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Even-handed Speakers need of the hour

Even-handed Speakers need of the hour
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Highlights

The NDA II, which has been taking historical decisions like doing away with triple talaq, scrapping of Article 370, making efforts to resolve the Ayodhya issue, is now going to take up two more initiatives.

The NDA II, which has been taking historical decisions like doing away with triple talaq, scrapping of Article 370, making efforts to resolve the Ayodhya issue, is now going to take up two more initiatives.

'Plastic Mukt Bharat' and 'Jal Mission'. The NDA-I government which did not appear to be so active during the first term except for taking late night decisions like demonetisation and surgical strike on the eve of elections, now seems to have changed its track and focussing more on development. Certainly, this is welcome move.

It would also be doing a great service for future generation politicians if it ushers in reforms particularly with regard to ensuring neutrality of Speakers of Lok Sabha and State legislatives and also make them realise that they too are supposed to work within the framework of the Constitution.

In 1951 and 1953, the Conference of Presiding Officers of Legislatures in India passed a resolution for the adoption of the British convention. G V Mavalankar tried to create a consensus among political parties on adopting this British convention but was unable to make much headway.

The 1954 decision of the Working Committee of the Congress in response to Mavalankar's attempts sealed the fate of the issue.

It stated, "The Working Committee considered G V Mavalankar's letter for establishing a convention of the uncontested election of Speakers and felt that this was not a feasible proposition for the present, in view of other political parties being involved in the question."

Since NDA II now has absolute majority, it should look into this aspect as well and bring in necessary legislation so that the dignity of the high office of Speaker can be upheld and thereby add greater respect for the legislative bodies.

In Britain, though the Speaker seizes to be a member of political party while in office, he stands in national elections and is traditionally not opposed by the major parties. May be Indian Parliament may examine taking such measures. This will help the Speaker to remain neutral.

The issue of need for neutrality in India arises since it is an open secret that with no security in the continuity of office, the Speaker is dependent on his political party for re-election and this makes him susceptible to pulls and pressures from the party in conduct of proceedings.

The Centre needs to ponder over the system that is followed by the British Parliament. In British Parliament, the Speaker is the highest authority of the House of Commons and is required to remain politically impartial.

In India too, it is expected that once a person is elected Speaker, he should resign from the parent party to remain neutral in discharge of his duties. But that never happens.

The older generation of Speakers need to be appreciated as though in India the Speaker does not resign from the ruling party, to a great extent, the Lok Sabha Speakers in the last four decades had been maintaining certain amount of dignity and neutrality.

Balram Jhakar, who was a hardcore Congress leader, made sure that he never addressed any party meeting as long as he was occupying the office of the Speaker. He only used to make indirect inquiries about the conditions and problems in his constituency.

All issues pertaining to his constituency were raised in form of questions by MPs of neighbouring constituencies. This practice was followed by successors like Rabi Ray, Shivraj Patil, P A Sangma, GMC Balayogi and others.

But such discipline needs to percolate down to the level of State Assemblies and for this, the Centre should come with some reforms.

Undivided Andhra Pradesh too had seen several great Speakers like Ayyadevara Kaleswara Rao, B V Subba Reddy, Pidtala Ranga Reddy, Agarala Eswara Reddy, G Narayana Rao etc to name a few, but in the past two decades, neutrality appears to be getting eroded.

This issue has come to the fore again as the Speaker of Andhra Pradesh recently addressed a public meeting of party workers in his constituency in Srikakulam and termed the Opposition party workers as 'Tom, Dick or Harry' and said that the party workers should go ahead in implementing the programmes and policies of the YSRCP.

He said he was the Speaker only in the Assembly but back in his constituency, he was their representative and would be with them and that it was his duty to address the issues of the Constituency and take care of the cadre.

May be the Central government should think of conducting some orientation classes for all the Speakers soon after the general elections are over. This could become much easier now since the government is moving forward in the direction of 'one nation one election'.

It is a known fact that India has many colours (read political parties) but when it comes to the office of the Speaker, it becomes imperative that many colours should be treated as same thread and together a New India should be weaved.

The Centre and the States together should lay the foundation of a new and dignified institution called the institution of Speakers and leave a legacy for the future generations.

The Speakers should set an example and let all parties know that nothing else matters, not even their political future but what matters is nation.

Even the ruling parties in every State should imbibe the concept that 'nation matters the most' and not narrow political considerations or their personal whims and fancies.

Particularly the younger genre of politicians should understand that the government is a continuous body, ruling parties come and go. They should always take forward the programmes launched by the previous governments and make some corrections here and there to see that they give better governance.

Vindictive attitude should never be presented in the name of good governance. State governments need to take a leaf out of the way the NDA government has been functioning since 2014.

Yes, there have been certain political moves to expand the BJPs base, but it never went whole hog doing away with the schemes or programmes launched by the Congress government.

The NDA has taken certain revolutionary decisions without adversely affecting the ongoing developments. Every government would like to leave its imprint on certain schemes and the BJP too has done that and has also given some value addition.

Such an attitude instils confidence among the wealth creators as the Prime Minister said from the ramparts of Red Fort on August 15. That is very much necessary if India has to emerge as a major economic power.

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