During the recent winter session of parliament, it was reported that the PM urged his party MPs to be regular to the parliament. Data from the 17th Lok Sabha indicates that the average attendance was not more than 80% in any of the sessions. Only 6 MPs have 100% attendance. Of the 149 sittings of the 17th Lok Sabha, only four days had more than 90% attendance.
With the recent conclusion of the winter session of the Parliament, the 17th Lok Sabha has almost completed half of its five-year term. The 17th Lok Sabha met for a total of 149 days since its inception in 2019. Reportedly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently urged Members of Parliament (MPs) of the BJP to be regular to the Parliament. It is in this context we look at the attendance of the members of the 17th Lok Sabha in terms of sessions & the parties they represent.
Methodology: Since the 17th Lok Sabha saw the death and resignation of 11 members and Lok Sabha does not consider attendance of Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Prime Minister and Ministers, the analysis is made considering the attendance of only those members who signed either through the Register or Mobile attendance application or both.
As per the rules of the Lok Sabha, a member is considered present if he signs the attendance register. If a member was present on a particular day but did not sign the attendance register, he is considered absent. In our analysis, we consider all those who did not sign the register as absent. It is also possible that some parties may have boycotted certain days or an entire session for various reasons & issues. Since such MPs do not sign the register, they are treated as absent. For instance, MPs of the TRS boycotted a major portion of the winter session on the issue of paddy procurement.
Only 148 MPs have more than 90% attendance
The 17th Lok Sabha since its inception in 2019 sat for 149 days over seven (7) sessions. Of the 542 members, at least 59 members held ministerial portfolios during any session which means 481 members were required to sign the register to get their attendance recorded in Lok Sabha. However, only 148 members have more than 90% attendance. 93 members have less than 50%. Six MPs have attended all the 149 days over the seven sessions and recorded 100% attendance.
Three parties have more than 50% of their members with more than 90% attendance
Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) with 3 MPs, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with 10 MPs and Janata Dal (United) with 16 MPs are the only parties with more than 50% of its members attending more than 90% of the sittings of the 17th Lok Sabha so far. BSP is the only national party with more than 50% of its members attending 90% or more of the total sittings. Among the other national parties, less than 50% of its members had more than 90% attendance; BJP (44%), CPI(M) (33%), NCP and INC with 20% and 19% respectively.
No Session saw more than 80% average attendance
A session is defined as the period between the meeting of a Parliament and its prorogation. Normally, three Sessions of the Lok Sabha are held in a year namely, the Budget Session, which is usually the longest (February – May), Autumn or Monsoon Session (July – August) and Winter Session (November – December). In the 17th Lok Sabha, the Lok Sabha met for a total of seven sessions till date.
Of the seven sessions, the first session saw an average attendance of 76% while the fourth and fifth sessions which were conducted between first and second lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic saw 64% and 60% attendance respectively. The fourth & fifth sessions lasted for 10 and 25 days respectively.
The 4th session saw the highest number of parties (6) with 100% attendance.
The lone MPs of All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU), Naga People’s Front (NPF) and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) attended all the sittings of the first session of the 17 Lok Sabha which was held between 17 June 2019 to 06 August 2019. They recorded 100% attendance.
No party has recorded 100% attendance in the second session. In the third session, the lone MP of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) recorded 100% attendance while in the fifth session, the lone MP of the National People’s Party (NPP) recorded 100% attendance.
It is in the fourth session that the greatest number of parties (6) recorded 100% attendance of all their MPs. This was the session held during the COVID-19 lockdown. In the Sixth and seventh sessions, there were three parties each with 100% attendance of their respective MPs.
Only four days witnessed more than 90% of attendance
Of the 149 days that the Lok Sabha sat during the 17th Lok Sabha, only four days had an attendance of 90% or more MPs. The following are the dates.
On 18 June 2019, the house saw the oath or affirmation of members who had not taken it already.
26 June 2019, with an attendance of 91.47% saw the passage of important bills like The Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019, The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
On 18 July 2019, the Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar made statements regarding the developments that have taken place pertaining to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian citizen in the illegal custody of Pakistan.
24 July 2019 saw a discussion on several important bills like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill, 2019 and The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Bill, 2019 which was introduced in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Finance, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, on 19 July 2019.
MPs can apply for Leave
Article 101(4) in The Constitution of India talks about disqualification of a Member of Parliament (MP) if he/she is absent continuously for 60 days from the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha without permission. Hence, MPs usually submit leave applications when they are absent from the house for a longer period.
Since the beginning of the 17th Lok Sabha, a total of 39 leave applications were received from 26 MPs. These 39 applications together sought leave of more than 1296 days. An MP is supposed to submit his leave application to the Speaker of the house citing the reasons for absence, and one single leave application cannot exceed 60 days. All such leave applications thus received are referred to the ‘Committee on Absence of Members from the Sittings of the House’, a standing committee in the Lok Sabha that meets and decides on each such leave application.
The Committee on Absence of Members from the sitting of the House has recently released its 6th report containing details of the MP’s leave duration and reasons for which they are availing the leave. Ravneet Singh of INC, an MP from Punjab is its current Chairperson.
Of the 39 leave applications submitted by MPs belonging to ten different political parties, BJP MPs submitted 16 applications followed by 7 of the Trinamool Congress, 5 of the BSP. MPs from the INC, SP, YSRCP and Jammu & Kashmir National Conference submitted 2 applications each. MPs from the BJD, CPI and Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM) parties submitted 1 application each.
Illness is the most cited reason
24 of the 39 leave applications mentioned illness as the reason for leave, of which one MP from BJP Chandra Sekhar Sahu, mentioned illness in the family and JKNC MP Farooq Abdulla cited illness and detention as the reason for leave application. Altogether, MPs sought leave for 804 days citing illness as the reason, but the committee recommended only 775 days leave because three MPs together sought 29 more leaves than the prescribed limit of fewer than 60 days each. Five MPs (4 from BJP and one from INC) cited “Election” in the state or constituency as a reason and together took 121 days to leave.
Three MPs, Atul Kumar Singh alias Atul Rai of BSP (277 days), Mohammed Azam Khan of Samajwadi Party (91 days) and Farooq Abdullah of Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (59 days) sought leave citing “detention in jail” as the reason.
The committee recommended all the leave applications received from MPs. In only six cases, it did not recommend the total number of days as applied by the MP. In the case of BSP MP Atul Kumar Singh alias Atul Rai, Choudhry Mohan Jatua of AITC, Farooq Abdullah of JKNC, Kirron Kher of BJP and Mohammed Azam Khan of SP, the committee recommended leave for 59 days and asked them to apply afresh for the remaining days since it cannot recommend a leave of absence for more than 59 days at one go. In all the other cases, the committee recommended the same number of days as applied by the MP.
Featured Image: 17th Lok Sabha