On Friday, the last day of the last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, the House was the picture of the perfect legislature, with members of Parliament (MPs) on their best behaviour.
Incidentally, this Lok Sabha was the most disruptive in India’s parliamentary history.
Friday recorded this session’s first full Question Hour, which gave way to Zero Hour, in which MPs raised issues of concern. This extended well beyond lunch, with MPs being given an opportunity to speak on the last day in the House.
As the 543 Lok Sabha MPs called it a day, the House witnessed a series of emotional farewell speeches and unusual camaraderie by the prime minister, leader of the House and leader of the Opposition.
As this was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s last speech in Parliament (he has already declared he will not opt for a third term, should there be a Congress government at the Centre), his wife Gursharan Kaur was in the visitors’ lobby to hear him. In his brief address, Singh said the “people will now have an opportunity to judge on performance, weaknesses and achievements of the government in the coming elections”.
He pointed to the Telangana and the Food Security Bills, saying the former was an indication that “the country is capable of taking some of the most difficult decisions without any rancour”, while the latter would benefit the deprived sections of the community. He concluded on an optimistic note —“out of this strife and tensionful atmosphere, the birth of a new atmosphere of hope will emerge”.
Leader of the House, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, played the role of the perfect statesman, thanking Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, for her party’s support in getting the contentious Telangana Bill passed. Shinde said, Aap ki baat mein mithaas hai, mithai khane se bhi woh mithaas nahi hoti (Your words are very sweet; they are sweeter than sweets).
In her address, Swaraj reciprocated with unusual bonhomie, a far cry from her heated exchanges with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath. As all commended Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar for her adroit handling of the proceedings of the House, Kumar, in turn, thanked them for their cooperation, before adjourning the House sine die.
15th Lok Sabha report card
* From 1952 to 1967, each of the three Lok Sabhas sat for an average 600 days and more than 3,700 hours. However, the 15th Lok Sabha — from 2009 till 2013 — met for only 345 days and 1,331 hours
* Thirty-one Bills were listed for consideration and passage in the December 2013 session. Only one – the Lok Pal Bill – was passed
* The 15th Lok Sabha was productive for 63 per cent of the total scheduled time. Only a fifth of the meeting time was spent on legislative work
* Only 165 Bills have been passed till date. This is about half the 333 Bills the first Lok Sabha (1952-1957) had passed
* The average number of Bills passed by Lok Sabhas that finished the full five-year term is 317. Currently, 26 Bills are pending in Parliament. All the Lok Sabha Bills will lapse at the time of its dissolution. Some of these include the Direct Taxes Code Bill, the Constitution Amendment related to the Goods and Services Tax, the Mines and Minerals Bill, the Public Procurement Bill, the Micro Finance Institutions Bill, and the Coal Regulatory Authority Bill
* In the 15th Lok Sabha, 35 per cent of the total Bills passed were debated for an hour or less and 20 per cent of the total Bills passed were debated for less than two hours. The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at the Work Place Bill was passed in 20 minutes
* Some significant legislations passed included the Right to Education Bill, the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Food Security Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill, the Companies Bill, the Pension Bill and the Lok Pal Bil