Collective responsibility counts more than disciplinary measures
The Speaker is the highest authority in the House, and possesses the authority to control the actions on the floor of the House and steer the legislative agenda of the majority and the House. But almost each sitting of the Lok Sabha is marked by "stormy" sessions, says Gursharan Dhanjalindia Updated: Aug 16, 2002 21:57 IST
Stunned by a series of setbacks in floor management in the Parliament, the former Prime Minister I K Gujral, during his regime, summoned an unscheduled meeting of the Union Cabinet to devise a strategy aimed at the smooth passage of pending bills. The smart move to reintroduce the defeated bill relating to the election of President and Vice President bundled with a bill relating to the salaries and allowances of Members of Parliament yielded expected results. But these opportunities are rare.
The Speaker is the highest authority in the House, and possesses the authority to control the actions on the floor of the House and steer the legislative agenda of the majority and the House. Almost each sitting of the Lok Sabha is marked by "stormy" sessions.
The economic bills - Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill, the Patent Amendment Bill, and the Companies Bill - during 1998 continued to be in a limbo, despite the hype surrounding them. The reason - the Government’s poor floor management coupled with warring factions of different political parties, including the ruling BJP.
As a result, the Government was left with no alternative but to re-promulgate the ordinance on the companies’ buyback issue and sit like a lame duck on the other two measures till the budget session in 1999. It was nothing short of a fiasco in the case of the Patent's Bill, which could not be passed in the Lok Sabha for sheer lack of quorum in the House. There were not enough ruling party MPs to steer the bill through. Had the parliamentary affairs ministry taken its task of floor management seriously, the embarrassment could have been avoided.
MPs are accountable to the House as a whole, according to constitutionally framed rules. Time in the House being limited, time management becomes a matter of crucial importance for the orderly conduct of business. Several parliamentary devices have been formulated and incorporated in the rules for members to conform to while transacting business. However, quite often, rules are breached. This makes the ruling party’s task of floor management not only difficult but frustrating.
Of course, the presiding officers do have full authority in the House to discipline members. But they like to avoid frequent recourse to discipline, as they draw their authority from the whole House, and do not consider it appropriate to intervene with tough measures like naming of members except in extraordinary circumstances. In their conduct on the floor of the House, the parliamentarians need to be guided by a sense of collective responsibility to themselves, for the time and public funds spent on representative politics.
(The author is a writer on political affairs in the capital)