- The question is an analytical one. It demands whether the qualities expected from a lawmaker as a representative of the people are on the decline or not.
- In the intro briefly state how democracy is about the representation of the people.
- In the body, explain how factors like the rise of personality cults in politics, anti-defection law, decision making on the party lines, etc are contributing
Parliament is considered as a temple of Democracy where elected representatives arrive at decisions regarding governance after debates & deliberations. It is considered as the highest platform for holding the executive accountable for their actions. However, of late the great institution has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons such as the devaluation of parliamentary authority, falling standards of debates, deterioration in the conduct and quality of Members, poor levels of participation and the like. This has led to a certain cynicism towards parliamentary institutions and an erosion in the credibility of parliamentarians and parliamentary processes.
The declining role of Individual parliamentarians and its effect on the quality of debates and their outcome
- Absenteeism: The problem of absenteeism in the houses has increased in proportion to an increase in the indifference of Politicians towards public issues.
- Party politics and the politics of survival are also responsible for declining standards.
- Regarding absenteeism, it is said members cannot always be present in the house because attending the session is not their only function and they are responsible to their conscience, country, and constituency and to their party in whatever they do.
- Frequent disruption and logjams: Moreover, disrupting parliamentary activity through walkouts, the staging of dharnas and gheraos of ministers without reasonable cease are also indicating towards parliamentary decline.
- Live broadcast: Live telecasting of Parliamentary proceedings incentivizing sensationalization of issues often neglecting meaningful discussions
- Criminalization of politics: ADR reports that 34% of the MPs in the 2014 Lok Sabha faced criminal charges, as compared with 30% in 2009 and 24% in 2004. This results in unparliamentary behavior.
- Anti Defection Law and Instruments of Whip: Today, the parliamentarians and state legislators lack vision, commitment, quality and competence for nation-building.
- They use parliament as a body of legitimization of personal and class dominance by the party.
- The enactment of the anti-defection law in 1985, which allows parties to herd their members, weakens the incentives of legislators to invest in developing their own viewpoints and express them freely as they cannot use their own stand on different issues to evolve or develop their own political careers.
- The rigidity of party discipline has tied down party members to follow the dictates of party bosses once elected to the Legislature.
- He or she votes according to the directions of the party whip even if larger social and national interests are being sacrificed to short-sighted policies for short-term political gains.
- Majority of ruling parties: Ruling parties’ dominance was another factor, i.e., responsible for the parliamentary decline.
- The parties today enjoy a virtual monopoly in political power, and its decisions were pushed through the Parliament and state assemblies because of the sheer majority.
- Political instability and a divided Parliament—with the ruling coalition often a minority in the upper house—were the principal causes for the decline in the legislative output over the years.
- The politicization of the role of the speaker: The office of the speaker is getting politicized. As a result, there is a lack of confidence in the office of the speaker. Hence there are more disruptions leading to a declining role of parliament.
- Live Telecast of the proceedings: The live coverage of the parliament sessions and increasing tendency to play to the gallery and media has led to a deteriorating quality of parliament.
- A strict code of conduct should be implemented for regulating their good behavior and attendance in the House.
- The onus is on all political parties and parliamentary institutions to manage dissent in order to minimize disruptions.
- The parties and their leaders should not be allowed to reverse roles on the basis of winning or losing elections.
- Another possible solution, going by the global experiences, is reserving a day in the week for the Opposition to set the agenda for Parliament.
- The advantages of this mechanism are evident– the government can’t shy away from discussing issues inconvenient to it; the Opposition won’t be smarting as it would get ample opportunities to vent its anger and raise issues.
- Yet another solution could be to spread out the parliamentary proceedings to round-the-year, Monday to Friday, instead of the three sessions, as is the current practice.
- Episodic meetings are bound to create episodes, so to speak. Parliamentarians want an appropriate time to raise issues dear to them.
- Anti-defection law should be applied only to confidence and no-confidence motions (Dinesh Goswami Committee on electoral reforms, 1990) or only when the government is in danger (Law Commission 170th report, 1999).
- Instead of making the Speaker the authority for disqualification, the decision should be made by the president or governor on the advice of the Election Commission.
- This would make the process similar to the disqualification procedure as given in the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA).
- Individual MPs and MLAs need to be empowered to think independently.
Also, a parliamentary government is described as a government by discussion. Therefore, by allowing for wider and more impactful participation in parliament, it is possible that some of the causes of disruptions would get addressed.