Madhya Pradesh BJP Government Tells MLAs-Only Make Vague Promises To People (Read Circular)
The objective is to avoid saying anything that could be interpreted as making any kind of assurance to the House that something will be or is being done
Bhopal: Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has hit upon a unique solution to the problem of him and his Party MLAs coming under frequent fire in the State assembly for making promises that are not kept and giving assurances that are soon forgotten — don’t use words or sentences that can be interpreted as a promise or assurance.
And to ensure this, a circular issued by the State government lists 34 sentences that are to be avoided while answering questions from the opposition benches.
Issued by the Department of parliamentary affairs to all heads of departments, this list contains standard replies now regularly used by the BJP ministers. Officials have been instructed to avoid these statements while drafting replies for their political bosses. “Ministers must remain cautious that their replies do not turn into assurances,” the circular says.
The aim is to bring down drastically the number of assurances/promises given by ministers to the House. More than 2200 such assurances given by the Chief Minister and various other ministers, some of them made over 15 years back, are pending.
One of the CM’s unkept promises was made in the 2017 budget session on issuing a White Paper in the next session on the severe malnutrition problem in the State which the opposition had highlighted. Also pending are over 24 other assurances given by the CM, besides those concerning other departments like Urban Administration, Health, Revenue, Panchayat, Public Works, Agriculture and Education.
Former Principal Secretary of MP State Assembly, BD Israni said that the “pendency of assurances had gone up after proceedings were made online.”
Explaining the process, he said: “the assembly now convenes a meeting of the Assurance Committee after every session to assess the status of pending assurances. The committee also seeks an Action Taken Report from the departments which have sent the officials into a tizzy,” said Israni.
Hence this latest circular which, to name a few, mentions the following statements that are to be avoided: ‘Yeh vishay vicharadhin hai‘ (the subject is under consideration). That’s first on the list, followed by ‘Mai uski chaanbin karunga‘ (I will look into it), ‘Poochtach ki ja rahi hai‘ (information is being gathered), ‘Mai is par vichar karunga‘ (I will mull over it), ‘Sujhav par vichar kiya jayega‘ (suggestion will be discussed), ‘Main kendriya sarkar ko likhunga‘ (I will write to the central government), ‘Main apne daure ke samay par jakar stithi ka adhyan karunga‘ (I will assess the situation during my visit.)
And the absurd list goes on, trying to cover any and every possibility of a meaningful reply that would put the responsibility on the government or ministers. A catchall phrase, especially when cornered over a scam or other embarrassing events, was “Jaankari ekatra ki jaa rahi hai aur sadan ke patal par rakh di jayegi” (information is being gathered and would be presented before the House). This hackneyed phrase is also among the 34 sentences to be avoided in the House.
Not surprisingly, opposition leaders described the circular as yet another attempt by the BJP government to “choke democracy.”
During the recent budget session, the assembly secretariat had put restrictions on questions that MLAs could ask.
According to that order, MLAs could not ask questions on cases pending before any committee formed by the House. MLAs could not even ask questions related to communal tensions or security provided to VIPs. However, the resultant opposition uproar forced the secretariat to withdraw that order.
The leader of the opposition Ajay Singh said: “the circular indicates that the BJP does not believe in democracy.” Senior Congress MLA Mukesh Naik added that the importance of State Assemblies is being undermined in States ruled by the BJP.
(Shahroz Afridi is a Bhopal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.)