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New Lok Sabha: both govt and Opposition should play their roles

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New Lok Sabha:  both govt and Opposition should play their roles
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Those who anticipated changes in the policies and strategies of the ruling coalition NDA (led by BJP) with a party strength and majority different from the previous term in the 17th Lok Sabha, are seemingly in for some disappointment, with the proceedings of the first session of the 18th Lok Sabha on Monday. At the same time, the conciliatory approach adopted by the opposition, which agreed to a voice vote in the Speaker election on Wednesday, and the dignified and democratic language used by Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav while congratulating the elected Speaker signalled the beginning of assembly proceedings with decorum. Unlike in the previous house, the opposition has a numerically strong presence with 240 seats. With the nomination of Rahul Gandhi himself for the post of Official Leader of the Opposition on the strength of his party's 99 seats, the very face of the House is bound to change. One can hope that the fact of the BJP being without a majority on its own and its dependence on the support of the TDP and JDU parties for required majority will pave the way for effective discussions and reviews.

Parliament is the cornerstone of India's Westminster model democratic structure. It is a unique institution which ensures that the people's representatives have the eyes and ears on all aspects of the country's governance, such as making the nation's laws, discussing them, evaluating government functioning, drawing the attention of the house and the government to the people's problems, and subjecting government actions and income and expenditure to scrutiny by elected representatives. More so by members of the Lok Sabha composed of representatives directly elected by the people. During the 17th Lok Sabha's term, however, many practices and norms of parliamentary procedure were abolished or weakened by the NDA government. For instance, answers to questions during question and answer sessions, direct replies of the Prime Minister, including on matters related to the Prime Minister's Office, and discussion of urgent motions on events of public importance all suffered a beating during this period. What's more, parting with the healthy practice of appointing a member of the opposition as the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the BJP left vacant the post for five years in the 17th Lok Sabha. Even the all-important process of making laws not accorded the required seriousness by the Modi government last time. This also applied to the practice of subjecting bills to the detailed evaluation by house subject committees where the Bills are adequately discussed with greater expertise and away from the glare of the house and publicity. Without leaving room that that process, many crucial bills were directly introduced in the House. Only 16 per cent were placed before such panels. In the tenure of the first and second UPA governments, the correspondent percentage was 70 and 61 respectively. Many important Bills were passed with discussion of a mere hour or two. The number of Bills passed in the last Lok Sabha is, perhaps for the same reason, huge: 220 Bills in total. It is reported that one-third of the Bills took an hour to pass. Including that, 58 per cent of the Bills were passed in a mater of two weeks for the whole legislative process.

The last Lok Sabha also created history by meeting for only 274 days in a total period of five years, and 55 days in a year. The suspension of members was even worse. In the winter session alone, 146 members were expelled for 'grave violation of discipline'. In short, the 17th Lok Sabha has not set a promising example of parliamentary functioning. It is for the Treasury bench to make the prime move to rectify this. It should be done by respecting and trusting the opposition. The expression "respect for opposition" itself comes from respect for opposing views in the context of the House. It will also help the ruling party to correct itself. If the opposition also actively participates in the parliamentary proceedings, it will pave the way for a healthy democratic process. A positive change can be made if the issues are carefully presented in the House along with the debates and thus placed before the public. It is not easy for the ruling party to ignore the 200-member opposition. It is also hoped that Rahul Gandhi, set to assume the official constitutional title of Leader of the Opposition for the first time, will be able to shine in his new role. It is hoped that the ruling side will afford him that room and opportunity.

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TAGS:ParliamentOppositionNDA govt18th Lok Sabha
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