Comrades were most regular,most active in 14th Lok Sabha

As the 14th Lok Sabha drew to a close today,those looking for a story could chew on some broad themes. Here’s one: if Parliament is primarily the forum for the opposition.....

Written by Vandita Mishra | New Delhi | Published: February 27, 2009 3:04 am

As the 14th Lok Sabha drew to a close today,those looking for a story could chew on some broad themes. Here’s 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 CPM’s 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 party’s 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 BJP’s 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 Congress’s 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.

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