MPs’ prolixity costs Parliament its propriety

MPs’ prolixity costs Parliament its propriety
Highlights

The 16th Lok Sabha has come to an end During the last four years and nine months, we have heard many speeches both inside the Parliament and outside at public meetings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Some were very inspiring while some others were full of verbosity

The 16th Lok Sabha has come to an end. During the last four years and nine months, we have heard many speeches both inside the Parliament and outside at public meetings by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some were very inspiring while some others were full of verbosity.

As the country is gearing up to elect members for the 17th Lok Sabha, it is time both for the general public as well as the ‘would be’ honourable members of Parliament to take a peek into the performance in terms of speeches of Narendra Modi and some of his predecessors as well as senior parliamentarians irrespective of the parties they represented and emulate them.

This has become necessary as the new genre of politicians do not believe in sitting in the Parliament Library, go through the old records and speeches, note down points and then make an effective presentation. Many of them hire people who are called as PROs whose job is to collect all newspaper clippings which project their boss in positive manner.

If the member has to speak, the PRO prepares the speech which often is a mix and match of the statements in newspaper clippings. In some cases, the respective political party on whose ticket they got elected gives them the readymade speeches. The members thus now become readers and not speakers.
Extempore speeches are made mostly by the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition or some senior most members who belong to the old school of politics.

In the last five years, Modi has made about 900 speeches and about 200 of them were made abroad. On the contrary, his predecessor Manmohan Singh had made 1,400 speeches in 10 years.

Modi always likes to get his message out, loud and clear. For close to four years, people used to listen to Modi with rapt attention as he used to spontaneously identify with the common man in every part and region of the country. This is a rare phenomenon for a country like India which is known for unity in diversity. The aspirations and expectations of people of each part of the country are different and but Modi has been able to strike a chord with people because he has no inferences of family or dynasty lineage and people trusted him in 2014.

He came to be known as a man from grass root level who climbed up the ladder because of his hard work. Modi was also known to be a Prime Minster who hardly intervenes in discussions or debates in Parliament. But then slowly there was a visible change in the tone and tenor of Modi’s speeches. His critics say that Modi feels that his talks are his governance and his focus is on verbosity. His farewell speech in the 16th Lok Sabha did, to some extent, prove his critics right.

Let us compare his speech with that of his predecessor Manmohan Singh. Modi’s speeches are loud while Singh’s speeches are wheezy. Addressing for the last time as PM, Manmohan Singh said he took charge with diligence as his tool, truth as his beacon and a prayer that he might always do the right thing.

He said, “Today, as I prepare to lay down office, I am aware that well before the final judgment that we all await from the Almighty, there is judgment in the court of public opinion that all elected officials and governments are required to submit themselves to.

Fellow citizens, each one of us should respect the judgement that you have delivered. As I have said on many occasions, my life and tenure in public office are an open book. I have always tried to do my best in serving this great nation of ours.”

“In the last ten years, we as a country have seen many successes and achievements that we should be proud of. Today, India is a far stronger country in every respect than it was a decade ago. I give credit for these successes to all of you. However, there is still vast latent development potential in our country and we must collectively work hard to realize it.”

“As I leave office, my abiding memory will be the love and kindness that I have always received from you. I owe everything to this country, this great land of ours where I, an underprivileged child of Partition, was empowered enough to rise and occupy high office. It is both a debt that I will never be able to repay and a decoration that I will always wear with pride. Serving this nation has been my privilege. There is nothing more that I could ask for. I wish the incoming government every success as it embarks on its task and pray for even greater successes for our nation.”

Manmohan Singh on many occasions felt that the quality of political discourse in the country had hit a rock bottom. The Prime Minister, he felt, should exercise due restraint and see that the decorum of the office he holds was upheld.

There should be no discrimination between the States ruled by the ruling party at the Centre or Opposition parties. Personal attacks and commenting on the family members to hit the Chief Ministers below the belt should be avoided. But we have seen that Modi even in in Parliament tried to call one Chief Minister more matured and the other not so matured. The Prime Minister of this nation has to have a real large heart.

Now let’s take a look at Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister. Both the Congress and the BJP were sworn enemies even at that time but that was restricted to politics. Though he was not a seasoned politician like his mother Indira Gandhi, he never thought even for a minute when it came to helping a senior leader like Vajpayee.

Vajpayee was a member of the Rajya Sabha having lost the 1984 Lok Sabha election to Madhavrao Scindia from Gwalior. Thanks to the sympathy wave that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi won with unprecedented majority of more than 410 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Rajiv found that Vajpayee had a kidney problem and needed treatment abroad. One day he called Vajpayee to his office and told him that he was including him in the delegation to UN and asked him to use the opportunity to get treatment. He also instructed officials that Vajpayee would come back only after treatment. Rajiv never revealed this. And see the statesmanship like quality of Vajpayee who himself later acknowledged this and said, If I am alive today it is because of Rajiv Gandhi.

Vajpayee was a man who had great respect for Parliamentary democracy. Though he had had strong rhetoric and never hesitated to tear apart into the follies of the policies of the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi, he never made any personal attacks against her. This quality of his was recognised and appreciated by Indira Gandhi on the floor of the Parliament on many occasions. Indira Gandhi was a shining international leader. She was witty, brave, clear in her thoughts and expression and her strong will- power cannot be underestimated. She may have had some downfalls, but who does not?

What is important in a Parliamentary democracy is debate with enough space for dissent. This is something that has been missing in the recent past. No political party seems to be accommodative and are becoming more and more intolerant. In fact, this quality started vanishing in the post Vajpayee era.

On many occasions Vajpayee was also a self-critic, a quality which is not found in anyone today. If people act wisely and elect leaders who can work with positive attitude, talk less and contribute more to the growth of the country to the 17th Lok Sabha, there can be some hope of restoring the lost glory of Parliament.

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