In the parliamentary democracy of India, the citizens of the country elect their parliamentarians and legislators for Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The parliamentarians and legislators then choose a council of ministers amongst themselves to head the executive branch of the government. But in popular discourse, only the work of the executive, headed by Prime Minister at the centre and Chief Minister in states, is discussed. The work of another pillar of the government, legislature, is often overlooked and remains unevaluated.
This is a matter of grave concern as the people of the country directly elect a legislative assembly (and Lok Sabha), thus making legislators (and Lok Sabha members) personally answerable to the citizens. The parliamentary form of government followed in India is very different from the presidential form of government followed in countries like the US. There, the head of the government (viz. President) is directly elected by the people. Thus, in the Indian scenario, it is a grave oversight to not evaluate the performance of the Legislature and directly elected representatives.
In this context, the article intends to analyze the performance of the 6th legislative assembly of Delhi, which functioned between 2015 and 2020. A lot of analysis has been done on the performance of the Delhi government during the last five years, but those have largely focussed on the performance of the executive branch of the Delhi government. But,
A recent report by Association for Democratic Reforms gives a glimpse of the performance of the Delhi legislative assembly in the last five years. The assembly, which was constituted in February 2015, has 70 seats. In 2015, out of the 70 seats, 67 were won by Aam Aadmi Party, and the Bharatiya Janata Party won three. In its five years of functioning, the assembly sat for nearly 20 days per year, with a high percentage of attendance of 76% by its legislators.
Compare this to the 13th Haryana legislative assembly, a neighbouring state assembly, whose tenure was nearly co-terminus with Delhi. Here, the assembly sat for only 15 days per year. It is not only a difference of five days on an annual basis, but a representation of the effectiveness of elected representatives to raise the voices and opinions of the people.
Another fact to be noted is that Delhi functions as a quasi-state, where the functions of land, police and public order fall within the purview of the union government, unlike states like Haryana, where these functions lie with respective state governments. Even with lesser functional areas, the Delhi legislative assembly sat for more days and has considerably outperformed other states.
An efficacious tool for raising concerns of the public is the mechanism of asking questions in the assembly. The legislators ask questions to the ministers and bring voices of the public to the notice of the house. This also helps in keeping a check on the executive. In the last Delhi assembly, on an average, an MLA asked 215 questions. This is a staggering feat if one looks at the numbers of questions asked by MLAs in other state assemblies.
An MLA in Haryana assembly asked only 20 questions (average), and 16 MLAs did not ask even a single question during their tenure of five years. Consider the plight of people who were represented by these 16 MLAs; their voices were not even heard once on the house of the floor in five years. Delhi Assembly has indeed performed exceptionally well, but it also reflects a sad state of affairs in other state assemblies.
Another function of the assembly is to enact the laws, after due discussions and deliberations over it. The last Delhi legislative assembly passed 100% of the bills which were tabled, and nearly 50% of the bills took more than a day to pass. This is representative of extensive discussions and deliberations on the contours of the introduced bill, which, in turn, makes it more effective and people-centric. A hastily passed bill leaves little room for any critical evaluation.
A closer look at the financial and age profile of elected representatives will help us understand the reasons for the better performance of one legislative assembly over others. In this regard, a comparative analysis of 6th Delhi Legislative assembly, 13th Haryana legislative assembly and 16th Lok Sabha, all of which were formed after respective elections in 2014 or early 2015, is undertaken.
The average assets of an MLA of Delhi are 6.3 crores, which saw a steep decline from the average assets of 10.83 crores of MLAs elected in 2013 assembly elections. In contrast, the average assets of an MLA for 2014 Haryana assembly were 12.97 crores, while for 2014 Lok Sabha MPs it stood at 14.70 crores.
Moreover, the age profile of Delhi’s MLA indicates that it is a young and dynamic assembly, with 40% of them being under the age of 40. While 13th Haryana legislative assembly had only 10% of MLAs who were under 40, and 16th Lok Sabha had 13% of MPs under this age-group. The young elected representatives are crucial in the governance system, for not only bringing voices of youth but also for introducing cutting-edge innovations that improve the lives of people.
Legislatures, for long, have been regarded as the foundation of Indian democracy. Right from the time of setting up of a constituent assembly, which drafted the constitution of India, till today’s era of disruptions, adjournments, and personal attacks during sessions, Indian legislatures have seen a dismal downward trend. To evolve into a new-age and effective democracy, it is important for the people of this country to evaluate and examine the performance of its legislatures critically.