Losing decorum of high offices, caretakers
Every elected representative takes oath in the name of the Constitution which says it is ‘of the people, for the people and by the people’.
Every elected representative takes oath in the name of the Constitution which says it is 'of the people, for the people and by the people'.
By the people, yes, that is how a government is formed, but once in power, the political parties forget that they are for the people and that the government is of the people. They feel that they are there behind the steering wheel for ever.
There was a time when the governments were responsive. Till about one and half decades back, the governments used to welcome criticism and used to view every comment in the media with a positive mind and take corrective measures.
But now a situation is being witnessed where the political executives feel that once in power, they are free to do anything and what they do is correct, and no one has the right to question them.
The dignity of office a leader holds is getting erased. The language used by politicians whether they are in the Opposition or in the ruling party is something which is most unbecoming of a leader.
This phenomenon is not restricted to lawmakers or top party leaders but even those who occupy high constitutional positions like the post of Speaker are now following the same trend.
The past presiding officers of legislative bodies particularly the Indian Parliament are held in high esteem even today because of the precedents they had established and the way they conducted themselves.
The country irrespective of political affiliations remembers people like Mavlankar, M A Ayangar, Balram Jhakar, P A Sangma, Somnath Chatterjee, etc in Lok Sabha and Chairpersons of Rajya Sabha like Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Dr Zakir Hussain, V V Giri, B D Jatti, R Venkatraman, Justice Hidayatullah, Nazma Heptullah etc as they always maintained high dignity as presiding officers.
During their tenure in office, they never participated in political activities. They also never made any comments against the Opposition leaders.
The position of Speaker has been a part of the British parliamentary tradition since 1377, serving as a link between the sovereign (the King or Queen) and parliament.
Originally the Speaker represented the views of the monarch to MPs (Members of Parliament) but since the English Civil War in the 17th century, the Speaker has been considered the servant of Parliament, representing the interests of MPs to the monarch.
Over a period of time, the Speaker has emerged as the person of highest authority whether it be the Lok Sabha or State Assembly.
The Speaker sits on a raised dais at the end of the Chamber, with government members on his or her right and opposition members to the left. It is really pathetic to see such a situation emerging.
The rulers should understand no individual or party is permanent in democracy. Hence it is necessary that they maintain some decorum and become icons for presiding officers who would be occupying that chair in future.
The Speaker is responsible for controlling the flow of House business and acts as "referee" during debates. It is the Speaker's duty to ensure that the rules of the House for conducting its business are followed and that all members of the House have an opportunity to take part in debates.
Balancing the right of the majority to conduct business with the right of the minority to be heard is one of the Speaker's most difficult tasks.
Because it is essential that the Speaker be seen to be above party politics, he/she does not take part in debate or votes unless there is a tie. All remarks made in the House must be addressed to the Speaker, and no member may stand when the Speaker is standing.
But then the Speaker too is a lawmaker and one should not forget that he too has a constituency to nurse and he needs to represent the needs of the constituents. Hence the government of the day ensures that the representations from the Speaker are attended on priority basis.
Apart from remaining above the fray, a Speaker needs to successfully fulfil all the duties like being sympathetic, firm, fair and honest at all times. The position of Speaker is a demanding and challenging one.
It also offers a variety of experiences and rewards. He should remain untouched by the desire for political gains or fear of loss of office.
Why this is important is because he needs to command respect from the Opposition as well as the ruling party members. While the Opposition should not feel that he is partisan towards the ruling party, the ruling party should not take him for granted.
But unfortunately, things seem to be changing more so in the two Telugu states. The presiding officers are now seen actively participating in public meetings organised by the political parties on whose ticket they got elected as members.
It does not end there. They are also making comments against leaders of Opposition parties as if they are simple MLAs. Sometimes certain comments by the people holding such high post of presiding officer even sounds derogatory.
What they are forgetting is that if they make such comments against other members of the House, particularly the Opposition, it might help them to be in the good books of their leader but they would be losing the faith bestowed in them by the Opposition when they would be presiding over the business of the Assembly.
The Speaker is supposed to address every member as Honourable member before asking him to resume his seat or permit him to speak. The members too should show highest respect to the Chair.
But when a Speaker makes political comments and uses harsh words from public platforms which do not behove his stature, how can he expect the Opposition to listen to him. The big question is why a person holding the office of a Speaker should get into avoidable controversies.
This trend is seen more in Andhra Pradesh. During the time of the TDP regime, the then Speaker Kodela Siva Prasad had invited some controversy for certain uncharitable comments he had made against the leader of Opposition Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy at some meetings.
The present Speaker T Sitaram seems to have gone a step ahead and has been making caustic comments from public platforms against the leader of Opposition.
There are enough leaders in both the parties who can shoot their mouth and hurl accusations against each other and settle political scores. But people holding high offices should show restraint.
May be the Speaker of Lok Sabha needs to look into the role of presiding officers in States and ensure that the dignity of the chair is maintained.
The Speaker is required to restrict himself to represent the House on all ceremonial and formal occasions.