MPs call for inner party reforms, doing away of whip system

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New Delhi, April 11 (IANS) Parliamentarians from Congress and BJP on Monday called for inner party reforms that allow greater expression of individual views on various crucial issues rather than being subject to strict party whips.

“When a party takes a collective decision to support or oppose some issue, I have seen many MPs some of whom much elder to me caught in a dilemma to go ahead with it,” said Congress MP Shashi Tharoor in his address at a seminar for legislative reforms organised by NGO, PRS Research foundation.

He added that party whips restrict people from expressing their individual opinions on many crucial issues, noting “such whips are not in practice in many democracies around the world”.

His Lok Sabha colleague Varun Gandhi, of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), spoke on similar views, asserting that MPs should not be forced to adhere the party lines and must be allowed to express their opinions on the issues they wish to raise.

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“So if I have to distinguish myself from somebody like Sakshi Mahraj in my party, how could I possibly do so as there are whips on every single legislation that comes in.

“Let’s say I wanted to support Dr. Tharoor’s legislation which was on decriminalisation of homosexuality, but I was told there is a party dictate on that and you must obey it. So I didn’t express myself as I did not show up to vote. I thought it was a small way to express my solidarity with those people,” Gandhi said in his brief speech at the event.

He also asserted that excellence of MPs need to be rewarded by the people as that “will only help in raising their standards and having fruitful discussions on issues which are of urgent importance”.

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“There was a time in India when excellence was rewarded. We have followed a long way since then. So if we follow the trajectory without passing any judgement, the constituency that was represented by Maulana (Abdul Kalam) Azad once after the delimitation became Rampur and over the period of time was represented by Jaya Prada. And Pandit Nehru’s constituency was lately represented by Atiq Ahmad who has 60 or 70 murder cases registered against him,” he said, referring to depletion in standards of politicians over the years.

He noted a normal MP has not much liberty or freedom to express his views on an stringent issue within the party system and within the parliamentary framework.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) MP Asaduddin Owaisi stressed that parliament’s functioning should not be disrupted as it provides the government an easy escape route.

“Parliament should be used to debate and discuss peoples’ issues. Disrupting it from carrying out its functions is a cardinal crime. Opposition gives an easy escape route to the government as most of the ministers are scared to speak on real issues concerning our country,” he said.

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“The house does not belong to the BJP or the Congress. It is property of the people. So the issues, concerns and grievances of the people must be addressed,” he said, adding it doesn’t function for more than 90 days which is “too less a time discuss real issues”.

Owaisi also advocated certain technical changes in parliamentary procedures like calling attention motions, short duration discussions and selection of questions for question hour so that individual MPs, irrespective of their party affiliations, can get more time to flag issues concerning their constituency and people of the country at large.

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