With 315 first-timers, LS looks for new energy, productivity

Dateline

On June 9 as Delhi braved a dreadful summer day, tempers were rising in the Lok Sabha where newly-elected members had gathered for the first time to transact some legislative business.

President Pranab Mukherjee had concluded his address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament. As home minister Rajnath Singh rose to table the ordinances promulgated by the NDA government, including one on the Polavaram irrigation project, members from Telangana Rashtra Samithi rushed to the Well of the House waving placards and raising slogans against the ordinance.

BJD members too waved placards from their seats to register their opposition to the ordinance which provides for transfer of 136 villages, 211 hamlets and seven mandals of Khammam district to the successor state of Andhra Pradesh to execute Polavaram project.

The first wave of protests took newly-elected Speaker Sumitra Mahajan by surprise. However, unfazed by the disruptions she made it clear to the Lok Sabha members – 315 of whom were first timers – to adhere to the rules of procedure strictly.

“You must know the procedure. I will not discuss with you in this way,” she said. The next day when the Lok Sabha witnessed some vociferous moments, she urged the senior members, who were speaking out of turn, to watch their conduct and not set a bad example before the newcomers.

The Speaker’s concerns were not unwarranted. An eight-term member of the Lok Sabha, Mahajan has witnessed many a disruption in the House. The 15th Lok Sabha would be remembered more for disruptions than the legislative business it transacted.

The productive time of the 15th Lok Sabha was a mere 61 per cent as against 91 per cent in the 13th Lok Sabha and 87 per cent in the 14th Lok Sabha.The present Lok Sabha has inherited 60 pending Bills from its previous government.

These are the Bills that were introduced in the Rajya Sabha and not passed by it. As many as 68 bills introduced in the 15th Lok Sabha have lapsed, including the Women’s Reservation Bill, Direct Taxes Code Bill and the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill.

The 15th Lok Sabha passed 179 Bills of the 328 to be considered and passed during its five year tenure, the least by a Lower House having a full term. In comparison, the 13th and 14th Lok Sabhas had passed 297 and 248 Bills, respectively.

The most disruptive Lok Sabha also led to politicians, particularly members of parliament, being viewed as a non-serious group of people. A large section of the society began to believe that the dignity of Parliament was lowered during the last five years.

The task before the 16th Lok Sabha, therefore, is an onerous one. To restore the dignity of the Lok Sabha is no mean job. The new energy the 315 first-term Lok Sabha members bring to the House needs to be channelised towards some constructive tasks.

The brute majority the BJP-led NDA enjoys in the Lok Sabha also puts a great amount of responsibility on its shoulders of not getting carried away by the numbers in its favour but to carry everyone along.

Breath of fresh air

The newcomers do bring a breath of fresh air to the House with their focused approach and outspokenness. There are 71 members in this group of new-comers, who are below the age of 40. Nearly half of them come from political families.

The youngest members Dushyant Chautala and Hina Gavit are all of 26 years. They admit that their success is partly due to their families who have been in politics for decades. While Chautala is the grandson of former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, Gavit’s father Dr Vijay Kumar Gavit was a minister in the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra till the day his daughter got the Lok Sabha ticket from the BJP.

There are others who come from political families – Chirag Paswan, a prime mover in his father Ramvilas Paswan’s LJP. It was the junior Paswan who convinced his father to part ways with the RJD and Congress to join hands with the BJP.

Sonia Gandhi and  Rahul, Maneka Gandhi and Varun, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his daughter-in-law Dimple and nephews Dharemendra and Akshay are some prominent political families in the 16th Lok Sabha.

At the same time, the current Lok Sabha also has its share of outsiders. Olympian gold meadallist Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Priyanka Singh Rawat (both BJP), Dharam Vira Gandhi and Bhagwant Singh Mann (AAP) can be considered stark outsiders to politics. Similar is the case of BJP’s Karnataka MPs Bhagvanta Khuba and Pratap Simha who hope for a change in the culture of political parties.

This new crop of MPs is determined not to repeat the shameful incidents witnessed in the previous Lok Sabha. The 15th Lok Sabha had witnessed more uproar than any of the previous Lok Sabhas.

The lowest point undoubtedly was when a member uses pepper spray inside the House to prove his point which left many a member breathless.

A key difference in the current Lok Sabha is the clear majority enjoyed by the BJP. It is after a gap of 30 years that the electorate has given a clear mandate.

This may help the government in getting its legislative business through without much trouble. However, much would also depend on the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi.

He has adopted a conciliatory approach and shed the aggressive tone used during the elections. In the process he has won admirers even in the opposition ranks, including the Congress. This now has to stand the test of time.

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