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Young parliamentarians

For those interested in policy formulation, assisting MPs is one of the best foundations report Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Sep 29, 2010 09:25 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Aparajita Bharti loves this assignment. Every day, she visits New Delhi’s South Avenue office-cum-home of NK Singh, a Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament (MP). She helps him with sourcing statistics and information, so that he can ask informed questions in the upper house of Parliament. Currently, she is also helping him write a book called, Parliamentary Oversight.

She is not an expert in policy-making or parliamentary affairs, but a fresh graduate in business studies from the College of Business Studies, University of Delhi.

Bharti is one of the 15 legislative assistants (LAs) who give intellectual support to Indian MPs to help them carry out their legislative duties.

Assistant to an MP
Besides the stipend of R12,000 per month that she gets, Bharti thrilled to see the MP raise a question that she has framed for him for the monsoon session of Parliament, which ended on August 31. “You get a great feeling when you realise that you are adding value to the functioning of Parliament,” says Bharti.

Such satisfaction is unparalleled, agrees Rebecca Alison George. She says she was happy to see Moinul Hassan, an MP she is assisting, raise a question in the Rajya Sabha, which was addressed to Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister of India.

To become an LA, you only need to be a graduate in any stream – commerce, science, humanities or social sciences. LAs hail from diverse backgrounds such as science, law, economics, and history. Among the present group of LAs, there is an economics graduate who wanted to make the best use of a gap year before his MBA while there is Koyel Lahiri, an aspiring trade union expert who wanted to watch policy formulation from close quarters. Lahiri got this chance at BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar’s office.

And they are all here with different objectives. Bharati Sekar, a law graduate from the Gujarat National Law University, says, “I wish to study public policy after a few years as preparation to work in a thinktank later,” she says. Bharati aims to become a politician in the future and currently works with Ratna Bai, a Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh.

On the other hand, Sonamika Bishnoi, an assistant to Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, took up this assignment merely to explore new things.

Varied responsibilities
When Parliament is in session, Joseph Jacob prepares speeches for Anurag Singh Thakur, a Lok Sabha MP from Himachal Pradesh, and also writes about issues he wants to highlight in Parliament.

“He is a young MP and is often called for public events to speak on youth-related issues. So, I help him write speeches for such functions,” says Jacob.

A normal day for an assistant starts in the morning when s/he goes to the MP’s office (which is often also the residence), from where they go to Parliament together. The MP briefs the assistant about the information s/he is looking for and also tells him/her about the meetings of Parliamentary standing committees s/he is supposed to attend.

Some might construe this 10-month association as secretarial work, which is not correct, points out Lahiri.

“The quality of research you carry out is beyond the scope of a secretary’s job. Whatever input we give is clearly seen in the output of MP’s work,” says Lahiri.

This intellectually driven engagement is quite enriching for some, while for others it works as an eye opener. For example, George had an unfavourable perception of Indian politicians, which changed considerably after she worked with West Bengal MP Moinul Hassan.

Bharti, a former theatre artiste, believes that her outlook underwent a complete change after she joined the internship.

Earlier, she used to spend time acting in street plays but now utilises the same time reading books on Indian society and global affairs such as Imagining India by Nandan Nilekani and Super Power by Raghav Bahl.

How to get there
.
Though the current batch is already on, one can, next year, apply for a place in the Legislative Assistants to the Members of Parliament (LAMP) at PRS Legislative Research in partnership with the
Constitution Club, Delhi. Visit www.prsindia.org for details
. Similar internships are given by the Lok Sabha Secretariat, where you work in the Parliament House without getting associated with a particular MP. For details, visit the Bureau of Parliamentary
Studies and Training (BPST), Lok Sabha Secretariat, Parliament Library Building. They usually advertise positions in the month of November