Restore Parliament’s pristine process
The 15th Lok Sabha has been statistically proved to be the worst in history in terms of passage of bills to become laws of the country. The declining standards of behaviour of the members of the Indian Parliament was worst exemplified by the use of a pepper spray in the House.
It is up to political parties now to share the responsibility to mend the image of Parliament by restoring the highest standards of practices and processes.
The only way politicians can fight the creeping pessimism among the Indian people is to revive the parliamentary practices in their pristine form and not hold the twin Houses to ransom for the difficult positions that they take on behalf of their parties on national issues. This holding up parliamentary proceedings does not devolve only from stands taken by the Opposition. The ruling alliance’s own problems with regard to the formation of Telangana contributed in equal measure to less than 25 per cent of the allotted time being used constructively in the 15th Lok Sabha.
The disenchantment that has set in among the people with regard to the functioning of Parliament does not augur well for politicians in general regardless of what brand of politics they pursued to get in as legislators. The legislature cannot be used to take out their frustrations with national governance. If laws cannot be made with the consent of Parliament our democracy will be poorly served.
If Parliament does not gets its act together, the ensuing disenchantment can tempt people to endorse extra-parliamentary methods of governance. Fortunately, in our neighbourhood military rule has proved to be a disaster.
Entire sessions going waste may give rise to worry that our politicians take Parliament lightly and don’t see it as a crucial component of our democratic system.
To see even rising young politicians like Rahul Gandhi of the Congress participate in just two debates and spend less than half the time in the House when it is in session is a pointer to the slackening interest in the Parliament model of drawing up legislation. Young legislators may be reminded that India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, would never miss a day of Parliament. His daughter Indira Gandhi, despite her extreme stand in imposing Emergency, was an ardent votary of the legislative system and keen on attending the House while her husband was a well-known parliamentarian.
Indians have made a name for themselves internationally in diverse fields — as scientists, academicians, captains of industry, filmstars, sportsmen — but how many in this generation of legislators are known for their interventions in Parliament as great debaters? The time has come for parliamentarians to work together towards restoring established practices of parliamentary democracy.