Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Friday praised Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, all governed by non-BJP parties, for holding more Assembly sittings than other states, and emphasised the need for strengthening the democratic system by ensuring that legislative bodies meet at least for 60 days in a year.
Incidentally, Parliament, especially Rajya Sabha, has lost several crucial hours in the past two sessions over various issues with several key bills pending.
Speaking at the inaugural session of All India Presiding Officers’ Conference at Gujarat Assembly, she also called for improving the quality of debates and discussions in House.
During the two-day conference, the the presiding officers would discuss two issues – the role of MPs and MLAs in strengthening people’s faith in democratic institutes and importance of Speakers’ research measures to help MLAs; and remedies to ensure presence of MPs and MLAs during the sessions of legislative bodies and to hold discussion over improving quality of House debates.
She also expressed concern over people losing faith in their elected members and recalled a comment that she had hear after the 2001 Parliament attack. “When terrorists attacked the Parliament, our security guards gave supreme sacrifice and prevented them from entering the House. Though, I heard this comment which moved me to the core. I heard (somebody saying) ‘why did no parliamentarian was killed in the attack’. I was moved from within. Why this feeling towards us?,” Mahajan said in her speech delivered in Hindi.
“People wonder what Parliament and Assemblies do,” she said, “and this can lead to people losing faith in democracy” raising a question mark on the Indian democracy which holds a high place in the international politics.
“During these two days, we have to hold serious discussions on this. We have to earn people’s faith. I am not saying that people do not have faith in democracy, but we have to strengthen it,” Mahajan said.
Referring to less productivity and participation of elected members in the sessions of legislative bodies, the Lok Sabha Speaker suggested, “There must be at least 60 sittings (of legislative bodies in a year).”
At this juncture, Mahajan mentioned the “very good” performance of states like Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in holding Assembly sittings in 2014-15. She said the Assemblies of Bihar, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu held 75, 78 and more than 50 sittings, respectively.
Subsequently, without naming any State, the Lok Sabha Speaker said, “There are many states where very less Assembly sittings are being held.” She said that only if more sittings were held, the elected members would get a better chance of holding quality discussions.
Mahajan also stressed the need for holding quality debates to strengthen people’s faith in the legislative institutions. She said to improve the quality debates in legislative bodies, she had taken an initiative called Speakers’ Research Initiative. And as part of this, she has arranged a conference of women legislators on March 5-6 with the the theme ‘Women Legislators Empowering Nation’.
The inaugural session of the conference was also attended by Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel. Only the inaugural session of the conference was kept open for media as, rest of the conference would be held ‘in-camera’.
Speakers, deputy speakers of all the legislative bodies in India and secretaries of these institutions have gathered in Gandhinagar for the conference which is an annual feature. Every state gets a chance to host the conference on the rota basis. Gujarat is hosting this conference for for the third time.