The 16th Lok Sabha, which adjourned on Wednesday, was notable for the fact that it saw a single party take majority in the House. A single-party majority government was in office for the first time in 30 years—the key factor lending uniqueness to this Lok Sabha. It came after a long line of coalitions between 1989 and 2014.

The 16th Lok Sabha saw a single party getting a majority with 282 seats and with the support of allies that number going up to more than 300.

In terms of performance, this Lok Sabha did not distinguish itself much.

To be sure, there were legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) Bill which were passed. The high point of this Lok Sabha was the midnight session of Parliament to mark the coming into effect of GST.

There was also the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that will be counted among major Bills passed by this Lok Sabha. These will be seen as useful in terms of setting the economy on a sound track.

However, if one were to look at legislation passed in terms of the prime minister’s slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas" or inclusive development, I would say the record of this Lok Sabha has been disappointing. There have been too few laws passed that make an impact such as constitutional amendments or in terms of legislation on social issues. If the government wanted inclusive development, at the end of five years, I don’t think we are any closer to that dream which I would say is a disappointment to thinking people.

Two legislations—the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill or triple talaq Bill and the Bill to provide 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of society—could come into the above category. But I would contend that these are rather controversial. The former deals with a civil issue which is marriage and divorce and divorcing ones’s wife by uttering talaq thrice has been made a criminal offence. In the case of the latter, reservations were brought in to remove social backwardness in society, or empowering those kept out of the power system.

With the 10% reservation for economically backward sections of society, the government has moved away from the fundamental precept for which reservations were conceived in the first place.

Another thing we saw in this Lok Sabha is the trend of disruptions that has continued from the past few Lok Sabha sessions. In fact, it was seen to have become worse in the 16th Lok Sabha.

Some sessions of the current Lok Sabha were completely lost to disruptions. Last year’s budget was passed without any discussion. Usually the finance Bill is something on which there is debate and discussion. Members suggest or move amendments. But last year, the budget was not subject to scrutiny.

The responsibility of ensuring that the House runs and business is conducted rests on the ruling party. Unfortunately, in this Lok Sabha, there was no dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. We have seen leaders in the past like Indira Gandhi, who had scant respect for the opposition, reach out to them to ensure the House runs smoothly. There would be a dialogue with the opposition and, as a result, there would be cooperation on important legislation getting passed. The opposition parties would be given time to speak. The opposition, too, would do their research, and put the government on the mat.

In the current Lok Sabha, there is an impression of a complete breakdown of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition. There is an impression that the government does not want debate or discussion. The ruling party has to be sensitive to the grievances of the opposition.

*P.D.T. Acharya was the secretary general of the 14th and 15th Lok Sabha.

Close