Upper house

Historic bills and turmoil mark Venkaiah Naidu’s tenure as Rajya Sabha president | Latest India News

“I can only function if you cooperate,” Venkaiah Naidu said in 2017 in his opening speech as president of the Rajya Sabha after being elected vice president of India. His marvelous wordplay had established the rules of the game.



After five tumultuous years in the Upper House marked by disruption, intense protests and a high rate of member suspensions, this too has proven to be an accurate prophecy.

Naidu, a staunch proponent of “debating, discussing and deciding without disrupting”, has faced arguably the toughest time as president in the history of the Rajya Sabha. His predecessor, Hamid Ansari, favored the early adjournment of the House to calm the disturbances. But Naidu tried to lead the House as much as possible, focused on improving the performance of standing committees and refused to compromise on the dignity of the House when political divisions turned into aggressive protests and unruly dissent.

On August 5, 2019, Naidu played a crucial role when the House approved the repeal of Section 370 and passed the bill separating Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Government leaders feared that massive opposition protests would cause repeated adjournments and derail the crucial legislative plan.



Read also | Venkaiah Naidu’s rise through the ranks

In the morning, Naidu’s wife forced him to sit in the puja hall while she prayed. Doctors checked his vital signs before he left for the Rajya Sabha. A few hours before the start of the procedure, he held a quick meeting with officials to ensure that there were no procedural flaws. The debates withstood the protests of the opposition without any adjournment and a discussion on the vital legislative proposals for Jammu and Kashmir could be undertaken.

It was in the same Rajya Sabha that the three Farm Bills were passed without any debate in 2020. And a year later, the Repeal Bill was also passed without any debate. In the 2021 winter session, 12 opposition MPs were suspended in a controversial Rajya Sabha decision for their misconduct in the previous session. As the political divide between the National Democratic Alliance government and the opposition intensified, the Rajya Sabha emerged as the biggest battleground.



But Naidu has overseen a gradual improvement in productivity. His first session as president in the winter of 2017 had a productivity of 54%. The following year was the worst performing year for Naidu-led Rajya Sabha with three sessions recording 27%, 68% and 26% productivity respectively, according to data from PRS Legislative Research, a nonpartisan organization.

But from 2019 the average productivity improved and 2020 turned out to be the best year for Naidu in terms of productivity. The three sessions of Parliament saw 74%, 99% and 100% time utilization respectively, even as India grappled with the pandemic and all sessions were cut short.

“In Parliament, either you have to speak or you stand down. But what happens is a frequent escape. If this continues, democracy will be abolished, Naidu said, as things quickly turned sour. During Naidu’s five years, Rajya Sabha’s average productivity stood at 70%, a moderate success considering the frequent disruptions and protests.



Data available with Rajya Sabha shows 58 issues disrupted House in 13 sessions and debates special category status for AP triggered the most disturbances; 78% of Rajya Sabha members signed the daily attendance register and the time spent on the oversight function of the House has decreased.

“Productivity for the first five sessions was in the range of only 6.8% to 58.8%, while it improved significantly in six of the following eight sessions, registering productivity in the range of 76% to 105%, five sessions working for approximately 100% of the scheduled time,” a House report said.

Other achievements of Naidu include regular monitoring of the functioning of parliamentary committees resulting in improved performance, multiple increase in public awareness through the media on the functioning of the House, hassle-free conduct and safe sessions of the House since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, ending colonial practices and increased use of Indian languages ​​and latest technologies in the functioning of the House.



Up to the 2022 budget session, Naidu chaired 13 full sessions and 261 sessions against the planned 289 sessions took place during this period, representing 913 hours 11 minutes of work. 177 bills were passed or returned by the Rajya Sabha during these sessions and the best average legislative result was recorded in 2019, when 52 bills were passed, the highest in 36 years.

Naidu’s tenure saw a total of 936 out of 3525 star-studded questions answered orally, 1526 zero-hour submissions and 953 special mentions and 57% of Rajya Sabha sessions interrupted, while 43% were free from such disturbances.

As he steps down from the second highest constitutional office on August 10, Naidu will move to 1 Tyagraj Marg. But that’s unlikely to be the quiet life of a retired vice president. He will stay active and do what he loves the most: meeting people.