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A new breed of master debaters

Pranay Bhatia, 22, was alien to the concept of parliamentary debating till his second year at the Indian Institute of Technology –Bombay (IIT-B), four years ago. Today, Bhatia, is one of the finest parliamentary debaters in the country, with wins at both national and international level tournaments.

mumbai Updated: May 07, 2012 01:54 IST
Nikita Sonavane

Pranay Bhatia, 22, was alien to the concept of parliamentary debating till his second year at the Indian Institute of Technology –Bombay (IIT-B), four years ago. Today, Bhatia, is one of the finest parliamentary debaters in the country, with wins at both national and international level tournaments.

“I did not participate in many debates in school. However, the topics or motions in parliamentary debates are contemporary and relevant. One needs to be interested in these issues and have a lucid thought process to explain them These skills can be mastered through practise,” said Bhatia.

The roots of parliamentary debating in the city were laid down at IIT-B after three students started the IIT-Bombay Debating Society, which hosted the city’s first tournament in 2009.

Often considered the forte of students in Delhi and Bangalore, parliamentary debates have become popular in the city over the last three years.

“It is essential that all the institutions in the city practise together more often. This will help improve the quality of debates,” said Aditya Shetty, 21, an debater from Sardar Patel Institute of Technology.

City students have made their mark at both national and international tournaments, with a team from St Xavier’s College, Dhobi Talao winning the National Law School Tournament (novice category) last month, and a team from

IIT-B making it to the top 32 teams at the Asians British Parliamentary (ABP) Championship held in Dhaka, last year.

The most popular format of parliamentary debate in India is the Asian 3-on-3 format, which consists of two teams - government and opposition, with three speakers on both sides.

The judges or adjudicators are college students, well-versed with the format, unlike the other formats where usually judges are usually professionals.

At the school or university levels in the city, conventional debate competitions are extremely common. “In the conventional format, there is no engagement with the other team. Also, the speeches are rehearsed since the topics are given well in advance. In a parliamentary debate, the speaker is forced to think on his or her feet,” said Vaibhav Pittie, 21, a third year student at IIT-B.

New styles of debating such as the British parliamentary style are also making their way into the city. Last November, St. Xavier’s College hosted a tournament in the British format.

Participants are particularly drawn to the large amounts given as prize money (anywhere between 50k- 1 lakh for an average tournament)