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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The young and questioning

Young Turks were less visible in the House than older MPs. But they asked many more questions.

Indian Express has been tracking the daily presence and activity of ‘young turks’ in Parliament. In Lok Sabha, of the 536 sitting MPs, 90 MPs are below 45 years, the number for Rajya Sabha is 11 out of 239 MPs. We summarise the activity of this cohort during the Budget Session that concluded yesterday, based on data available from the Parliament website. The analysis excludes all ministers (58 including 5 young MPs in Lok Sabha, and 22 in Rajya Sabha), the presiding officers and their deputies.

Of the 28 days in the Budget Session, attendance record of Lok Sabha MPs is available for the first 21 days. Data for Rajya Sabha is not yet available. The average attendance of young MPs was 62 per cent. This is lower than the 70 per cent attendance rate of those above 45 years of age.

Five young MPs — Ajaya Kumar, K.S. Manoj, Tushar Chaudhary, Virchandra Paswan and Jyotirmoyee Sikdar — had attended all days; the MP with the lowest attendance (one day) was Govinda Ahuja (yes, the actor).

The first hour of Parliament is devoted to questions. During the session, a total of 10,856 questions were asked — an average of 15.6 per MP. Young MPs averaged 20.5 questions, well above the 14.8 average for older MPs. The three figure mark was crossed by five — Jay Panda, Asaddudin Owaisi, Kishanbhai Patel, Sugrib Singh and Supriya Sule.

Parliament spends a significant amount of time on debates. While the party leadership nominates MPs for certain debates (such as legislative debates), individual MPs may raise issues (for example, during Zero Hour) without any direction from the party. The participation of younger MPs (1.8 debate per MP) was significantly lower than that of older MPs (2.6). This pattern held true for both debates in which participants were nominated by the party (1.3 for younger MPs vs 1.7 for older ones) and where MPs were free to participate (0.5 vs 0.8). Only two young MPs clocked double figures for debates — K.S. Manoj and Kiren Rijiju.

By M.R. Madhavan


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