Team Mangalorean Special report
with inputs from Udupi bureau
Mangalore: Voters elect their representatives to take care of their welfare and interest. They are expected to be on their toes to ensure that the interests of respective constituencies are protected.
Our legislators earn perks to the tune of Rs 1 lakh a month, with free travel, accommodation, phone facility and the like thrown in for good measure. Their duty is to keep the government of the date on its guard. As part of this duty, they are expected to make their presence felt in the legislative house not only physically but verbally felt as well. A legislator's record is marked by the number of questions he or she poses, thereby signifying his alertness and intelligence.
In public interest, a local media colleague recently decided to seek the relevant information under the Right to Information (RTI) provisions, on the exact pattern of questions raised in the state legislative assembly in the last four-year tenure. The information gathered is proof enough to how interested our elected representatives are in the official business of the house in general and their concern for their constituents in particular.
The fact that out of the total 224 MLAs elected by the people of the state, 56 MLAs have observed the 'silence of the lambs' by not speaking at all in the house. There are 27 MLAs who have not raised more than 10 questions. JD(S) leads in the number of those who raised questions, while the ruling BJP and opposition Congress sharing the second place.
The first-time elected ones - young and the old alike - are prominent in the 'non-questioning' category. The assembly sessions take place only twice a year. Yet, most of them did not find it proper or necessary to open their mouths and seek any information from the government.
Here is the 'questionable' record of the present legislative house.
Does superstition have any role to play here? It is the 13th Vidhan Sabha of the state, which has held 13 sessions so far. There has been a rule that a minimum of 60 days of official business should be conducted in a year. Throwing the mandatory requirement and parliamentary traditions to the wind, the present government has gained the dubious achievement of holding sessions for a mere 140 days in the entire four-year period!
The BJP government can boast of having held sessions for 17 days in 2008, 42 days in 2009 and 31 days each in 2010 and 2011. Notifications are issued 7 or 15 days ahead of each sitting to the members to raise questions. They are categorized as starred and non-starred. Starred questions are responded to by the minister concerned and further clarifications are allowed, while non-starred ones receive only answers.
In spite of the opportunity and the time given, it is a sad commentary on our state legislature's record that many MLAs have not developed the practice of raising questions. Although sessions take place once in six months, many among the elected representatives have not bothered to seek any information about the needs and shortfalls in their respective constituencies. Voters have a duty to 'question' the candidates on their 'questionable' record when they come to seek votes the next time around.
Mangalore (Ullal) MLA U T Khader of Congress has set a new benchmark by raising 383 questions during the current tenure. Bhalki MLA Ishwar Bhimanna Khandre of Congress with 359 and Shantinagar Bangalore MLA N A Harris with 320 stand second and third respectively.
Those who have raised over 100 questions are 26 in number - 15 from Congress, 7 from JD(S) and 4 from BJP.
Zero hour or 'zero' session?
In the 13th Vidhan Sabha, 60 MLAs have set a record by not raising any questions. Out of them, only 56 are sitting members. Of the other four, Mallikarjun Kharge has been elected an MP, Gowrishanker and Jaggesh have resigned and Chandrashekhar Patil Revoor has passed away. Of these 56, BJP's share is 38, Congress' is 15 and a sole JD(S) MLA Arun Rao Patil Revoor, who has not posed a single question.
Although opposition leader S Siddaramaiah also figures in the list and has not raised any written questions, he has kept all discussions lively by taking part actively and has succeeded in embarrassing the government when most needed.
Veterans of silence
B S Yeddyurappa, after resigning as CM, has not raised any questions in the two sessions since held.
The list of 'zero-achievers' includes veteran members like V Srinivas Prasad, Shamanur Shivashankarappa, Malaka Reddy, Sharanabasappa Darshanapura, Baburao Chinchanasur and Chandrakant Bellad, not forgetting BJP state president K S Eshwarappa.
Prominent members of the Bellary camp like Karunakara Reddy, Sriramulu, Suresh Babu, Chandra Naik and Nemiraj Naik too have been 'silent' spectators. Twenty first-time MLAs too have the same 'zero questions' record.
Full justice to be done to the trust placed
It should be noted that a session of the house is the heart of the legislature. An MLAs duty is not just presiding over functions held in his constituency or getting honoured. The champion of questions, MLA U T Khader says that the elected representatives' area of functioning is not just attending the sessions.
They have to justify the trust placed in them by the electorate by taking part in the discussion and drawing the attention of the government towards the problems faced by their constituencies or glaring issues bothering the state, Khader further says.
U T Khadar Congress 383
Eshwar Khandre Congress 359
N A Harris Congress 320
K G Kumaraswamy BJP 271
Vasant Bangera Congress 250
Narendra Babu Congress - 213
Bagepalli Sampangi Congress 207
Ramalinga Reddy Congress - 203
Bandeppa Kashampur JDS 190
Siddu Sawadi BJP 177
Kalpana Siddaraju 60
Anita Kumaraswamy 18
Mallika Prasad 17
Aruna Patil Revoor 00
Single question each
Bharamagowda Kage BJP, Pranna Eshanna Munavalli BJP, A Narayanaswamy BJP, M V Nagaraju BJP, Ramanna Lamani BJP, Seema Masuti BJP, Yogish Bhat BJP, B Suresh Gowda-BJP, D Sudhakar Independent , Vartur Prakash Independent
Two questions each
Duryodhana Aihole, Hemachandra Sagar, Madal Viroopaksha
Independent MLAs : Golihatti Shekar 52, Narendra Swamy -14, Shivaraj Tangadagi 12, D Sudhakar, Varthr Prakash 1, Sriramulu and Venkataramanappa
Party presidents' performance
BJP president K S Eshwarappa has not asked a single question. KPCC President G Parameshwar asked 10 questions. JDS state president H D Kumaraswamy, when he was the MLA for a year, asked 2 questions. H D Revanna has raised 90 questions.