan,Shyam Benegal,Vijay Mallya might be achievers in their own fields,but they have proved to be duds in our parliament.They have been spectacularly unimpressive,to say the least. Their non-participation in the debates along with long instances of absence makes up for a sorry picture.

The 2004 elections kick started a positive trend in Indian politics.The entry of young and daring candidates in the poll fray spiced up the contest.Even though some lost,many emerged victorious.Leaders like Rahul Gandhi,Naveen Jindal,Akhilesh Yadav,Varun Gandhi make up for the recent breed of politicians,who are enterprising and have become the face for their respective parties.Their energy during the debates in the House is infectious.They fare a lot better than the older MP’s. But even they have been found short of attendance in the floor of the House.They justify their absence by citing their visits to their constituencies,overseeing the developmental work under their MPLAD’s scheme.

The Citizens’ Report on Governance and Development 2008-09 by civil society organisation National Social Watch (NSW) has reported that the House often operates at below their stipulated strength of 10%.Recently,during the price rise debate in November,only 26 of the 545 MP’s in Lok Sabha were present.The House thus operated below their mandatory quorum.The PRS Legislative Research shows that over 25% MP’s participated in either one or two debates.In keeping with the rushed pace of the sessions,the time spent in debating the bills is also severely compressed.The absence of MP’s doesn’t make it any better.

Many would argue as to why should the presence of MP’s matter anyway?Here is how.With the steady decline in the no. of sittings of the parliament in a year, the number of ordinances passed by the Lower House seems a mere pittance when compared to that in 1990’s.Even though Lok Sabha traditionally meets for a longer duration than the Rajya Sabha,it now meets almost as many days as the RS.The long pending demand for the stipulation of a minimum duration for a legislative session has been repeatedly scuttled by the Members. The absence of the MP’s only aggravates the situation.To sum it up,the Pariament is rapidly becoming unproductive.
The problem is,that presence in the House is not legally binding and does not pin down our leaders to fix targets for the respective parliamentary session The Question Hour has seen abandonment of questions just due to the absence of MP’s supposed to be asking the questions. Amid suggestions for a longer Question Hour,the leaders have to look into the matter seriously.

With prudence non-forthcoming from our politicians,only an all-party consensus regarding the attendance in the Parliament can mitigate the problem.To improve the level of attendance in the Parliament,the parties and their elected representatives must understand their role in the nation-building process.They must take their responsibilities more seriously. Another way might be to increase the level of quorum in the Parliament from the existing 10 percent. We also might explore the possibility of allowing willing MP’s to ask questions on their colleagues behalf to avoid the lapse of the questions.

Often, it has been seen that the imbecility of people invites the impudence of power from our politicians.It’s time we made smart choices, so that we elect people who are willing to serve the nation and take their job much more seriously.As they say,that our choices define our lives.We need to sieve out actual leaders from the imposters.Let’s stop the mockery of our democracy,once and for all.

Manas Ranjan

[Image courtesy:×0.jpg]