National

Keeping a handle on Parliament

While lawmaking proceedings can be dreary most of the time, if one pays attention there are many lighter moments in Parliament. For instance, here is one exchange:

Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress says, "Finance Min came surreptitiously yesterday..." Speaker requests, "Use simple words." To which Roy responds, "Shall i use stealthily?"

Or another one:

Minister @sureshpprabhu while answering Q. on hot food on trains, "I'm also vegetarian but I don't like paneer."

We can thank the Twitter handle @HasParlAdjYet (Read ‘Has Parliament Adjourned Yet’) for giving us these gems.

The Budget session in Parliament last year was fraught with tension as a landmark law was all set to be passed. The GST would have changed the indirect taxation structure in the country, and the government was making all the right noises as far as the law was concerned. Social media too, being as politically charges as it is, was concerned about when the law will be passed.

But our Parliament can function in the strangest of ways and adjourn arbitrarily. In February 2016, this led to four people who work on policy to get together and start a handle that focused on Parliament updates, which now has over 3,000 followers and is probably one of the most reliable sources for what our lawmakers do.

So what is special about their updates? It’s the constant accuracy, along with perfect accompanying animated gifs.

Both Kavitha KK and Yashaswini KS, the two people who regularly tweet using the handle met through a fellowship and worked with Members of Parliament. Along with public policy professional Sowmya Rao and science writer Sandhya Ramesh, they were the ones who put their heads together to create the handle.

“The website was created with the very same idea — knowing whether either House was adjourned or not, Yes or No. The Twitter handle complemented the website with live updates, with a touch of wit, humour, frustration, celebration and everything else that goes on in Parliament,” says the team behind the handle. The realisation that a lot of MPs are not well-known also contributed to the effort.

Increase in interest in the way Parliament functions is representative of a more politically active social media crowd, and this handle seems to have come at the perfect time to service these needs. After all, it is this generation that is willing to spar on a Facebook comment thread for hours about issues they hold dear.

So how does it work, considering the four of them are in different cities? “As a matter of routine, Yashaswini puts out the recap and agenda of both Houses in the morning. Usually, Yashaswini tracks Lok Sabha while Kavitha tracks Rajya Sabha. On days when Parliament runs the entire day (and sometimes even until 11 p.m.), we reach out to friends and volunteers who give us updates. There have been times when one person becomes unavailable and the other person follows both Houses simultaneously,” they say.

But in a political climate that is so charged, it can be hard to stay objective, especially given the content that they track everyday. “We have developed objectivity regarding the proceedings,” they say. “We have realised that the content of discussions is more important.”

Parliament can also be rewarding in unexpected ways — humour in the proceedings. “We really like Zero Hours in both Houses when a wide range of local issues are raised by MPs in an honest and unscripted way.”

And even though the team functions mostly on Twitter, they have received very little criticism. “Once it was pointed out that a gif we had used was inappropriate but, by and large, all the feedback we received tells us our gif game has been spot on! More importantly, it has caught the interest of followers and readers in following Parliament proceedings,” says the team.

Of course, as fascinating as the law-making process can be, it can also get frustrating to regular followers of the drama. “The Rajya Sabha does a lot of back and forth on technicalities,” says Kavitha. “It goes on for so long that they have these ‘point of order’ marathons. That can get tiring. And the House can adjourn for reasons you don’t even expect or understand.”

Yashaswini finds that many a time, a debate which is going quite well can be derailed simply because one political jibe has been made. “And no one sits for private Member business, however important it may be,” she adds.

A few MPs follow the handle and retweet them on occasion. “Most MPs (or their offices) active on Twitter have come to acknowledge our live tweets as an open record of what they say in the House.”

For now, though, time management has become quite difficult as both Kavitha and Yashaswini have demanding careers. “Since we juggle this with all our other responsibilities, we are now actively seeking more volunteers and interns. We are looking to bring students in public policy, media studies and communication courses aboard.”

The handle, however, has the advantage of being in a space where no one else functions, for no one else thought of a Twitter handle to keep an eye on our lawmakers.

Here's a sample of their tweets:

 


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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 1:38:53 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/keeping-a-handle-on-parliament/article17749792.ece

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