Prime Minister Narendra Modi has lashed out at the ‘chalta hai’ attitude of some of his ministers, who remained absent from parliamentary duty on Tuesday despite their names being mentioned on the roster. The PM’s message is loud and clear: the overwhelming majority enjoyed by the BJP-led NDA does not give its MPs the liberty to shy away from their responsibility in Parliament. Before the start of the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha last month, Modi had urged the Opposition not to bother about its numbers and instead participate wholeheartedly in the parliamentary proceedings. He had also asserted that every word spoken by the ‘vipaksh’ was valuable to the government. However, his own ministers’ embarrassing absence from the House has prompted the PM to give them a well-deserved rap on the knuckles.
Attendance in the House is a prerequisite for recording and gauging the performance of elected representatives, whether from the ruling party or the Opposition. There are various ways in which MPs can corner the government: posing queries to ministers during question hour, initiating debates or calling the attention of ministers to key issues. That makes it all the important for members of both benches to not only be present in the House, but also play their respective roles sincerely.
The numbers do not paint a bright picture. As per data compiled by the PRS Legislative Research, the 16th Lok Sabha worked for 1,615 hours, 20 per cent more than the 15th Lower House but 40 per cent lower than the average of all full-term Lok Sabhas (2,689 hours). There has also been a drop in the number of sitting days. The 16th Lok Sabha sat for 331 days, well below the average of 468 days; it lost 16 per cent of its scheduled time to disruptions, better than the 15th Lok Sabha (37 per cent), but worse than the 14th (13 per cent). With the PM doing his bit to ensure productive sessions, the beleaguered Opposition should utilise the opportunity to raise issues of public and national interest in the House and look for chinks in the armour of the ‘stable and strong’ government.
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