Ending Question Hour: What Hamid Ansari really told Indian politicians

Parliament functions like many other government bodies in the nation. Its MPs often act like they aren't answerable to anyone, functioning on whims that few can genuinely fathom, and often achieving little, while pretending to have overcome much. The past few sessions of Parliament have exemplified the worst of a democracy and Vice President Hamid Ansari today has bravely held up a mirror to MPs, that should ideally shame them, but is unlikely to.

Faced with shouting MPs, a normal course of events over the last four years, Ansari today seemed to have reached the end of his tether.

Standing up he first appealed for calm, and then spoke in a voice that while quiet didn't hide his scorn.

An animated Hamid Ansari during a disrupted session of the Rajya Sabha. File image. PTI

"For many days now the Chair has had to watch helplessly while Question Hour is disrupted again and again. So I propose a meeting of the Rules Committee and put before the members, two options.

"One, that we move question hour to another part of the day, or two, seeing that no one is interested in having their questions answered, we dispense with question hour altogther,” Ansari said.

The statement left most in the House speechless, barring a handful who continued to shout slogans, even as Ansari calmly left the House. The Congress quickly claimed a moral victory outside Parliament, claiming that it showed how the Opposition had been wrong in targeting the government.

"I am agitated and the entire country is agitated," Venkiah Naidu told the Chairman while justifying the suspension of Question Hour and demanding that Ansari stop defending the government.

However, no political party can claim any sort of victory if Question Hour is actually brought to an end.

To understand it we need to first understand the importance of Question Hour. It is the period is used by MPs to ask questions to ministers cutting across party lines and they are expected to raise issues that reflect the concerns of the people they represent, as well as that of the larger public. It is considered an important way for MPs to keep a check on the functioning of the government.

However whenever there is a 'burning' issue occupying the mind of the opposition, it is always the first segment that the opposition wants suspended.

The Rajya Sabha is filled with representatives chosen by political parties. The people don't directly elect them. The lack of interest in Question Hour as Ansari has pointed out can signify only one thing: that the representatives are no longer concerned about matters that are in the interests of the larger public, though they may shout otherwise.

While Ansari may have had the decorum to not say it in so many words, our Parliamentarians would do well to introspect on their conduct and at least attempt to amend their behaviour.