By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS
Gandhinagar, April 11, 2008 | Not even an hour was lost in the just concluded first session of the 12th Gujarat assembly, setting a precedent for legislators across the country, says Speaker Ashok Bhatt.
Bhatt said the ruling party members and the opposition exhibited high standards of tolerance and harmony in the assembly session that began Jan 18 and ended March 26.
Four bills and three resolutions were unanimously passed, which was rare. The assembly timings did not have to be extended to compensate for disturbance or adjournments, he said.
“I began this on an experimental basis. I contacted all the members before the session and made them understand the importance of the smooth functioning of the house. I appealed to their sense of purpose,” Bhatt told IANS in an interview.
The members are the representatives of the people and if people have to regain faith in the democratic traditions, it is necessary for members to help in the smooth functioning of the house, he said. “I feel my efforts are paying off,” he added.
During the assembly session, 22 urgent questions were asked and answered. This was the 106th session ever since Gujarat state came into being.
It is after a long time in one’s memory that the house did not stop working for even a minute due to postponement or adjournment, a satisfied speaker said.
The house did not witness any unruly scenes. The way leaders of both the ruling and opposition groups put forth their views and discussed was indeed praiseworthy, he said.
Referring to the passing of four bills unanimously, Bhatt said that 14 bills of the government were passed while one was taken back by the government.
All 14 bills were discussed in an orderly fashion and then passed. “This has set a fine example for the 12th house,” he said.
Another notable feature was about questions during zero hour. For the last several years ministers never allowed questions during zero hour. This time three important questions were discussed, he said.
Attributing the success of the session to the unusual harmony shown by the two sides, Bhatt felt the change in the mindset of members could have largely come from the three-day Sansadiya Gyan Shibir, a workshop on parliamentary matters, held here March 2-4.
Those who attended the workshop were Bhatt, Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, Lok Sabha secretary general P.D.T. Acharya, former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap, former central minister Arun Shourie, opposition leader in assembly Shaktisinh Gohil, state Health Minister Jaynarayan Vyas, former Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad director Bakul Dholakia among others.
Addressing the newly elected members, Chatterjee had expressed concern over the deteriorating standards of legislators and MPs and said common people were now perceiving a lack of seriousness in the political class in sustaining the democratic structure.
“Frequent disruptions of the legislature and growing confrontational politics have eroded trust of the common man in our democratic values,” said Chatterjee.
Sounding a note of warning, he told the assembled Gujarat legislators: “It is a matter of serious concern that on the plea of non-functioning of legislatures, other organs are intruding into the area of the legislative organ.”
Bhatt also felt that the new developments could be related to the two-party system prevailing in Gujarat. “In other states and parliament it is the multiplicity of parties that leads to all sorts of evils,” he said.
Of the 182 legislators in the new assembly, 70 are new faces. The ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) has 117 members while the main opposition Congress has 59 and the National Congress Party (NCP) three. Two members are independent.