NEW DELHI: Much like in government, the winds of change are blowing in the corridors of Parliament. After a deadlock of nearly three years, there is a flurry of activity on the floor of the House. In the last three weeks, the 16th Lok Sabha recorded a productivity of 103%, in sharp contrast to the 15th Lok Sabha that worked for only 61% of the scheduled time.
The remarkable jump can also be partly explained by the brute majority the NDA government enjoys in the lower House.
It is the first-time lawmakers who are leading the charge. In 2014, participation of first-time MPs in the debate on demand for grants increased by 58% with 158 first-timers speaking on the subject as compared to 100 in 2009.
Analysis by independent body PRS Legislative Research reveals an increase of 41% in participation by new MPs in discussing the railway budget. Interest in the general budget was also high with 26% more participation by legislators in 2014 as opposed to 2009.
In all, participation by first time MPs has gone up by 38.5% as compared to veterans whose participation has increased by 27% between 2009 and 2014.
There are 314 first-time MPs in this Parliament, up from 302 in 2009.
While it is early days yet, there is reason to believe this is not a flash in the pan. Organizations such as PRS and Swaniti that work closely with parliamentarians say they find greater awareness and accountability among legislators.
“Parliament is a forum for debate and discussion. These numbers indicate that MPs are reclaiming the deliberative space of Parliament,” said Chakshu Roy, head of outreach at PRS Legislative Research.
“The MPs’ increased participation in this session is one indicator of the seriousness with which they are approaching their role as legislators. Their participation in budgetary discussions is a healthy sign of their intent to keep the government accountable to the people,” Roy added.
Swaniti CEO Rwitwika Bhattacharya described the transformation among parliamentarians and constituents as “dramatic”. “Accountability was most apparent in this past election than ever before. I think that we are now starting to ask, ‘What is the MP doing? Have they done anything for us that we can see?’ And subsequently these are also the questions we hear from MPs. ‘What can I do that you think will impact people? My constituents have told me they need a hospital. Can you assess and tell me how true it is? What have you done for other MPs that you would recommend to be replicated?’ These are some of the questions we hear,” she said.