Nirmala Sitharaman

Spokesperson, BJP

I think the day has come in the Indian political arena where no one is going to get off lightly. Whether it is the politician or the media, nowadays there is a very open debate. Therefore all of us are subject to accountability which is a very good stage in the Indian democracy.
I would look at the MP, whether in the Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha – again even at this stage I would say there is a great degree of deliberate indifference to Rajya Sabha, and deliberate irreverence to the members of the Rajya Sabha, which is unwarranted. Over the years, members of the Rajya Sabha have as much performed (or not performed) as the members of the Lok Sabha. So I don’t think there is a need to condemn the thinking on the lines of ‘Oh, they are a big baggage and we don’t need them’. I think they bring in a great sense of equanimity to debates, they bring in a lot of content. I think we cannot differentiate between the two houses of parliament. Both have different roles to play and they have been doing it effectively. Of course, we need to look at ways in which we can improve on them.

Talking about an MP, the backlog in legislation and the not so very good performance in legislating is not their fault. The expectation of the people keeps rising.

You can look at it like a ladder, which is one large bamboo pole on one side and the other large bamboo pole on the other. The member of the Lok Sabha is probably trying to put steps together so that he can climb through these poles and perform. The social and emotional planks on which the footstep rests is  pushing him into the micro-management of his constituency. When he starts micro-managing he meets the expectation of the people. 
One of the parameters on which the MP expects to be assessed is in the way his voters perceive him. But perceive him for what, for laying a small village road? Perceive him for bringing a water tank in the constituency which does not even have drinking water facility? Or for bringing in a primary health centre which remains without a doctor for a very long time? These indicators decide the public perception of the MP.

The voters should be asked: what do you want from the MP? Do you want him to micro-manage your constituency or do you want him to legislate?
When you ask that, you will probably see that for the last 60 years all that the MPs have been doing is micro-manage their constituencies to keep their voters happy. So when you ask them how many legislations have you participated in, leave alone drafting a private member’s bill and tabling it, you will know it all.

If you look at the two poles which the MPs walk on, I think, the legislative business is being compromised on over the last 60 years. As a result you have an accumulated set of those who are not working on legislation.

So we need to ask ourselves what we want the members of the parliament to do. Do we want them to work as much as the member of the legislative assembly, or the MLA, to do as much as the corporator in the council? Because of the expectations, the MP ends up doing what the MLA does or councilor does. If everyone starts doing micro-management business just to win that one vote, legislations will suffer, performance will suffer. And as a result the expectations of the common man that the MP should also come and lay my road and the MLA should also come and give me PDS shop, the corporator should also come and ensure there is water in my constituency – all this has to be recast. And if it is not, you will have an absurd situation where you will say - isn’t this eroding parliamentary privileges? So I think there is a reason and time now to reconsider what the expectations are and therefore look at how policy and performance can be addressed.

Coming to the issue of the party being the big brother, the party will certainly have to tell its members on how to articulate its position on certain legislations. After all, the MPs go and seek votes on the basis of the party’s ideology. Parties too will have to have more structures within them, more forums to talk to members and guide them and bring about effective legislations.


Other Speakers

  • Nilotpal Basu
  • Jesudasu Seelam
  • Nirmala Sitharaman

Video of Policy Dialogue on People, Parliament and Performance





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