[24th June 2024] The Hindu Op-ed:  Parliament’s Changed Bench Strength Spells More Hope

PYQ Relevance: 

Q. The Indian Constitution has provisions for holding joint sessions of the two houses of the Parliament. Enumerate the occasions when this would normally happen and also the occasions when it cannot, with reasons thereof. (UPSC IAS/2017)

Q. Do Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committees keep the administration on its toes and inspire reverence for parliamentary control? Evaluate the working of such committees with suitable examples. (UPSC IAS/2021)

Mentors comment: The Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, conducts sessions three times a year: Budget, Monsoon, and Winter. These sessions involve deliberations on legislation, budget discussions, and policy debates. The Budget Session, held between February and May, is crucial for financial legislation. The Monsoon Session, usually in July and August, focuses on legislative business and discussions. The Winter Session, in November and December, addresses pending bills and other urgent matters. These sessions are vital for the democratic functioning of India, ensuring accountability and transparency in governance, and providing a platform for addressing national issues and public concerns.

Let’s learn! 

Why in the News?

The 18th Lok Sabha’s inaugural session has begun with oath-taking of the MPs.There are high expectations for improved deliberations and functioning due to the changed political dynamics created by the Coalition government.

Inaugural Points of Friction

  • Statue Relocation: The Congress objected to the relocation of Mahatma Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar statues to ‘Prerna Sthal’ without due process.
  • Pro Tem Speaker Appointment: The appointment of BJP’s Bhartruhari Mahtab as pro tem Speaker ignored the convention of appointing the senior-most member.
  • Responses: Speaker Om Birla and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju addressed these concerns publicly, emphasising adherence to tradition and procedure.

18th Lok Sabha: Powered by Coalition Dynamics

  • Coalition Government: After a decade, India has a coalition government headed by the single-largest party’s leader.
  • Dependency on Allies: The current government relies on crucial support from regional allies, Janata Dal (United) and Telugu Desam Party.
  • Contrast with Previous Government: Unlike the previous NDA government (2014-24), the BJP now lacks a comfortable majority, making coalition dynamics more significant.

Larger Role of Numerically Stronger Opposition

  • Checks and Balances: The 2024 election results emphasise the need for a stronger Opposition to provide checks and balances.
  • Larger Voice: The combined Opposition strength is slightly over 230 members, while the governing coalition has over 300 members.
  • Implications: This shift indicates potential for greater government accommodation of Opposition concerns and more balanced parliamentary debates.

How does this impact Parliamentary Functioning and oversight?

  • Previous Complaints: During the last decade, the BJP’s majority often limited the Opposition’s space in Parliament.
  • Issues of Contention: Examples include the non-acceptance of adjournment notices and insufficient discussion on significant issues such as the border situation with China.
  • Legislative Productivity: The government’s focus on legislative productivity sometimes bypassed adequate scrutiny and debate, causing friction with the Opposition.

Ensuring greater Parliamentary Efficiency

  1. Role of Parliamentary Committees 
  • Diminished Oversight: The role of parliamentary committees in scrutinising legislation has diminished over time.
  • Committee Benefits: Committees allow non-partisan examination and fine-tuning of proposed legislation, enhancing legislative quality.
  • Case Study: The controversial farm laws were passed without committee scrutiny, leading to widespread protests and their eventual withdrawal.
  1. Rules and Conventions in Parliament
  • Parliamentary Rules: Both Houses have distinct Rules of Procedure and Conduct that guide their functioning.
  • Time-Honoured Conventions: Rajya Sabha allows members to seek clarifications on suo motu statements by Ministers, a unique practice.
  • Question Hour: This practice holds the government accountable through detailed questioning of Ministers, reflecting their grasp of subjects and their accountability to Parliament.
  1. Speaker and Deputy Speaker Elections
  • Speaker Election: The first significant test will be electing the Speaker, with the governing coalition holding an advantage due to its numerical strength.
  • Deputy Speaker Election: The Deputy Speaker position, vacant during the 17th Lok Sabha, is expected to go to the Opposition, citing tradition and convention.
  • Historical Context: Exceptions exist, such as the AIADMK’s M. Thambidurai being elected Deputy Speaker in 1985 and 2014, reflecting the importance of tradition in parliamentary roles.
  1. The President’s Address and Motion of Thanks
  • President’s Address: The address outlines the government’s policies and programmes for the coming year.
  • The motion of Thanks: The ensuing debate provides the Opposition an opportunity to scrutinize and debate government policies comprehensively.
  • Omnibus Resolution: The Motion of Thanks debate allows broad discussions, helping to highlight and analyze various national issues.

Way Forward

  • Governing Coalition’s Role: The coalition must take all opinions into account, ensuring inclusive decision-making.
  • Opposition’s Strategy: The Opposition needs to effectively use parliamentary tools to hold the government accountable.
  • Civility in Debate: Maintaining civility in debates is crucial for productive parliamentary functioning and fostering a constructive legislative environment.


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