As the 14th Lok Sabha drew to a close today,those looking for a story could chew on some broad themes. Heres one: if Parliament is primarily the forum for the opposition to enforce government accountability,disagree and debate the BJP appeared ill at ease in this role. In fact,the dramatically consistent performer in Parliament,as well as the most active performer by far,was the CPM,a party neither fully government,nor fully opposition,and which deftly played a bit of both.
Even regional parties taken together out-performed the BJP in Parliament. This is remarkable on at least two counts. As the main Opposition party,the BJP certainly had more opportunity than most to intervene in and influence proceedings in the House. Then,smaller,regional parties are most often the ones accused of showing lack of interest in and engagement with national issues,widely thought to be the preserve of national parties.
Also,while the 14th Lok Sabha ended on a dubious record in 2008,Parliament met only for 46 days,the lowest number of sittings ever,including in an election year it was not that much worse off than the 13th Lok Sabha.
These themes are framed by data compiled by the New Delhi-based PRS Legislative Research. The CPMs activism is clear: at the end of the full term,no CPM MP had stayed away from debates in the 14th Lok Sabha or each of the partys MPs had participated in some debate or the other in the last five years. Compare this to 13 per cent of BJP Lok Sabha MPs who did not participate in any debate.
Given that the figure for those MPs who did not participate in any debate at all is 11 per cent for other parties parties other than the Congress,BJP and CPM the BJPs performance is even more telling.
Similar is the story on average attendance. Here,too,the CPM boasts the highest at 79 per cent; other parties posted 68 per cent,with the BJP at 67 per cent. The Congresss attendance was 73 per cent. On an average,the BJP Lok Sabha MP participated in 30 debates in the 14th Lok Sabha; the number is much higher at 47 for the CPM MP; and 33 for the MP from other parties. The average Congress MP participated in only 22 debates.