The Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly closes its term by May 2017. Elections to the Assembly are scheduled for February and counting will take place in April 2017. As candidates get ready to file their nominations with the Election Commission, we present our analysis of the current composition of the Assembly (2012-2017) and the participation of the members (MLAs).
What is the profile of current MLAs of the UP Assembly?
The average age of MLAs in the Assembly is 55 years, with 62 percent being between the age of 45 years and 65 years. Only 2 percent of the MLAs are below the age of 35 years. While looking at the educational qualifications of MLAs we find that over 70 percent have a graduate degree. MLAs are associated with several professions; agriculture leads the list with 76 percent of MLAs followed by 33 percent MLAs engaged in business and 9 percent with law. Some of the other professions MLAs are associated with are teaching, healthcare, journalism and social work. (Note: Several MLAs declared more than one profession.)
How often did MLAs attend the proceedings of the UP Assembly?
The UP Assembly met for a total of 126 days in its five-year tenure. We have observed that on average MLAs attendance was 75 percent compared to MPs Lok Sabha attendance of 81 percent. Interestingly, the average attendance of the ruling party MLAs is higher than the opposition parties, with the Samajwadi Party at 78 percent, Bharatiya Janata Party at 73 percent, Indian National Congress at 71 percent and Bahujan Samaj Party at 69 percent.
What role did MLAs play in holding the government accountable during the Assembly sessions?
MLAs participate in the Assembly and hold the government accountable in several ways; one key intervention is through Question Hour. During Question Hour MLAs can elicit information from the government on matters of public interest. Facts relating to the entire range of governmental activities, and policies can be asked for, and Ministers are answerable for their Ministry’s actions. During this period MLAs are to participate in the proceedings as individual legislators, independent of the political ideology of their parties.
On average each MLA asked 32 questions. While three MLAs asked more than 500 questions each, 232 (around 58 percent) MLAs did not ask a single question during the five-year tenure of the Assembly. This proportion is significantly higher than that in Lok Sabha, where 10 percent of MPs have not asked a single question in the last two and half years. Interestingly, MLAs with college degrees on average asked 70 percent more questions than MLAs without college degrees. Male MLAs asked over thrice the number of questions as female MLAs.
Ruling Party MLAs raised fewer questions during question hour. The average number of questions asked by a Samajwadi Party MLA was around 4, while an opposition party MLA asked around 70 questions. In Parliament, there is little difference between the number of questions asked by ruling party members and opposition party members.
Why is the role and participation of MLAs in the Assembly significant?
Given the increased level of activity at the state level, there is a greater responsibility for MLAs to discharge their role effectively. State legislatures are responsible for making laws on key subjects like land, police and health. In addition, there are certain subjects on which Parliament and state legislatures can legislate concurrently. Recently, significant legislative reforms in some concurrent areas such as land acquisition, labour and taxation are being carried out at the state level.
State legislatures not only make laws but monitor spending and actions of the state government and hold it to account. Expenditure of states is focused on providing essential services such as, infrastructure like roads and schools, public safety, and subsidies. During 2016-17, the UP government is estimated to spend a total of Rs 3,46,934 crore. The last few years have seen an increased devolution of funds from the centre to the states, resulting in greater autonomy in decision making at the state level. This reinforces the need for effective scrutiny of government legislation and actions. Each MLA has a crucial role in considering budgets, holding the government to account and allocating public funds.
PRS Legislative has compiled the activity in the legislative assembly of each MLA, which is available on their website: www.prsindia.org. Citizens of the state may find this information useful as they consider the various candidates in the constituency.