The Winter Session of Indian Parliament was severely underwhelming. If someone were to watch Sansad TV ardently, it wouldn’t take them long to describe it as a joke. MPs rarely grace Parliament with their august presence. It is understandable since they are busy pandering to party lines and calling the Constitution useless, one that must be amended to suit their political interests. On the off chance that they do make an appearance, it is as if they are overly caffeinated. How else can the ruckus in Parliament be explained? Recently, a Rajya Sabha MP was seen shouting in the House as if a family feud had erupted. She defended her statements, saying that cursing is an Indian tradition. Well, it has already been established — we come from many Indias.
When the parliamentary procedure is so loosely interpreted that it makes the Speaker a demigod, then it is natural that voice vote is the way to go. The Speaker can make sense of the chaos and decide if the ayes have it. I wonder if the new Parliament building would continue to witness such Big Boss-like performative politics? A curious fact: there is no deputy speaker (conventionally from the opposition) in the 17th Lok Sabha. Why? One can only guess.
It is important to note that a democracy is not judged merely by the conduct of the ruling party, the opposition too should have more gravitas in its arguments than resorting to whataboutery.
According to me, MPs should not be paid for the days they don’t attend Parliament session. There is an urgent need to professionalise, and not corporatise, Indian politics. There are no educational criteria to become an MP and rightly so. But before taking the oath of office, MPs must be subjected to psychometric tests, to determine if they are fit to hold public office. Their work should be thoroughly audited and there should be an independent appraisal system to assess their performance during their tenure. Gender sensitisation camps should be held for MPs and MLAs so they can refrain from making tone-deaf statements such as “enjoy rape when it is inevitable”. It might sound ludicrous but imagine a world where an MLA found watching pornography in the House is not rewarded for such behaviour and is not made the deputy chief minister of a state. Revolutionary!
One would assume that Parliament has a fixed calendar but it does not. It is summoned and adjourned on the whims of the government of the day. It’s hard to fathom that the opposition members are also elected representatives because they are barely heard. They are not allowed to debate bills, let alone set the agenda. Questions of protesting MPs are cancelled. The whole system is such a facade. It needs careful revamping. But who will do the honours? Parliament itself regulates its business. Remember the furore when a parliamentarian called for salary overhaul of MPs? The Supreme Court of India will not interfere citing separation of powers. Can this much-needed change be left to the propriety of the parliamentarians who treat elected office as their inheritance? I think not.
Here’s a rather far-fetched idea — Parliament on the blockchain. Live streaming of proceedings with multiple cameras to ensure utmost transparency, coupled with transcripts of speeches and debates. E-voting on resolutions and bills where infographics of every vote of an MP are readily available for analysis and informed public discourse. As tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, this is the least we deserve and the best we can fight for.
The author is a student at University of Delhi. Views are personal.