New Delhi: When it
opened six decades ago, it was a highly revered institution,
packed with stalwarts who won freedom for India and where debates
were of high quality. As parliament marks its 60th anniversary
Sunday, analysts and even MPs admit that disorder has become the
order of the day in both houses.
A lot of other sweeping changes have taken place too.
The first Lok Sabha, formed after the 1952 election, was dominated
by the Congress and the towering presence of Jawaharlal Nehru,
with the Communists being the main opposition.
Today, while still heading the ruling coalition, the Congress is a
much weakened political force, surviving on the support of not so
loyal allies. The Communists are a pale shadow of their former
The percentage of MPs without secondary education -- many gave up
schooling for the independence struggle -- was almost a quarter in
1952. It is now just three percent.
Most MPs in the first house were lawyers by training. Now most are
linked to agriculture.
There is a noticeable shift in the age profile too.
In 1952, only 20 percent of MPs were 56 years or older. In 2009,
when the last Lok Sabha election was held, this zoomed to 43
percent, said Devika Malik of PRS Legislative Research, a think
The members of the first Lok Sabha included, in the treasury and
opposition benches, besides Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Vallabhai
Patel, B.R. Ambedkar, Abul Kalam Azad, A.K. Gopalan, Sucheta
Kriplani, Jagjivan Ram, Sardar Hukam Singh, Asoka Mehta and Rafi
Speeches, debates and interventions in the house were of a very
high order. Even when they differed with their opponents, everyone
Sixty years later, this has been the biggest casualty.
Senior politicians fondly recall the days when disruptions were
infrequent and ruckus, sloganeering and rancour were almost
Cabinet minister Virbhadra Singh, who entered the Lok Sabha in
1962, told IANS: "Disruptions on small issues never happened
earlier. Members strongly expressed their differences of opinion
but there was hardly an occasion when parliament was disrupted.
Now this is the rule rather than the exception."
Bharatiya Janata Party's Sumitra Mahajan said members in earlier
decades reflected a national view in their thinking. "They had a
pan-India approach to issues. Now state perspective has become
Mahajan, into her seventh term as a Lok Sabha member, said there
was respect for senior leaders in the past. If any of them stood
up to speak, members would listen without creating a din.
"In later days, even Atalji had to face disturbances," she said,
referring to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Political analyst S. Nihal Singh agreed the standard of debates
earlier was very high. "There is much less real debate now, much
more of noise and disturbance."
Nihal Singh said there was less respect for parliamentary
democracy now though everybody swears by it, adding that the
frequent disruptions were a waste of public money.
Former Lok Sabha secretary general Subash C. Kashyap said
parliament only reflected the larger society.
"They (MPs) are representatives of people that we are... Of our
weaknesses, our culture, sense of values, our indiscipline... If
there is indiscipline in society, it is bound to be reflected."
Kashyap said there was more discussion on international affairs
when Nehru was the prime minister.
More disorder means less work in parliament.
According to PRS legislative Research, the first Lok Sabha passed
an average of 72 bills every year. This has decreased to 40 in the
15th Lok Sabha.
Former Rajya Sabha deputy chairperson Najma Heptulla, in her sixth
term, said many parliamentarians of the earlier era were freedom
fighters. Their values and issues have almost vanished, she