The Parliament is a huge institution. What is important is that in the last 50 years, the Parliament has served its purpose in a nation of 1000 million people. It has survived political ups and downs, wars, an emergency and has now established a standard of democracy for the rest of the world.
Yes, the composition of the House has changed. That is probably because after Independence, politics took a backseat and people wanted their children to join the Civil service or any other profession like medicine and law. In the 80s and 90s, management, IT took precedence and politics became the loser. This is because a political career would always be uncertain. So, in many ways, politics got the leftovers. Also, after caste-based politics took over, regional factors took precedence over other qualifications. What can actually transcend these factors now is "economic growth" and the BJP Government is definitely trying that.
Impact of coalition politics:
Actually, the aspirations of the people have changed. The social vision has changed, leading to regional aspirations and local leadership. This is where coalition politics comes in and I think the NDA Government is doing pretty fine because it has survived a lot of external pressures. The only trouble is that if a single party enjoys majority in the House, it becomes easier to speeden up the process of reform. For example, while introducing labour reforms (Industrial Disputes Act), we are facing a lot of problems, since many of our industries are not reliant on technology but on cheap labour.
On MPLADS schemes:
You see, there has been a shift of paradigm in the role played by MPs in recent times. I have been opposing it (MPLADS) from day one, since I feel it is not our job to build roads. The BDO of a Maharashtra zilla probably spends Rs. 200 crore a year on development projects but the entire focus is on us even if we get to spend only two crores. Nowhere in the world do MPs get to build roads and have their names inscribed on the plaques. It is our job to see that the system works. Especially in the state of Bihar, where infrastructure is extremely poor, a few crores allocated to us for development will just discredit us in the context of the people.
On MP’s salaries:
Absolutely not, we earn peanuts. For the work pressure and the responsibility and round-the clock involvement, we should be getting 100 times more than what we are getting now. I do not know about those who don’t utilize the facilities but for travel, stay and communication, but we should have access to better resources. With the funds I get, I don’t even earn enough to reply to my phone calls.
Lasting moment in Parliament:
I believe in the destiny of individuals and nations..I just remember Balayogi on that particular Friday, saying, The House meets again on Monday at 11 am…and then Balayogi never came back….there are memories all the time but the system goes on.
(The author is the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Government of India)