Monday, 5 December, 2022
HomeOpinionPolitically CorrectJalebi or not, why MPs, including Gautam Gambhir, don’t have it easy

Jalebi or not, why MPs, including Gautam Gambhir, don’t have it easy

People had voted to elect Modi, and MPs were just a medium.

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In his cricketing days, Gautam Gambhir loved sledging his opponents. He got a taste of it Friday – in his new avatar as Member of Parliament from East Delhi.

His political adversaries cooked his goose as he ate jalebi and poha with VVS Laxman in Indore, skipping a parliamentary committee meeting on pollution in Delhi. He was there to commentate on an India-Bangladesh match. You could hold him guilty of poking outside the stumps again as he argued that he had “a family to support”.

With the monthly salary that is deposited in his bank account as an MP – Rs 1.89 lakh – and the monthly pension that he will get – Rs 25,000 – Gambhir does seem to be in need of a supplementary income. Saying that would be politically incorrect though. An MP is expected to be an ascetic, someone who should devote his entire life to public service but mustn’t think of earning money to sustain himself or his family. Given such public expectations, it’s no surprise that the Lok Sabha is dominated by millionaires.


Also read: Between 2014 & 2019 polls, all parliamentarians got richer but BJP MPs especially so


MPs and magic wands

Come to think of it, there is no excuse for missing the meeting on pollution without duly informing the committee. Had Gambhir attended it, at least his detractors would not have breathed easy. The southpaw should have known that politics of the day is about symbolism and showmanship, not substance.

In people’s eyes, their MLAs and MPs are all-powerful with magic wands. Their public image hasn’t, however, changed much since Gulzar’s Aandhi in 1975: “Salaam kijiye aali janaab aaye hain, paanch saalon ka dene hisaab aaye hain…. yeh jadoogar hain chutki mein kaam karte hain, ye bhookh pyaas ko baton se ram karte hain.” The fact is that MPs and MLAs today may not be paragons of virtue, but are much more responsive to their voters.

But they don’t have magic wands. Ask Gambhir or any other Delhi MP if Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar ever got the time to discuss with them the issue of Delhi pollution. Or, for that matter, did Arvind Kejriwal consult MLAs if they had a better solution than the odd-even policy? No.

Gambhir may have reasons to wonder: if attending a parliamentary committee was so important, why was there no outrage when the entire Budget session this year got over without the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha constituting these standing committees? What to speak of ordinary bills, even the Budget was not scrutinised by any parliamentary committee.

The answer is simple. People had voted to elect Modi, and MPs were just a medium. So what, if they can’t scrutinise what Narendra Modi-led government has already decided.


Also read: Modi government is making laws, not the lawmakers in Parliament


Standing committees losing relevance?

If the ruling BJP took these committees so seriously, it would have nominated people with expertise to head them. Instead, it nominated former tribal affairs minister Jual Oram to head department-related standing committee on defence, former agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh is chairing the committee on railways and former minister of state for law and corporate affairs P.P. Chaudhary the committee on external affairs.

The department-related standing committees, since their constitution in 1993, have made great contribution to legislation-making, although their reports are not binding on the government. The paradox is: the stronger and more stable an executive is, the less relevant and weaker such committees and legislators are. The number of bills sent to such committees for scrutiny fell to 25 per cent in the 16th Lok Sabha from 71 per cent in the 15th and 60 per cent in the 14th Lok Sabha.

Life’s not easy for an MP

Gambhir, if and when he decides to speak on a bill, will also realise the limitations of a lawmaker. Say what you may – and oppose at your peril – but if you want to remain a lawmaker, obey the party’s whip and say ‘ayes’ or ‘noes’ as desired by it. If someone is driven by free will, there is, of course, the hope of getting re-elected as an Independent candidate.

Gambhir as an MP also has the privilege of proposing a law in the form of a private member’s bill. That is if he is not deterred by the fact that only 14 such bills got Parliament’s approval since Independence.

Being an MP, he enjoys many other rights and privileges, which includes asking questions, raising matters of public importance, even moving an adjournment motion on them, and so on and so forth. But he must be careful while exercising those rights. Rahul Gandhi’s grandfather Feroze Gandhi could raise LIC-Mundhra scam in the Lok Sabha when his father-in-law Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister. This had led to the resignation of then-finance minister T.T. Krishnamachari.

Times are different now. Another cricketer-turned-politician and former BJP MP Kirti Azad had levelled allegations against then-finance minister Arun Jaitley. Today, Azad is struggling to prove his worth in the opposition Congress.

Gambhir said in his clarification Friday that the people of his constituency would judge him by his work. An ambitious statement, indeed. If he checks with fellow MPs, he may come across many who are upset and fuming because ministers, if at all they give an appointment, wouldn’t give anything more than assurances – something the voters in their constituencies are tired of. He can recommend development works worth Rs 5 crore annually in his constituency under the MPLADS funds, but the utilisation record for the funds is not very inspiring.

Gambhir may soon discover how tough life is in politics, however powerful MPs and MLAs may look in reel life.


Also read: Shashi Tharoor: Next Parliament session will again see Modi govt propose, opposition oppose


 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I dont think anyone has any idea how to rein in Delhi polution, without doing some redical change without hurting some people and/or using lots of money.

    NB: If you read Babarnama (Asiatic Society version) you will see how babar describes Delhi (in 1526) and its no different from now.

    • The financial cost of cleaning our air and water would be humongous. China first pursued explosive growth at the cost of the environment and then started the process of repair. India should try to do both in harmony. It is becoming clear that the move to $ 5 trillion and beyond will have to be environmentally sustainable.

  2. One does not know how it works in Delhi, but in the states, MLAs, from both the ruling party and the opposition, meet regularly with ministers, get a lot of useful work done for their constituencies. 2. Many years ago, spent a night at the Majestic MLAs’ hostel, opposite Regal cinema in Colaba. The room had been bifurcated, with a small portion for the MLA, a larger portion for visitors during the day, guests at night. Less important visitors from the constituency slept in the passage. A subsidised canteen on the ground floor, open to all. Medical treatment, admissions, transfers, people expect those they have voted for to do things for them, all through five years.

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