The ruling party has made it mandatory for all 122 MLAs and 12 MLCs to sign an attendance sheet on the hour,every hour, between 11 am and 6 pm; insiders say this is a bid to thwart an increasingly aggressive Opposition
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislators cannot escape proceedings of the ongoing session of the state legislators, even if they wish to. The party bosses have put a mechanism in place to track its 122 legislators in the Assembly and 12 in the Upper House on an hourly basis on working days.
Legislators are allowed to take breaks, but not leave the Vidhan Bhavan premises without intimation. File pic
The mechanism works like this. The legislators have been split into groups of 10 members each under a senior MLA, who marks their attendance every hour between 11 am and 6 pm on working days. Each member is asked to sign the attendance sheet in the particular time slot.
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Congress and NCP MLAs boycotted proceedings in the Assembly yesterday, demanding that the BJP-Sena coalition government declare a farm loan waiver. BJP MLAs said the move to mark attendance is to help them deal with the increasingly aggressive Opposition. Pic/PTI
This move is to counter the Opposition, which the ruling party feels has been very aggressive in the past three days. The MLAs are allowed to take breaks, but not leave the premises of Vidhan Bhavan without intimation. The attendance time extends in case the day’s proceedings get stretched beyond 6 pm.
The Opposition has been boycotting the proceedings since the monsoon session began on Monday. They want the Devendra Fadnavis government to declare a farm loan waiver in view of the agrarian crisis and drought situation in the state.
But a big ruckus is expected in the Lower House whenever the Opposition decides to attend the House. Sources said a similar system is working for the BJP’s 12 members in the Upper House. The Assembly has 288 members (excluding one nominated) and the Upper House has 78.
On Wednesday, mid-day saw at least 30 legislators marking their attendance with their respective group. A senior legislator from Vidarbha was carrying the sheet and reminding MLAs under his command to sign it. Another group leader had been chasing his members to get their signatures.
One of the leaders said the attendance sheets are submitted to the chief whip of the party and parliamentary affairs minister (in-charge), Prakash Mehta. “The compulsory attendance is expected to work in many ways. It will ensure the presence of our legislators in the premises and also in the respective houses.
At the end of the session, the MLAs will also be assessed for attendance and overall performance in the legislature, by the party and independent agencies who work in parliamentary affairs,” he said, adding that the legislators needed to give an application to the chief if they want to avail leave for a day or two.
“The legislators may not be granted leave if the business on the days he wants to stay away on is more important,” he said. There have been instances in the past in which the majority legislators were missing from action when needed in the House most.
The chief whip would send the missing legislators SOS messages asking them to rush to the House, especially when a division of votes (in passing a bill or approving a debate) was demanded or the Opposition created a ruckus.
The BJP needs its legislators the most, despite having more strength in the House, because the legislators assume that their other colleagues would be present in their absence. But, in reality, it doesn’t happen so and the party ends up having inadequate presence.
A senior BJP MLA said the attendance has been made compulsory for the ministers as well. Generally, the cabinet ministers or their juniors, whose respective departments are being discussed in the House, attend the proceedings.
The CM, too, spends considerable time in the House. However, the Opposition had complained to the Speaker (the Assembly) and Chairman (the Council) in past sessions that the ministers were not serious.
The government has also issued a directive to departmental secretaries to not miss the proceedings and assist their ministers in giving replies to the questions and debates. The ministers have been asked to take official briefings from the department secretaries at their respective residences, instead of asking the officials to visit the Vidhan Bhavan offices.
Successful crowd control
In a bid to prevent the increasing crowding of the Vidhan Bhavan premises by political workers and delegations of protestors, the state legislature has brought in reforms to control access to the Vidhan Bhavan this session.
The heads of legislative houses, the CM and ministers have been given a limited quota to allow guests on a daily basis. The ministers have been asked to not invite delegations of the protesting organisations to the Vidhan Bhavan, and, instead, meet them at the venue of the protest, or at their respective residences.
The reform has made security personnel heave a sigh of relief because not many outsiders are allowed inside the Bhavan. Many police personnel, who would be posted at the different gates of the Vidhan Bhavan, are now doing their regular duties at their respective police stations.