1. Votes versus vetoes: The Parliamentary system needs serious reform

Votes versus vetoes: The Parliamentary system needs serious reform

The washout of an entire session of Parliament due to the Congress demand that senior BJP ministers and chief ministers first resign is another symptom of the paralysis that has come to grip Parliament in the last decade or more.

By: | New Delhi | Updated: August 14, 2015 12:10 PM
Sushma Swaraj Lok sabha

Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

It is difficult not to be dismayed by the manner in which the Congress party with a mere 44 MPs tried to ensure external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj wasn’t even able to reply in Parliament to the charges levelled against her – her half-hour speech was all but drowned out by sloganeering by one cheerleader with the rest of the MPs joining in as a chorus while party chief Sonia Gandhi sat through without one attempt to restrain them. How can there be a discussion in Parliament if there is to be no reply on it? The washout of an entire session of Parliament due to the Congress demand that senior BJP ministers and chief ministers first resign is another symptom of the paralysis that has come to grip Parliament in the last decade or more. The flip side, of Parliament passing the budget – in March 2006 – without even a token discussion of the grants in committees, is another form of this malaise though the ruling party may have welcomed it then. None of this is to absolve the Narendra Modi government for getting its Parliamentary strategy wrong by initially not being willing to engage in a constructive debate over various Bills such as the GST or the land one or to send them to Parliament’s committees – ironically, its misguided pursuit of the land Bill, instead of allowing states to come up with their own Bills, gave the disparate Opposition a flag to unite under.

The issue, however, goes beyond the BJP and the Congress, there are systemic changes required. Former RBI Governor and MP Bimal Jalan has talked of how the anti-defection law has spawned the splintering of political parties and has suggested that small parties leaving coalitions be subject to the same re-election rule. The whip, similarly, has prevented members from voting according to their conscience and, therefore, reduces all votes to a farce whose outcome is determined by the number of seats the ruling party/alliance has – much better to use the whip only for money Bills. Combine this with BJD MP Jay Panda’s suggestion to have clear rules for running Parliament as opposed to the Speaker’s discretion today – a private MP’s Bill, if you please, needs Presidential assent before it is even introduced! So, as in the UK, he says, have certain days set aside where the Opposition decides the agenda; if 50 MPs sign for it, a topic must be discussed; if 100 MPs sign, the discussion must be a voting one. The idea is not to weaken the government, it is to inject vibrancy into Parliament. If, instead of heckling, there was a genuine vote on Swaraj/Raje/Chouhan, followed by a vote, the people and the government would have a genuine sense of how Parliament felt – while the government wouldn’t fall even if it lost the vote since this is not a money Bill, it would have very powerful consequences. Right now, as Panda says, with no votes on most discussions, governments simply smile while Opposition MPs make their point – also, if MPs knew there would always be a discussion on issues enough of them felt were important, there would be that much less of a justification for the kind of behaviour we saw earlier in the week. The US anti-filibuster vote, similarly, could be adapted to ensure against holding up of Parliament and constant heckling of MPs. And to prevent frivolous no-confidence motions to make fragile coalitions fall, Panda suggests the German system of a positive alternative where voting out a party/coalition has to be accompanied by one voting in another. There are many more suggestions by many others, the important thing is try them out, to breathe life into the Parliamentary system that often seems to be serving little effective purpose.

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    preaful vora
    Aug 14, 2015 at 11:58 am
    Its not PARLIAMENT SYSTEM that needs reform, its the MPs tnat citizens need to choose with deep thought. Only those who are free of 3C (Corruption, Communal, Criminal), who prioritise Bharat> Party> Self in this order, who focus on needs of their Consunecy voters and not on Party games and Selfish purpose, who will work with सेवा भाव and reject perks and pensions, who will set up teams with domain expertise, who will exhibit best behaviour for citizens to emulate ... these should only seek to enter public service. This is not rocket science or impossible, Bharat was fortunate to have such in the past, when political Independance was achieved. Now its time for true citizen government with Partition-Accountability-Transperency-Decentralization-Integrity.
    Reply
    1. P
      preaful vora
      Aug 14, 2015 at 11:59 am
      Its not PARLIAMENT SYSTEM that needs reform, its the MPs tnat citizens need to choose with deep thought. Only those who are free of 3C (Corruption, Communal, Criminal), who prioritise Bharat> Party> Self in this order, who focus on needs of their Consunecy voters and not on Party games and Selfish purpose, who will work with सेवा भाव and reject perks and pensions, who will set up teams with domain expertise, who will exhibit best behaviour for citizens to emulate ... these should only seek to enter public service. This is not rocket science or impossible, Bharat was fortunate to have such in the past, when political Independance was achieved. Now its time for true citizen government with Partition-Accountability-Transperency-Decentralization-Integrity.
      Reply
      1. Amma Nagar
        Aug 14, 2015 at 8:42 am
        All the suggestions made in this article are easy to implement and try out. They can also try each of these for 10 years and then re-enact.
        Reply
        1. Amma Nagar
          Aug 14, 2015 at 8:49 am
          I also wondering why not use the best system that has very balance of executive/judiciary/legislative branches. Currently, executive and legislative are not well balanced. Because majority of elected members simply side with the executive branch. PM should be directly elected by people and not depend on elected representatives to survive. Because PM depends on MPs for survival, this creates corruption (by MPs).
          Reply
          1. J
            joseph
            Aug 14, 2015 at 9:05 am
            Land bill was the mistake but GST got everybody's support. There was intense negotiations and everyone except congress in new delhi (not states) was brought on-board. Dont get me wrong what Congress is proposing in GST is actually what BJP too wants but if nobody signs it how are u gonna p it ? GST needs to be incremental. You can't just remove all the taxes and just charge 15% GST. No state is ever gonna agree. Although economically it would have been the cracker that modi needs. But states are the one who has to implement it. Modi learned from the mistakes of congress and got everyone to agreee on gst. I think this bill could have been ped if it was introduced before land acquisition. Now govt. should stop land and labor reform and p gst first, Land and labor reforms are what congress is gonna use to revive itself, so they will never be ped until equation in RS changes which could be the end of UP election if Modi plays smart politics and wait for his turn.
            Reply
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              P
              Aug 14, 2015 at 8:44 am
              It should be "BJD MP Jay Panda" not "BJP MP Jay Panda"
              Reply
              1. S
                S.Ravindran
                Aug 14, 2015 at 9:32 am
                Reformig Parlkiament must.But what needs to be acheieved is that individual MP must be enabled to have greater freedom than dictates of the party to preserve the representative character.his can be achieved by providing every MP and also speaker(same for all emblies and RS)with appropriate bells and whistles to ensure Parliament is only a place for debate and not disruption MPs can speak or hear only in cabin;he can be monitored for his being on seat/cabin in Pareliament;he can be provided real time language translation in language of his choice when others speak;speaker should have controls to mute and allow his approved speaker;members microphone shoul mute automatically after speaker allotted time--this will prevent waste of time
                Reply
                1. S
                  Sitaram Agarwal
                  Aug 14, 2015 at 12:54 pm
                  I may be incorrect in my conclusion that Rahul hi is following the path lead by A Kejeriwal, CM of Delhi. One would recall that when Congress lost Delhi election then Rahul had spoken that he must learn lesson from Kejeriwal. AK confessed that he is an anarchist and does not believe in rule of law. Rahul is now leader of congress and it appears that he believe in anarchy to regain to rule to India by becoming an anarchist.
                  Reply
                  1. T
                    t p
                    Aug 14, 2015 at 9:58 am
                    dEFINITELY, The Parliamentary system needs serious reform. persons like rahul & Sonia should not be allowed to even contest the election, because of their incapability & misuse of money & hi 's name .
                    Reply
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