60 years of parliament: People highlight need for professionalism

May 13th, 2012 - 4:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, May 13 (IANS)Has the functioning of the Indian parliament been able to foster democratic values and strengthen participatory institutions down the line or has it been a failed experiment?

These are the questions being asked as our Westminster-modelled parliamentary democratic system celebrates its 60th anniversary.

“From panchayats and nagar nigams to the assemblies and the two houses of parliament you only have rabble rousers, playing to the galleries. One does no longer hear enlightened debates interspersed with wit and sarcasm, as was the case till the 1977 Janata Party experiment,” political commentator Paras Nath Choudhary told IANS.

Former socialist leader from Lucknow Ram Kishore, says: “The likes of Raj Narain, Madhu Limaye or even Piloo Mody, made parliament a vibrant democratic institution. The ‘firing range’ comprising H.V. Kamath, Subramanian Swamy, S.N. Mishra, Shibban Lal Saxena and Kunwar Lal Gupta was ever alert during the 1970s to government lapses. Their questions and points of orders were dreaded and ministers never made a mistake of coming to parliament without doing adequate home work.”

During the 1960s and 1970s, the performance of parliamentarians was generally of a high order and the media relished the quotable quotes. As long as Ram Manohar Lohia was in the house, one was assured of sparkling fire-works. Madhu Limaye, Nath Pai, N.G. Gorey, Ashok Mehta and others carried the tradition forward.

“In 1977 there were so many heavy weights, each an institution in himself. Today’s parliament is no match. One finds pathetic lack of ideological commitment today, especially among the younger parliamentarians. They hardly go to the library and prepare notes. There is a shocking qualitative degeneration in democratic institutions at all levels,” Ramji Lal Suman, former deputy minister in Chandra Shekhar government, told IANS.

Young politicians if groomed properly and infused with a degree of ideological professionalism could still change the depressing scenario, Suman added.

In sharp contrast to the composition of the two houses in the 1960s or the 1970s, the present house is dominated by amateurs who are better fighters than debaters. Many make public speeches rather than try debating a point.

“If we have a parliament we must also have able parliamentarians who not only expose the scams but also contribute to the policy making and enliven the proceedings through literary quotes and witticisms. Giving speeches like one was addressing a street corner gathering is easy, but to hit the headlines in the next day’s newspapers or making valuable contribution to debates requires a lot of mid-night oil-burning and a professional approach,” says social activist Shravan Kumar Singh who worked with many leaders in Bihar.

Indian parliament is an important democratic institution, for it combines both the legislative and executive functions. By and large it has responded to changing public moods and mass aspirations, say ruling Congress party leaders.

Former Congress MLA Satish Chandra Gupta says, “I have nothing to feel cheerful or happy about the general working of the institutions. The intellectual level of politicians has generally gone down.”

During the 1975-77 emergency when most of the opposition leaders were detained, parliament was reduced to a “walking corpse” - surviving more in form than in vitality.

The Janata Party experiment could not last long enough as there were too many heavy weights pulling the cart in different directions.

“The Congress Young Turks, the egoistic three seniors Morarji Desai, Choudhary Charan Singh, and Babu Jagjivan Ram, in addition to a whole line up of Socialists including Madhu limaye, kept pulling one another down and Raj Narain playing the joker added intriguing dimensions to the survival of a government that was bedevilled by the dual membership controversy that irked the BJP and the RSS,” recalls senior ex-Janata party leader Vinay Paliwal.

Clearly, the functioning of parliament in the past decade particularly has been affected by the quality of people that have been elected. Many are believed to have criminal background, if reports released by various pressure groups are to be relied upon. Those who thought introduction of TV cameras to cover the proceedings would usher in desirable changes in performance feel cheated.

Veterans in parliament have a duty to groom the freshers. Old-timers say the MPs should spend more time in the house and the library than in their individual constituencies. “The discretionary funds for development available to MPs has been a huge distraction,” says senior media person Rajiv Saxena.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

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