Friday, June 2, 2023

Vidhan Parishads: Irrelevant in Indian democracy


By Prabhat Kishore

Vidhan Parishad or Legislative Council is the upper house in some states of the Indian Republic, which have a bicameral legislature with Vidhan Sabha as the lower house. Article 169 of the Constitution of India deals  the abolition & creation of this permanent House. The composition of  Vidhan  Parishad is multilayered. As per Article 171, one-third of its member are elected by the State Vidhan Sabha, one-third are elected by the state’s local bodies,  one-twelfth are elected by the registered graduates and one-twelfth are elected by the teachers; whereas the remaining one-sixth members are nominated by the Governor.

Presently, out of 28 states of India, only six states, namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, have a Vidhan  Parishad.  Earlier  existing Vidhan  Parishads have been abolished in some states like Assam (in 1969), Madhya Pradesh (in 1969), Punjab (in 1969), Tamilnadu (in 1986), West Bengal (in 1969) and Jammu & Kashmir (in 2019).  The Andhra Pradesh Vidhan  Parishad was abolished in 1985 during N.T. Ramarao led TDP Government regime, but was revived in 2007 during T.R.S. Reddy led Congress government regime. The Andhra Pradesh Vidhan Sabha has again passed a resolution in January 2020  to abolish the existing Vidhan  Parishad, but withdraw the resolution in November 2021. It has also been discontinued in the  newly carved out states like Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, whose parent states still own  it. A resolution  to create Vidhan  Parishad in Assam, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamilnadu and West Bengal have been passed by their Vidhan Sabha.

The Vidhan  Parishads are criticized for being unnecessary and considered a  burden on the state budget. After considering 100 years of its functioning and other aspects, it is argued that Vidhan  Parishad has no relevance in Indian democracy.  It cannot be said that the six states, which own Vidhan  Parishad,  have progressed more in comparison to the other states.  Obviously,  the  Vidhan  Parishad has nothing to do with the development & well-being of any state and it has no special utility.

Secondly, the Vidhan  Parishad is a passive house as it has been given nominal power. It can withhold a general bill for a maximum of 4 months (3 months for the first time and one month for the second time) and  a finance bill for only 14 days. However, in the administrative field, it enjoys equal rights &  importance with the Vidhan Sabha and its members (called MLC)  become Chief Ministers and Ministers. They ask questions, raises public issues and participate in the debates of the House. Some argue that despite being a weak house, it can stall a dictatorial bill passed by the Vidhan Sabha for some time  and compels the Vidhan Sabha to reconsider the bill. But this logic is applicable to those states where the opposition has a majority in the Vidhan  Parishad.

Thirdly, according to the constitution, there is a system of nomination of eminent persons in the fields of literature, art, science, cooperative, social service etc. in the Vidhan  Parishad and some seats are reserved for them. But now-a-days in place of such personalities, politicians rejected by the people or hand picked men of political supremos are being frequently  sent to this house. It is serving as refuse of those who are defeated in assembly elections. However,  such nominations can not be objected in the present circumstances, because today large-scale incidents of encroachment of polling booths are happening and democracy is turning into a ‘criminal-system’. The more high-ranking the criminal is today, the more sure his victory is. As a result, the deserving person loses the election, despite being popular among the masses. If there is no arrangement for nomination, the people will be deprived of their services. In this way, the system of nomination is like a sword with a sharp edge at both ends, which strikes from both sides.

Fourthly, with the increasing influence of money power in society and politics, the entry of resourceful people into this “back door” house has become easier. It enables  unpopular, rejected and ambitious politicians to occupy the post of CM, Minister or a member of the legislature. The emergence of supremocracy in place of internal democracy in political parties has guaranteed the entry of outsiders into the House while denying  grassroots activists. The expensive democratic elections have compelled the political parties, especially regional parties, to embrace the power-hungry money-holders, as they contribute towards election expenditure.

Fifth, the most discussed topic about the Vidhan  Parishad is its “economic aspect”. The Vidhan  Parishad is a white elephant, on which billions rupees of earnings of the people’s blood and sweat are shed like water, who are not able to afford food even for two times despite day and night hard work. On functioning of Vidhan  Parishad in a state an average expenditure of  Rupees 600-800 Crore is done with no much purpose, curtailing the people’s basic amenities. Today, there is a lot of debt on the government and various welfare schemes are not being implemented properly due to paucity of funds. According to a survey conducted some time ago, each member of the Vidhan  Parishad spends on an average four-five lakh rupees  as traveling allowance.  Recently, their salary and other allowances have been increased and provision has also been made to give vehicle allowance. As a result, the cost per member will increase even more. They are also being paid lifelong pension on the lines of government employee. All these expenses will be recovered from the poor people in various forms.

The above analysis reveals that the people gain less and lose more from the Vidhan Parishad. In the present circumstances, Vidhan Sabha is sufficient to fulfill the will & wish of the people.  The Vidhan Parishads are just a copy of the constitution of the rich & developed nation in which there is a second chamber for the elite. Overall, keeping in mind the interests of the people, the existing Vidhan Parishads are said to be irrelevant in Indian context and should be abolished in all states.

(Author is a technocrat & academician. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected])

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