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A new rent-seeking scheme for Parliament

columns Updated: Jan 12, 2014 00:16 IST
Manas chakravarty
Manas chakravarty
Hindustan Times
House of Commons

House of Commons authorities have started renting out historic rooms in Parliament allowing weddings, business meetings and afternoon teas: BBC News, January 7

Do you, like the finance minister and me, spend sleepless nights wondering how we are going finance the fiscal deficit? Worry no more, for we now have a way out. The UK House of Commons has come up with a splendid scheme for making Parliament pay its way by renting out the premises for business meetings, weddings, lunches and so on.

And if the mother of all parliaments can adapt to the commercial spirit of the times, who are we, with our much larger fiscal deficit, to resist? The problem in India is that while we have a fine old tradition of renting legislators, we don’t have one of renting legislatures.

We could market our Parliament as a top-class international wedding venue. Imagine having your wedding reception in the Central Hall of Parliament, where the transfer of power from the British Raj took place. Billionaire couples would pay through their noses for the privilege. The extra security will be a big positive. The bride and groom could sit side by side on the chairs of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha speakers.

A honeymoon suite at the presidential palace could be thrown in. For starters, let’s aim at convincing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to have his wedding reception in Parliament. That will be a great marketing triumph.

The money collected from renting out Parliament and the state assemblies would not only prune the deficit, it would also add to precious foreign exchange, giving a boost to the rupee. What could be more patriotic than that?

A branding exercise for the parliamentary catering facilities must be undertaken. The Mahatma Gandhi diet thali, Sonia pasta and Morarji champagne are a few of the obvious possibilities. Parliament could also be rented out for Bollywood movies. ‘Love in the Lok Sabha’ and ‘Rajya Sabha Romeo’ could be the first romantic ones.

‘Aliens versus legislators’ could be an action movie, while, on moonless nights, the vast empty rooms and long corridors are the ideal venue for horror films. We could also go in for sponsorships. Given proper marketing, we could soon see a ‘Lakshmi Mittal summer parliamentary session’, or, who knows, perhaps even a ‘Goldman Sachs Food Security Bill’.

Convincing our lawmakers should be easy, provided we allow them a fifth of the profits. That is sure to unleash their entrepreneurial energies. In any case, the recent trend is for Parliament to move closer to the people. The Delhi legislature plans to have its important sessions at the Ramlila Maidan. The Lok Sabha could choose some other maidan in the capital, or Azad Maidan in Mumbai, or some village field.

Ramlila enthusiasts have asked me what happens when they want to stage Ramlila and Parliament is in session in the Ramlila grounds. That’s easy, they could always hold Ramlila in Parliament. Opposition members argue that a walk out from a field is not the same as a walk out from Parliament. Constitutional experts say that can easily be remedied by having a brass band which strikes up a marching tune whenever the Opposition members walk out.

In short, it’s time to challenge our lawmakers with the question: how on earth can you manage the Indian economy when you can’t even make Parliament profitable?

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

Views expressed by the author are personal