Introspection time for MPs

Parliament turns sixty on May 13. And while it celebrates six decades of its existence, it would be appropriate for it to reflect upon the efficacy of the system in general and the image of the parliamentarian in particular.

The electorate sends representatives to parliament to legislate on key issues that touch the people. But debates in the two Houses are increasingly getting drowned in the often loud and shrill public discourse navigated by the media, especially the electronic media.

Even while parliamentarians stall debates in the House, they can be seen locking horns in TV talk shows and panel discussions. Such engagements are short on substance and high on rhetoric. There are of course some honorable exceptions to the rule.

What then needs to be done to restore people’s trust in parliament and its members? Can some basics be sorted out to reduce hostility, restore sanity and salvage the wisdom most elected representatives possess but are unable to showcase?

That should be the subject of discussion and a possible political consensus when members assemble to mark the occasion this weekend. They can in this endeavor take inspiration from our founding fathers whose far-sightedness and sagacity enriched debates of the Constituent Assembly and the discourse that happened in the early life of Parliament as we know it today.

Parliamentary democracy has its flaws, its propensity for chaos and calamity. But it’s still the best system to make the rulers accountable. The last time a threat was posed to its basic tenets — such as freedom of speech and the rule of law — people lost little time in throwing out Indira Gandhi, Independent India’s most powerful and charismatic leader.

With the economy opening up and the influence of private and foreign capital growing by the day, seeming all-pervasive at times, the need for a strong, accountable and credible parliamentary system is greater than ever before. We can penalize a wayward MP or party by defeating them at the hustings after five years. But there’s no easy way of reigning in Capital— calling the shots from outside— without the instrumentality of a robust Parliament.

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