‘I adhered to rules, made MLAS and bureaucrats accountable’: Rajasthan Assembly speaker CP Joshi
The second session of the 15th Rajasthan assembly was held between June 27 and August 5. The session comprised of 21 sittings spread over 179 hours. A total of 7,292 questions were listed, of which 7,277 were taken up. After helming a productive session, Speaker Dr CP Joshi spoke to Urvashi Dev Rawal on going by the book and strictly adhering to rules that left many unhappy. Edited excerpts:
You put restrictions during this assembly session and that did not seem to have gone down well with media, officials and legislators. They feel you acted very strictly. Your comment.
I’m just adhering to the rules. Everything is written in black and white and I acted accordingly. For the media, I discussed with an advisory committee the number of passes to be issued, which are clearly mentioned in the rules. These things were not being practised earlier. Before the session began, I had a meeting with all political parties. I categorically discussed with them that these are the things I will adhere to in this session, so everything was known to them. I’ve also restricted the number of officials, the PAs to ministers, the number of visitors the MLAs were inviting. I just went by the rules.
Some ruling and opposition party MLAs felt you were very strict in the House. You limited the supplementary questions and ticked off MLAs and ministers when they overstepped their brief.
The rules are clear that the MLA who has raised the question can ask supplementary questions related to the original question. And the leader of opposition can raise supplementary questions on a wider ambit. I strictly adhered to the rules and I took the parties into confidence. So they were aware about it. The past practice was that everyone started asking supplementaries that were not related to the original question and then the question drifted. By limiting the supplementaries more questions could be taken up and bureaucrats were made accountable.
But why did you want to restrict the number of people in the assembly?
The assembly is only for 40 days. Is it the function of the assembly that visitors sit in ministers’ chambers and discuss about transfers and postings, is it the function of ministers that they don’t sit in Zero Hour? Previously ministers used to leave after Zero Hour and a large number of visitors used to sit and discuss transfers and postings. Everything was a mess. I took the steps to ensure that the assembly functions smoothly.
Over time the questions raised in the House have become very local. There is no broader perspective or larger issues being raised?
Questions are picked by lottery. But we are not satisfied with the questions. The rules are not being adhered to. We are trying to rectify the situation. We are improving the drafting of questions and the issues. We will resolve this by the next session.
The impression among the public is that legislators do not take their job seriously but are more interested in hogging media headlines. How can this situation be rectified?
That’s why we put the proceedings on YouTube, so people can see whether the MLAs are participating in the debates or are absent, how effective they are, they can watch everything on YouTube. Political parties have a major role to play in training their MLAs. In this session, issues were raised, there were some good debates, a large number of MLAs participated and new MLAs have manifested their potential.
Do you think over the years parliamentary democracy has eroded?
Yes. One of the reasons is that all political parties have started thinking in terms of winning elections. Previously it was not so. A large number of parliamentarians and legislators became leaders of national stature because of performance in the House. Today parties are more interested that the candidate may not be good parliamentarian but has the potential to win the seat. Over time the role of parliamentarians finished because people saw no solution by merely discussing matters. They then began approaching criminals who could get their work done. So, erosion in parliamentary democracy was natural.
Many times the courts have intervened in legislation which is the primary role of legislatures. Do you think legislatures are performing their role?
Now assembly is mainly meant for ventilating grievances. What laws are we making now? Previously progressive laws were made. They were discussed for hours within the party and in the House. Now we are making legislation only on incidental things, we are not anticipating for the future. Earlier laws were discussed on merit. Now you have to vote according to the party whip.
Recently a seminar was organised for MLAs under the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which was inaugurated by former president Pranab Mukherjee. You have activated the forum.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) is a forum to help parliamentarians to identify benchmarks of good governance. Every state assembly has a CPA chapter. Earlier the Speakers formed the executive and a cursory meeting was held. There was no activity. They only used to go on foreign tours every year. So I thought of making it functional.
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