As the Modi government sets to complete two years at the helm of affairs at the Centre this month, the Prime Minister took a bold and innovative step which has caught the imagination of the country.
The Prime Minister has asked the BJP Members of Parliament to spend at least seven nights in their respective constituency to disseminate the steps taken up by the government in reforms, development initiatives and most importantly, collate the wish-list of people along with their feedbacks.
During his tenure, renowned British prime minister Winston Churchill had made a clear mandate for the parliamentarians: “…the honour and safety of Great Britain…constituents …and then party organization…”.
This speaks volume about the importance of interface with constituents which should be the priority of an elected MP.
In 2011, British newspaper The Independent carried an interesting piece of news analysis ‘Who is the laziest MP in Britain?
And the surprising result was Sir Stuart Bell, the labour MP from Middlesbrough who had never held a surgery in his constituency since 1997!
Though Sir Bell was an efficient MP, he certainly neglected the most important task of an MP – to have regular interface with constituents for effective and citizen centric governance.
In terms of public policy, the feed-back mechanism provides the crucial mid-course correction during public policy implementation.
A study undertaken by Centre for Policy Research, which has been one of the most influential policy think-tanks in India, has assessed the performances of our Parliament members.
The study reveals that on an average an MP in the 16th Lok Sabha participated in 20 debates while 9 percent of total MPs (48 MPs) did not participate in any debate.
Nearly 57 percent of the non-participating MPs (27) are first-time MPs. On the other hand, on an average, a Rajya Sabha MP participated in 22 debates. The Lok Sabha had an attendance of 84 percent while it was 78 percent in Rajya Sabha.
Going by the performance of MPs in participating in debates from various political parties, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) MPs top the list with an average 68 debates, followed by 25 debates by Shiv Sena MPs, 20 debates each by both Biju Janta Dal and Indian National Congress MPs, 19 by AIADMK MPs, 17 debates by BJP MPs and seven debates each by the MPs from All India Trinamool Congress and Lok Janshakti Party.
The need of the hour is certainly to imbibe the culture of maintaining a balance between the twin paramount duties of an MP: constituency works and parliamentary duties.
Participation in debates definitely reflects the grasp of grassroots realities and making it an excellent indicator of the process of governance.
However, the Prime Minister’s directive to the parliamentarians to spend seven nights in their respective constituencies precisely reflects the urgency of feeling the pulse of the citizens at the large and especially the marginalized sections of society by the Parliamentarians.
Governance process represents a set of synergetic relationships between the three critical players – the state, the market, and the civil society in contemporary times. To make the governance process more ‘citizen centric’, the feed-back mechanism must be robust, impartial and objective.
Spending seven nights in the constituency is a new step towards making the process of accountability more stringent and citizen-centric.
The daunting task before the Modi government is to revive the economy on exigent basis along with building a strong rapport with the distressed farming community and the creation of jobs for the youths.
In addition, the Modi government aims to craft a sensitive approach to the constituents in taking forward the reforms along with development initiatives.
However, the initiative of spending seven nights in constituency may be redrafted with making mandatory for the parliamentarians to spend at least two nights in the tribal hamlets and poverty ridden pockets of their respective constituencies.
Sujit Kumar Pruseth is a policy analyst and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org