Pranab Mukherjee: Non-elected actors influencing governance a challenge to Indian democracy

The former President warned that the rising influence of unelected individuals threatened the institution of Parliament. Mukherjee remarked, “This indeed is a trend that needs to be arrested.

NH Photo
NH Photo

Dhairya Maheshwari

The deliberate attempt by non-elected individuals and groups to influence governance and discredit the Parliamentarians is a major challenge facing the Indian democracy, former President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday.

“This indeed is a trend that needs to be arrested lest it leads to anarchy and oligarchic control of the state apparatus. Ironically, the task of establishing their credibility as a public representative lies with the members themselves,” Mukherjee remarked during the 15th DT Lakdawala Memorial Lecture on Parliamentary Democracy and its Challenges Today in New Delhi. The address was organised by New Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences (ISS).

Mukherjee also moaned the rise of identity-based politics during the last three decades, remarking that it was diluting the representative aspect of the Parliament.

“An electorate divided on caste and community lines throws up a polarised mandate,” he said.

Mukherjee also criticised the continuous disruptions by opposition parties in Parliament, saying that they helped the government ministers and MPs as major issues weren’t getting debated properly.

“Resorting to disruption, as an established Parliamentary practice and defining it as a constructive deliberative method has led to Parliamentary paralysis,” said the former leader of opposition.

“Time that should be spent on debating issues that affect the people of India is lost to din, filibuster and drama. Both the Houses of Parliament are more often than not, adjourned for days together,” the former head of state, who retired from politics in 2017, added.

Mukherjee noted that the number of sittings in both the houses had reduced to an average of about 75 days now, from 127 days for Lok Sabha and 93 days for Rajya Sabha in the 1950s.

“Even on these days, most of the time is lost in pointless partisanship and acrimonious blame-game between the treasury and opposition benches,” he said.

The former Parliamentarian said that lakhs of crores of rupees taxpayers’ money was being spent without proper lawmakers’ scrutiny.

Mukherjee complained that there was an “absolute lack of interest in issues of national importance.”

He flagged several other concerns that he said were facing India’s Parliamentary democracy:

  • Disproportionately large size of the electorate vis-à-vis the number of public representatives. He said, “The last enhancement of seats in Lok Sabha took place in 1977, almost half a century ago, on the basis of 1971 Census, according to which the entire population of the country was 55 crores.”
  • He said that women representation in Parliament and the Assemblies had emerged as a “major area of concern.”
  • Mukherjee also pitched for the idea of holding simultaneous elections for state assemblies and Parliament, remarking that the development works got affected due to the imposition of the Model Code of Conduct each time an election was announced.

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Published: 23 Feb 2018, 4:31 PM