This is for those who are curious to know what the MPs of Bengaluru did in Parliament. Asking questions is the privilege of an MP, which could be used to obtain useful information by the government.
One of the main duties of an MP towards his/her constituency is to participate in debates and ask questions, of relevance to that MPs constituency, state and sometimes from a national point of view. The job of an effective opposition is to make sure that the government does it’s job and in this regard, questions are are effective tool.
Questions are mainly of two types – starred – those which are asked on the floor of the house – and unstarred – those which are submitted in writing to the particular ministry and to which answers are given in writing at a later date.
Starred questions are those for which an oral answer has to be given by the concerned minister while unstarred questions are those to which answers do not have to be given orally. Answers to unstarred questions are published later on by the respective ministries.
Since answers to starred questions are meant to be answered in Parliament itself, most pertinent questions are chosen as starred, by a parliamentary committee.
For the 15th Lok Sabha, with respect to Bangalore Urban, the three MPs representing the three LS constituencies asked their fair share of questions as well. Citizen Matters team has gone through each of the questions asked by the three MPs and have categorised those questions with respect to ‘ relevance to constituency’, ‘ relevance to state’ and ‘none of the above’.
This allows us and readers to understand what kind of questions each MP has asked, and try and understand why they ask, what they ask. We categorised what constitutes ‘relevant to constituency’ and ‘relevant to state’ has been done in a broad sense keeping the original role of an MP in mind – to raise issues at a larger level and to represent different sections of the population within the constituency and state which that MP represents.
In terms of total number of questions, Bangalore North MP Chandre Gowda comes out on top having asked 750 questions, P.C. Mohan asked a little over 250 questions, while Ananth Kumar asked with 234 questions.
The performance of two of the three MPs – P.C. Mohan and Ananth Kumar is below the national and state averages; in fact Chandre Gowda has asked more questions than the number asked by the other two MPs combined.
Starred Questions – Analysis
However in terms of type of questions – starred v/s unstarred questions- which are seen as having a bigger impact impact, 33 questions by Ananth Kumar have been starred (14% of the total questions asked by him), while 45 questions of Chandre Gowda were starred (6% of the total questions asked by him) and P C Mohan asked 15 questions ( also 6% of all the questions asked by him).
What comes off from a quick juxtaposition of starred questions and relevance to constituency/state is that a significant number of questions asked are relevant to individual MPs’ constituencies.
Thus in the case of all the three MPs, most of the questions asked by them are either relevant to either the constituency, state or both. There are also a small number of questions which can be termed as ‘irrelevant to both constituency and/or state’ – these are questions which can either be important from a national point of view or totally irrelevant from even that point of view.
Nature of questions
One can’t help but get the feeling that at least some of the questions are clearly aimed at embarrassing the Central government, especially when it comes to issues of national security, defence, home affairs and the like, where the BJP perceives the Central government to be weak.
The questions on India’s role in shaping Afghanistan’s future, the delay in purchase of air-force jets to the security situation in J&K among other such questions certainly points to the fact that the BJP is playing to its perceived strength on those issues.
In terms of the ministries which figure in the starred questions list, practically all ministries are covered by the three Bangalore MPs put together.
What comes out of the above graph is that the Bangalore MPs do not necessarily limit their questions to a particular ministry, rather they ask pertinent questions related to multiple ministries. It would be interesting to find out whether this is because of their own interest, or is it part of a larger strategy adopted by the BJP.
Questions relevant to constituency/state
This section analyses those questions asked by the three MPs relevant to their constituencies/state. Before going into that, here are two graphs which denote how MPs performed with respect to questions and their relevance to constituency/state.
The graph to the left gives a quick comparison of how MPs fare with respect to questions and their relevance to constituency/state. The first and most glaring fact which comes to the fore is the significant difference between the number of questions under the ‘relevant to constituency’ part of the graph.
Chandre Gowda comes off as the MP who has asked maximum questions which are relevant to his constituency (404/57%), while Ananth Kumar (47/21%) and 47 (19%) coming in second and third respectively.
P C Mohan and Ananth Kumar do marginally better when it comes to asking questions related to the state – asking 93 questions/ 36% and 82 questions /35% respectively; however, inspite of this improved statistics, they cannot compete with Chandre Gowda whose question count with respect to ‘relevance to state’ increases both numerically and in percentage terms – 519 questions/69 %.
However, there are also a number of questions which have been classified as not being relevant to either constituency/state due to multiple reasons – they may be of national importance, incomplete information – dead URLs. Thus, there are a significant number of questions whose relevancy quotient warrants further investigation.
Experience matters the most!
Each of the MPs comes out with his own special skill set while asking questions. While Chandre Gowda puts his long political career and legal training to good use while asking his questions, Ananth Kumar seems to ask questions which tend to signify a love for the dramatics, while P C Mohan sticks to basic issues.
There are certain commonalities in terms of the areas covered – all the MPs ask questions about food security, affordable health care, education, access to basic services – water, health, education etc in their own way. Each of them also talks about the need for energy security especially the need to promote renewable energy sources which is a promising sign.
But one MP’s (Chandre Gowda) idea of energy security also leads him to push for nuclear energy, while pushing for renewables as well, which might seem contradictory. Another common area which emerges is the need to protect economically weaker sections of society, namely SC/STs, workers in the unorganized sector, workers who have been laid off due to industries closing down. While these MPs talk about weaker sections, there is not much talk about protecting the interests of minority communities.
Two of the three MPs (Chandre Gowda and P C Mohan) also explicitly ask about plans regarding urban waste management. Probable reason could be the Bangalore garbage crisis in 2012 – 2013 where these two MPs were part of an official delegation which tried to sort out the mess, and were subsequently approached by local communities to solve this problem.
Urban governance is yet another theme which gets addressed, directly and indirectly. While Chandre Gowda explicitly asked about JNNURM, city plans and asked about plans to manage expanding cities – Bangalore included, Ananth Kumar addressed the issue of water privatisation and what that means to water accessibility.
Questions project MP’s worldview too!
After going through the questions asked by each of these MPs, one can’t but begin to form a mental image of each of these MPs. Chandre Gowda appears to be straddling two worlds – his past Congress World specially when he talks about a socialist agenda with respect to affordable healthcare, food security, energy security, BSNL getting a raw deal etc, and his BJP avatar where he talks about promoting nuclear power.
P C Mohan comes across as a political greenhorn who is yet to find his feet in national politics. While the questions which he poses are solid, they are basic questions and few in number – something which might be expected from a first timer.
Ananth Kumar comes across as a veteran, with a capacity to touch the most important issues. It should come as no surprise therefore that he poses questions appear to aim at embarrassing the government, while showcasing the strong points of the BJP.
These questions asked by the MPs are an integral part of the democratic process. However, what is probably missing and required is, a way to connect these questions with the constituents of each MP, so that there can be a continuous process of information exchange which can allow citizens to be aware of this aspect of their MP’s job, while communicating their needs to the MP who can take it to the highest level through questions.