Opposition MPs, parliamentary disruptions

There are Members of Parliament whose parliamentary and political records emphasise the crucial role the Opposition can play in shaping India’s legislative discourse

January 26, 2024 12:08 am | Updated 11:53 am IST

‘Effective governance requires collaboration between the government and the Opposition’

‘Effective governance requires collaboration between the government and the Opposition’ | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In the winter session of Parliament in 2023, the last for the year, the political scenario in India underwent a change that caused much concern when a substantial number of Members of Parliament from the Opposition were suspended. A total of 141 lawmakers were suspended for ‘causing disruptions’ during the House proceedings while pushing for a discussion on a security breach that had occurred in Parliament on December 13 — there were intruders who used gas canisters. The number of MPs suspended were 95 from the Lok Sabha and 46 from the Rajya Sabha, representing about 35 crore people or roughly 25% of India’s population.

Protests are vital for democratic governance, but their suppression raises concerns about the Opposition’s role and stifles diverse perspectives. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid emphasis on the Opposition’s collaborative role in governance, underscoring the need for healthy debates and dissent. Parliamentary discussions are crucial for informed decision-making and inclusive legislation, addressing all stakeholders’ concerns.

The track record

To understand the Opposition’s contributions, we analysed the record of some of the suspended MPs. Certain MPs, transcending party lines, have made noteworthy contributions to the nation’s legislative landscape with their active involvement, commitment to their constituency and proactive policy-shaping goals.

Shashi Tharoor, a three-time Lok Sabha MP (Congress) from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, has a 94% attendance record, that surpasses national and State averages (79% and 83%). He was an active participant in 99 debates, the national (45.1) and State (76.1) averages being 45.1 and 76.1, respectively. Mr. Tharoor introduced 13 Private Member’s Bills, covering crucial topics, which was again well above the average. Mr. Tharoor received the Sansad Ratna Award in 2020.

Looking back at one of the frostiest Parliament sessions

S. Jothimani, Lok Sabha member (Congress) from Tamil Nadu’s Karur constituency, has an attendance record of 74%, actively addressing topics such as employment schemes, amendments, Budget discussions, infrastructure development, and flood relief. The 190 questions she has raised concern various sectors, including renewable energy, agriculture, education, health care, and social justice. As a newcomer, Ms. Jothimani has introduced Private Member Bills on menstrual hygiene and paternity benefits.

Manoj Kumar Jha, Rajya Sabha MP (Rashtriya Janata Dal) from Bihar has a 97% participation rate. He has raised 347 questions and six Private Member’s Bills, which include legislative reforms such as the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2022, and 0the Right to Health Bill, 2021. With accolades such as the Lokmat and Sansad Ratna Parliamentary Awards, Mr. Jha’s parliamentary journey began with his recognition as best debutant parliamentarian.

The attendance record of Supriya Sule, the Nationalist Congress Party’s three-time MP from Maharashtra’s Baramati constituency is 93%,. Ms. Sule has been active in 238 debates, raising 609 questions, and introducing 16 Private Member’s Bills, including The Census (Amendment) Bill, 2022, and The Protection of Rights of Widows and Single Women Bill, 2022. She won the 2021 Sansad Ratna Award.

Gaurav Gogoi, Lok Sabha MP (Congress) for Kaliabor in Assam, has a 75% attendance rate, and has actively participated in 74 debates and raised 237 questions. Noteworthy are his five Private Member’s Bills on air quality management, company regulations, energy conservation, and pollution control. As an icon for youth and development in the northeastern region, Mr. Gogoi was awarded the Best Parliamentarian Award in 2018.

Vandana Hemant Chavan, Rajya Sabha MP (NCP) from Maharashtra, has a 78% attendance rate. Involved in 334 debates and posing 687 questions, she introduced five Private Member’s Bills on diverse social issues, winning the Lokmat Award and the title of Best Woman Parliamentarian in 2022.

Derek O’Brien, Rajya Sabha MP (All India Trinamool Congress) from West Bengal has a 81% attendance rate, having participated in 315 debates and raised 1,001 queries. He introduced seven Private Member Bills focusing on education, digital literacy, and public health, receiving the Lokmat Parliamentary Award in 2022.

Kunwar Danish Ali, Lok Sabha MP (Bahujan Samaj Party) from Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha constituency, despite his recent suspension from the party, has had a 97% attendance rate. He has been involved in 140 debates, raising 205 questions, and introducing two Private Member’s Bills. His Bills include “The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2022” and “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021”.

Committed MPs emphasise the crucial role of the Opposition in shaping India’s legislative discourse. Stifling dissent calls for a reevaluation of democratic norms, laying stress on the need for diverse voices in shaping the nation’s future. Effective governance requires collaboration between the government and the Opposition, in a manner that transcends political divides. A vibrant democracy thrives on openness, inclusivity, and meaningful dialogue, defining the nation’s trajectory through parliamentary engagement.

The suspension of MPs confronts the concept of having an Opposition, where the ongoing developments will determine whether this is a transient disruption or a transformative phase in India’s parliamentary journey.

Amal Chandra is an author, political analyst and commentator. Ashraf Nehal is a South Asia Analyst and a columnist (Twitter: @ashrafnehal19@ens_socialis)

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