Parties don’t reward MPs for performance

The Hindu, May 02, 2014

Do political parties and voters care about the parliamentary performance of elected representatives? The data indicates that they don?t.

The Hindu?s analysis of parliamentary performance data and electoral data shows that there is a weak positive and statistically significant correlation between attendance rates of members of Parliament in the 15th Lok Sabha and their likelihood of being re-nominated by their party in the current election. For other attributes of parliamentary performance, like the number of debates participated in, the number of questions asked and the number of Private Member Bills introduced, there was a very weak, statistically insignificant positive correlation.

This indicates that political parties are not very likely to reward MPs who perform well in Parliament with re-nomination, which is more likely determined by other factors.

Moreover, voters appear to care even less about parliamentary performance. For the 14th Lok Sabha, The Hindu found a weak negative, statistically significant, correlation between attendance rates and the likelihood of re-election, as well as that between the number of debates participated in and the likelihood of re-election.

In other words, MPs with higher attendance rates and better debate participation were slightly less likely to be voted back. The correlation between number of questions asked and number of Private Member Bills introduced was, as with the 15th Lok Sabha, a very weak positive one and statistically insignificant.

For this analysis, The Hindu used parliamentary performance data for the 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas compiled by PRS Legislative Research, and excluded ministers, speakers and leaders of the Opposition, who do not mark their attendance. For data on candidates who contested the 2009 and 2014 elections, The Hindu used data from the Association for Democratic Reforms, which scrutinises election affidavits, data from the Election Commission of India, and news archives.

?Sadly, this is not surprising,? said M.R. Madhavan, co-founder and president of PRS Legislative Research. ?Party nominations are based on winnability and electability. What parties think of as winnability is for them to answer,? he said. As for voters, part of the problem was that they did not have information about their MPs, Mr. Madhavan said. ?But while they may care if the person is of their caste, they may not care about parliamentary performance. I wish they did,? he added.

Jagdish Chhokar, founder-member of ADR, is equally unsurprised. ?For parliamentary performance to matter to parties and voters, first of all Parliament has to matter, but it has become irrelevant to political parties,? Mr. Chhokar said. A host of other factors determined party nominations, Mr. Chhokar said, looking in parliamentary statistics for clues would be missing the wood for the trees.

Nirmala Sitharaman, national spokesperson of the BJP disagrees. ?Parliamentary performance is something the party pays close attention to not only at the time of candidate selection, but all through the MP?s term,? she said, adding that it helped build goodwill and respect in the eyes of party peers. Voters were increasingly paying attention to participation in televised debates and presence in the house, she added.

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