Be law makers again

In an era when most voters seem to ask the MP what he did for the constituency during his years in Parliament, it would be useful to remind ourselves that the primary role of our MPs is to legislate. Yet the task of drafting new laws, and seeing that they are passed by Parliament, has in practice become the exclusive preserve of the government of the day. And the anti-defection law basically then reduces our MPs to a head count, because the decision of the political party on any piece of legislation is supreme and binding on all MPs in the party.

In such a situation, as individual MPs, what options do our MPs have to fulfil their role as law makers? In parliamentary

parlance, any MP who is not a minister is referred to as a "private member". Any MP can introduce bills in the House as "private members' bills". This is a vehicle that is available to an MP to play his part as an active legislator, in addition to speaking on bills introduced by the government.

But, as with so many aspects of our Parliament, this is designed to fail. Let's look at some numbers to sense the importance that Parliament gave to private members' bills in the 14th Lok Sabha. Of the 328 introduced during its 5-year term, only 14 were discussed on the floor of the House. Not one of these was passed. Indeed, the last time a private members' bill was passed by Parliament was in 1970. During the term of the 14th Lok Sabha, four MPs C.K. Chandrappan (CPI), Mohan Singh (SP), Bachi Singh Rawat (BJP), Hansraj Gangaram Ahir (BJP) contributed a total of 101 bills. Only 67 of the MPs in Lok Sabha managed to even introduce a private member's bill in Parliament. As if sending out a signal of their importance, the discussion of these bills is scheduled for Friday afternoons, when many MPs are making their way back to their constituencies for

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