Neutralise money, muscle power: Somnath

Somnath Chatterjee  

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on Saturday advocated a change in the electoral system, providing voters the right to recall an elected representative who failed to live up to the people's expectations.

This right could help in infusing a better sense of accountability in the legislators, he said. He was addressing a seminar on the role of parliamentary democracy in strengthening the nation after inaugurating the golden jubilee celebrations of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly here.

Mr. Chatterjee called for streamlining the system by completely neutralising the role of money and muscle power and creating more space for honest and capable persons.

Role models

The most crucial factor for the survival of democracy was sustaining the people's faith in the system. This could be ensured only if leaders, particularly people's representatives, conducted themselves as role models.

It was expected that legislatures would emerge as the people's fora, where social and economic issues would be articulated in tune with constitutional obligations and maintaining the dignity of the elected bodies. But unfortunately, there was a "justified strong feeling" among the people that over the years there had been a decline in the standards of legislatures.

Expressing dismay at deliberate stalling of proceedings, Mr. Chatterjee advised the media not to publicise such acts and to help in creating public opinion against them.

"One feels concerned about the future of our representative democracy, if instead of participating in the proper functioning of the House, members choose deliberately to interrupt the proceedings by pre-arranged disruptionist activities."

He asked legislators to use their privileged position to take corrective steps to deal with corruption and also to set a worthy example.

Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy said democracy did not mean conducting elections regularly and having a free press and an independent judiciary. "We should remember that even the best democracy is only a means of governance, the end being the welfare of the common man". Governor Sushil Kumar Shinde said, "If legislators mar or bar the proceedings or the discussions, they should be taken to task."

Assembly Speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy said that during the past 50 years, a large number of laws had been enacted to improve the living conditions of the people and safeguard the interests of weaker sections.

N. Chandrababu Naidu, Leader of the Opposition, stressed the need for political reforms to strengthen parliamentary democracy.

Four former Speakers of the House and several members of the first Assembly of integrated Andhra Pradesh in 1956 were honoured.