India: Chief of Gujarati government spoke only three times in legislative session

Gujarati Legislative Assembly.

Gujarat Social Watch (GSW, member of Social Watch India) revealed this week, in its review of the 10th session of the 12th Gujarati Legislative Assembly, that the chief minister (head of the state government) Narendra Modi spoke only three times in the entire session, which lasted 30 days.

“Chief Minister Modi, who is fond of delivering political speeches, does not speak when the Assembly is in session. For the entire tenth session, which included 29 sittings, Modi spoke only thrice,” said environmental activist Mahesh Pandya, of Paryavaran Mitra, a member organization of GSW.

“The chief minister does not actively participate in the Assembly discussions. “Probably in the assembly, the chief minister is bound by parliamentary norms and hence did not speak much,” added Pandya, while releasing the report in Ahmedabad, the state capital.

Two of the three Modi’s speeches at the Assembly were given to offer condolences on the occasion of the death of former legislators.

The highlights of the session, according to GSW members, were that the leader of the opposition was banned from the Assembly until the end of the debates. For the first time in the history of the Gujarat state parliament, its speaker also issued a directive banning the recording or telecasting of the proceedings without his consent.

The GSW report focuses on the debate about the budget, held from 23 February to 30 March. The review contains analysis on the questions asked by the members of the Assembly, examples of contradictory information given in the answers, and a chapter related to the general situation of Gujarat, based on data requested by the legislators to the executive authorities.

The study remarks that 24 out of 182 members of the Assembly were present at all the 29 sittings and four did not attend to any meeting of the plenary. Questions asked by 20 legislators were not answered by the executive authorities, according to the GSW report. An average of six questions were issued in each sitting. Twelve members of the Gujarati Assembly asked a maximum of 60 questions, while six of them did not ask any question.

“State government derives all the power from Legislative Assembly for its administration. The Assembly also keeps an eye on whether the administration is working properly or not,” noted GSW in a press release. “For this purpose elected members of the Assembly raise questions about any aspect of administrative activity. They can take part in different discussions, participate in legislature activities and present their views.”

“Social Watch process is the collective response of a number of development organizations, social action groups, and citizens to ensure that there is a critical engagement with the process of governance. This is a part of the initiative to make democracy meaningful and participatory,” adds the text.

The analysis, which was released on Tuesday, does not mark many differences between legislators belonging to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Gujarat Congress in the opposition.

Vice-chancellor of the organization Gujarat Vidyapith, Sudarshan Iyengar believes, “It is necessary to check whether” the state Legislative Assembly “is working in accordance with Constitution of India.”

“The state may follow any ideology – capitalist, socialist or humanitarian – but questions need to be asked to lend legitimacy to its system,” said Iyengar.

Others who spoke at the unveiling of the analysis were political scientists, Prof Ghanshyam Shah and Prof Rohit Shukla, and social activist Gagan Sethi.

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