‘Every MLA needs a chance to speak’

[Photo: Twitter/@Satishmahanaup]

Uttar Pradesh Assembly Speaker Satish Mahana, is an eight-time MLA from Kanpur, and has served as minister in several BJP governments. The 62-year-old comes from the trader community from Kanpur. He spoke to Manoj Bhadra. Following are extracts.


Q. After becoming the Speaker in March 2022, your first initiative was to make the house paperless or digital. Did you face any hurdles?


A: When I came to know that I had been elected as the Speaker of the assembly, I decided that I would do something new so that the flag of the UP Vidhan Sabha would be hoisted all over the country. For this new beginning, I got moral courage and support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. Thus, my first work was to make the house paperless and it was achieved in a record time of around one and a half months time.


Q: You promised to promote women MLAs. What has been the outcome?

A: I found that while women MLAs do ask written questions, most of them do not speak in the House. Only about five per cent of women legislators actively participated in debates. In the special session of the last Monsoon Session, women members participated in the proceedings. During this session, the time limit of the address, which is three to eight minutes, was removed. A total of 38 women spoke in the House for over eight hours and I also gave women MLA a chance to sit on the chair to conduct the proceedings. I can give one example. A woman MLA, who was elected four times had never spoken in the house in the past. Can you imagine? But I made her speak for the first time. This MLA ,Vijma Yadav, is from Prayagraj.


Q: It is said that the dignity and power of the legislature is going down and that people are losing faith in the peoples representatives. What is your take?

A: It is totally wrong to say that the dignity and power of the legislature is going down. Instead I think the dignity of the legislature is on the rise . Legislature is directly connected with the people and the government and it is working efficiently. Though sometimes, there are reports about the negativity of the legislature and its members, it remains the only mode where masses get relief from their problems. Recently, 5 policemen were punished by the state assembly which proves that the legislature has enough power to deal with any situation. The action against the policemen was appreciated everywhere and assemblies from different states have sought details of the proceedings.


Q: You have drafted a new rule book for conducting business to replace rules framed in 1958. Please tell us about this.

A: The UP assembly is all set to replace the archaic Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, 1958, with a new rule book. The need for replacing the 64-year-old Rules was felt after new technology was introduced in the Vidhan Sabha. It became more important after e-vidhan was introduced in the legislature.


Q: You are said to be constructing a digital gallery on the rich history of the state legislature?

A: Yes, a digital gallery is being set up in the state legislative complex to give a virtual tour depicting its history from 5 January 1887, when it was set up as the North Western Provinces and Oudh Legislative Council, to the period when the state was known as United Provinces and and finally to when the state legislative assembly came into existence as the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha on 8 March 1952. The digital gallery will have a brief history of the state legislature starting from when it first met on 8 January 1887 at the Thornhill Memorial Hall in Allahabad.


Q: Like women, there are several MLAs who do not get an opportunity to speak in the House. What have you done for them?

A: It has been seen that there are 90- 100 MLAs who do not get the opportunity to speak or avoid speaking. But in the past budget session of the assembly, I took pains to give opportunities to everyone and even tried to convince those who dont want to speak or are shy about speaking. In the budget session, I used to sit every day till 9 PM and on the last day it went past midnight when members spoke without any time limit. It is my duty as a speaker to give the opportunity to every member to raise issues related to their constituencies and to monitor if work has been done.


Q: What changes would you like to see among MLAs?

A: MLAs should be made serious and sensitive legislators; they should be recognized by their conduct in public. Earlier, the people used to see their negative side only but now they have started reading about their positive side and how they are contributing to the society and the people. I held meetings with MLAs, including doctors, engineers, management experts and accountants. I asked them about a road map for the future. When meeting experienced MLAs, I take advantage of their experience. I even invited the head of the IIM (Lucknow) to interact with the MLAs and she was surprised to see there were several doctors, PhDs, engineers and MBAs in their ranks. Now I have suggested connecting doctor MLAs with the health minister, PhDs/ Educationists with the education minister and so on. Presently there are 85 law graduates, 14 Ph.D holders, 14 ex Government Officers,15 Management degree holders, 18 Doctors and 16 Engineers in the state assembly along with 47 women members.


Q: There is a proposal to build a new UP state legislature premises. When will we see the new Vidhan Sabha?

A: Yes it is now on record that UP will have a new legislature premises. The government has earmarked Rs 50 crore in this years budget.