Designing a five-year plan for Goa
For perhaps the first time, the Constitution of the Legislative Assembly is given greater prominence for the simple reason that there is no new government in place and therefore the new Chief Minister and Cabinet are not not in the limelight or in the news.
At other times, the swearing in of MPs was seen more as a procedure as it was always eclipsed by the formation of government and the politics that went with it, as the interest was more in who would get or would get a place in the office. This is an opportunity to emphasize the responsibilities of elected members of the Legislative Assembly and what is expected of them during their term of office.
Legislators are first and foremost representatives of the people, democratically elected in a first-past-the-post system by the citizens of the state. They represent a geographic area including cities and towns and are sent to the Legislative Assembly as the voice of that particular constituency, but are not limited to taking up issues in the area they represent. By the very nomenclature of their title, they are charged with legislating – enacting laws for the state – which is their primary responsibility, but certainly not the only one. In the Legislative Assembly, they also have the right to ask questions, raise issues, propose and vote on bills and resolutions, and approve the government‘s public spending plans. Those who sit in the opposition benches are like watchdogs, tasked with holding the state government accountable for all its actions.
While government MPs may operate differently than opposition MPs, in the House it is opposition MPs who play a greater role, particularly during debates and also compel the government to act in the interest of the state and the people. The member has the opportunity to introduce legislation in the form of a private member’s bill on what he thinks is appropriate law required by the state. Even if it is not adopted, it shows the intention to bring about change and obliges the government to think along the same lines. Most importantly, the hon. member has the right to raise issues of public importance in the House and demand responses from the government.
MPs are not supposed to get involved in the micromanagement of constituencies. This is best left to the representatives of local self-government – municipalities and panchayats – who are better able to understand the problems of the region and find solutions to them. The MP should play more of an advisory role, but unfortunately that is not the case. What is the advantage of having local autonomy at two levels if the MP has to work on issues of roads, water taps, public lighting? The only benefit of this is for the MP who then controls local politics and politicians, thus ensuring his re-election. This grip of the MLA on the representatives of local self-government bodies must be broken.
But it does not stop there. We have a mix of experience and youth in this Assembly which should bode well for Goa, as long as the vision of the members of the House is in the interest of the state. The Legislative Assembly was made up of four very experienced members who have been around for about three decades, 19 new legislators, some of whom are very young. The latter should bring new perspectives to the House, the former should guide them on their performance in the Assembly. Together, MPs must strive to steer the state in a new direction that embraces sustainability with development and growth. They have five years ahead of them to do so. Enough time to make a difference with a five-year plan for Goa.