Smaller parties, Independents in Rajya Sabha unite for more talk time

Vice-President formally recognises a group of 22 MPs as a consolidated bloc

Updated - December 01, 2016 05:42 pm IST

Published - October 14, 2016 02:48 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The winter session of Parliament will see a changed Rajya Sabha, not because of any election being held to the Upper House, but because Vice-President Hamid Ansari has formally recognised a group of 22 MPs belonging to parties with less than four MPs and certain independents as a consolidated block — the United Group.

Only third time

This is only the third time in the history of Indian Parliament that this is happening, the first was in 1983, and the second in 1990. The rarity of such a grouping is not surprising considering the party-wise divisions that usually rule parliamentary practice.

Hailing from ideologically diverse backgrounds and including nominated MPs like cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and boxer Mary Kom, this group of MPs have united to secure more time to speak in House debates, where their solitary or numerically lean status afforded them as little as three minutes of speech time.

Place in BAC

“We took nearly two years to form this group, but we found that smaller parties and independent MPs who may want to contribute to debates rarely got enough time to put forward a cogent argument. With this grouping, we are the third largest group of MPs in the Rajya Sabha, after the Congress and the BJP and we will find a place in the Business Advisory Committee (BAC) that decides time allotment. We will decide amongst ourselves as to who will speak on which subject and will get more time thus,” said Shiromani Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral, who is the convener of this group. “We are grateful to Vice-President Hamid Ansari for recognising the group,” he added.

Rajya Sabha Secretary-General, Shumsher Sheriff confirmed the recognition to UG, and told The Hindu that he had looked into the previous two instances of such a grouping for according it. “Members from smaller parties raised this issue with the Vice-President and since it is only for the purposes of participating in debates it made a lot of sense,” he added.

Time allotted to parties to speak on debates depends entirely on their strength in the House. A grouping of this kind will, therefore, make it possible, say, for a party like the Sikkim Democratic Front with a single MP to speak for as much time as say, a Samajwadi Party with 19 MPs in the Upper House.

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