Your MPs can’t vote freely, except in presidential elections

All that media fuss about ‘cross-voting’ was pretty pointless.

ByMeghnad S
Your MPs can’t vote freely, except in presidential elections
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Like every other media channel that reported on the commencement of this Parliament session, allow me to use some poetic flourish of my own:

The STORMY MONSOON SESSION of Parliament began on July 17, last Monday. Like approaching rain clouds, Members of Parliament with their clouded judgment and thundering voices rained down upon the capital city of Delhi for another month of discussions, debates, decisions soaked with their collective wisdom. Also, they were spotted carrying umbrellas.

Literally every newspaper and media channel used the word ‘stormy’ to describe the session. Monsoon…stormy…YES WE GET IT! I still wonder if anyone remembers a session that was NOT ‘stormy’.

In any case, I’m back with your weekly dose of the happenings within the greatest, bestest building on the planet: The Indian Parliament!

We have a NEW President!

First day of the session, all our MPs (and MLAs in their respective states) lined up to vote for the next President of India. Out of 95 candidates who applied for the job, 93 were rejected on various grounds, leaving two to fight it out: Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar. Ram Nath Kovind won by a 66 per cent vote share and was elected the next President of India.

See that first paragraph? Read it again. Because that is ALL that happened.

All the other drama surrounding the elections like, “OMG such-and-such party leader supported that candidate!”, “ZOMG look at the voting percentage, cross voting totally happened!”, “EHRMERGAWD the Opposition is SO dead! Just look at what happened in the Presidential elections”, yes all that was just noise. Let me tell you why.

The Presidential elections are probably the only occasion when our dear elected representatives get to have free will. They get to vote for whichever candidate they like. Because for other times when they are voting in Parliament to approve laws, they DO NOT have free will. The Whip is cracked and they have to behave according to the orders given by their party boss. Yeah, you heard that right: Your MPs can’t vote freely…except in the Presidential elections!

So, all that support from party bosses you read and heard about is complete and utter noise really. In fact, way back in 2012, the Election Commission said that issuing whips on MPs & MLAs for making them vote for a certain candidate is a criminal offence. Why is it then that Media was filled with headlines like, “Cross-Voting In Presidential Poll Flashes Warning Signs For Opposition” and “Congress sees cross-voting in Gujarat and Goa, BJP in Rajasthan”.

Let’s get one more thing straight: The voting for Presidential elections is also secret. Nobody can tell what person from which party voted for who. The media, however, in its speculative madness, not only said there was ‘cross-voting’ (when no whip can be issued) but went further to state it like a fact that particular political parties voted against their own candidate.

I call BS.

Oh BTW, the President is not just a Rubber Stamp, just saying.

Adjournment, Resignation, Lynching and Farming

Both houses were adjourned for the first day because of the death of two sitting members, Vinod Khanna and Anil Madhav Dave. But then, when the action began the next day, there was much noise leading to a total washout in Lok Sabha (both metaphorically and literally…because it was raining hard that day. Heh.)

(Ignore the bulldozing comment because, this week, the government DID NOT bulldoze anything and was generally quite nice about legislation in general! I correct myself. Peace.)

Meanwhile, in Rajya Sabha, the day began with immense drama when Mayawati declared: “YOU DON’T LET ME SPEAK ONLY! I WILL RESIGN! I WILL!”

She was then accused of challenging the authority of the Speaker.

And then BJP members of the Treasury stood up and started screaming and shouting too…

Those were the last words of Kumari Mayawati in Rajya Sabha because she walked out and actually resigned from her post as Member of Parliament.

Two discussions took place in both houses over the week: In Lok Sabha, it was on the “agrarian situation in the country”, while in Rajya Sabha, it was on lynching. The agrarian crisis discussion involved a lot of back and forth accusation, especially about the Mandsaur agitation and police action, and of course…this:

The lynching discussion had one interesting aspect. Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar spoke and gave a few figures of lynching incidents.

The weird part of this is that his own Government, on July 19, 2017 answered a question in Rajya Sabha where it said that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the official data keeper of crimes across the country, does not maintain data of such incidents.

So, where did Javadekar get the data from, you ask? From Twitter, most probably. By quoting that data and putting it on record he gave it legitimacy. We truly live in a post-truth era.

Bills Passed!

Two bills were passed in Lok Sabha last week! (Yes it functioned more or less amicably!)

  1. The Indian Institute of Information Technology (Public-Private Partnership) Bill, 2017 – This bill, for the first time ever, introduces the PPP model of ownership for an educational institute. The central government, state government and private players will have a 50:35:15 stake in IIITs (Not IITs. Three ‘I’s). They did this so that the companies which are interested in recruiting from these institutions, would be more eager to do so if they have a stake in the institution. They would also be able to give recommendations about how the whole place should operate, so that the students who study there would be trained right and more likely to be recruited to work in the investors’ organisation. #Genius
  2. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill 2017 – The Right to Education (RTE) Act was implemented in 2010, which guarantees free education to children between the age of six to 14 years of age. Under that law, the teachers who are to be employed in schools were required to get a minimum qualification till April 2015. If not, they would not be allowed to teach in schools (both government and private).Our great country currently has a terrible teaching population. The government said out of a total of 66 lakh teachers, 11 lakh are untrained (ONE out of SIX teachers!!!). Given this situation and the general shortage of teachers, it was reasonable to give those 11 lakh odd people time to get trained. But that expired in 2015! So in this Bill, that deadline of getting minimum qualifications was extended till April 2019. But here’s the thing: If the last deadline expired in 2015 and we are in 2017 now, what the heck happened in the last two years?Were the untrained teachers not allowed to teach? Were they functioning as if nothing happened because nobody (quite literally) checked up on their qualifications? Or did it send them into panic mode so that they got their qualifications right, to resume their job of teaching? Or did the whole deadline thing just bloody failed and therefore they had to extend the date to justify keeping untrained teachers employed?So many questions. Not many answers. The minister, Jadavekar, hurriedly concluded the debate.

#TGIF

That’s it for last week. This week, exciting things are about to happen as the government introduces the Banking Regulation Amendment Bill 2017. I’ll be back with all the deets. Until then, take a song!

The author can be contacted on Twitter @Memeghnad.
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