I grew up in an India where politicians and government officials were largely inaccessible to the general public. They occupied an exalted space several levels above the common man, and while they lectured us from time to time, ordinary people had no way to challenge them or even question them routinely.
This has all changed in the era of social media. Today, individuals have access to an unprecedented form of direct and interactive contact with people in positions of authority and this has created a strong sense, though derided by some as mostly illusory and superficial, of political empowerment. People criticise and question ministers, and often get answers or rebuttals from them. Citizens find like-minded others on social media forums, join communities of interest, even get co-opted by political parties and movements based on the views they express on Twitter or Facebook. Social media has given birth to a new form of politics in India that increasingly jostles for space and attention with our traditional ways.
What is the one thing I'd like to change in Indian politics? The way the Parliament of India functions, or fails to function. The repeated paralysis of Parliament by slogan-shouting members violating every canon of legislative propriety has confirmed that the nation is being ill-served by our system. Equally striking is the impunity with which lawmakers flout the rules they are elected to uphold. Parliament itself serves not as a solemn deliberative body, but as a theatre for the demonstration of their power to disrupt. The well of the House becomes a stage for the members of the Opposition to crowd and jostle, waving placards and chanting slogans until the speaker, after several futile attempts to restore order, adjourns repeatedly in despair. Something that has not happened once in the last 350 years of the British Parliament happens several times a day in India's.
India's many challenges require political arrangements that permit decisive action,whereas ours increasingly promote drift and indecision.In our Parliament, many Opposition members feel that the best way to show the strength of their feelings is to disrupt lawmaking rather than debate the law. Their leadership operates in the apparent conviction that the role of an Opposition is to oppose everything the Government does, even policies it used to advocate itself. This must change. We cannot be an India where there is more substantive debate on TV and on Twitter than there is in Parliament.
Shashi Tharoor, Union minister of state for human resource development, has 1,855,837 Twitter followers.
Reproduced From India Today. © 2013. LMIL. All rights reserved.