Tewari speaks out against whip, stresses need for 'liberating'

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Noting that lawmakers have become "virtual hostages of whip-driven tyranny", former Union Minister Manish Tewari has pitched for "liberating" them from party discipline except in cases of legislations that threaten the stability of a government.

Writing on the issue of whip and the need for "liberating the legislator", Tewari wondered whether the system had upended whereby choice lies with an individual elector but legislative power resides with political parties. "...rather than articulating the predilections and priorities of the territorial constituency that they represent, (lawmakers) have become but virtual hostages of a whip-driven tyranny," Tewari said in his book 'Decoding A Decade -- The Politics of Policymaking'.


He insisted that a party whip directs its members which way to vote practically on each and every bill. "This enforced adherence to the party line means that a member invariably ends up voting for a bill if he/she is on the treasury benches and against a bill if he/she is in the opposition," the Congress spokesperson said.

He said that this sometimes lead to an odd spectacle of parliamentarians voting against a legislative instrument which they had supported previously, depending on whether their party occupies the opposition or treasury benches. "An unfortunate trend that has recently manifested itself is the use of House majorities to get even Private Members' Bills defeated at the introduction stage. It restricts whatever little space individual members have been left with for legislative activity," Tewari wrote.

Arguing for selective issuance of whips, the former Information and Broadcasting Minister said little tweak restricting the rigours of the whip would free up the legislative space. This can also ensure that every government strives not only for cross-party consensus on legislation but reaches out to individual lawmakers also rather than just their leaderships, deepening participatory lawmaking in the process, he added.

The book is a collection of articles between 2006 and 2016 on subjects like the Constitution, role of media, political economy, the Modi regime, nuclear concerns, terrorism and Pakistan. Tewari says that the compilation, even in its randomness, tells a tale of an eventful decade in India's public affairs -- an era when the UPA government was charged with steering the ship of the Indian state and as it made way for the BJP-led NDA government in May 2014.


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