How can citizens evaluate the performance of MLAs

Prof (Dr) Nimai Chand Luwang
In recent days, certain MLAs have been observed making claims that they have improved and completely transformed their constituencies. Some of them upload photographs on their social media pages, reporting their works of drainage clearance and distribution of NFSA/ PMGAY rice. Some are observed publishing news reports and press statements regarding distribution of fertilizers, rice, vegetable seeds, laying of roads, drain clearing, street lights provisioning, and other similar local area civic works. Such works have no place at all in an MLA’s job description as these are the responsibilities of the local corporation. Performing such minor tasks can hardly be considered as achievements since they are outside the purview of their duties. These are simple claims to gain cheap publicity.
The primary responsibility of an MLA involves the smooth and efficient functioning of the State Assembly. The three main functions of the assembly include law-making, controlling the state executive and sanctioning public expenditure. Participation in the debates and discussions in the Assembly is the most important parameter and criteria for evaluating the performance of an MLA. An MLA can take part in the various motions and debates. Examples include Questions, Discussion on the Motion of Thanks on the Governor’s address, Half an hour discussion, Short duration discussion, Calling Attention , Private member’s Business, Participation in the debates and discussions during the course passing the Budget, participation on debates and discussions during Legislations and passing of Bills, raising of matters of public importance etc.
An MLA may be rated based on certain parameters; the highest weighted criteria pertains to attendance in the Legislative Assembly, the number of questions asked, his participation in the debates and discussions, how the local area development fund was utilized, the legislator’s social media – Facebook and Twitter following, education and criminal record are also factors for assessment. Citizens can evaluate their MLAs on some of the following parameters:
- Attendance in the Assembly, number of questions (issues) raised in the house, importance of those questions and utilisation of funds allotted to him.
- Some parameters on his/her background such as educational qualification, income tax records, and criminal record etc.
- Some soft parameters like perception/impression of the people in his/her constituency, awareness about them, satisfaction with their work and improvement in the quality of life because of the MLA.
- Law making abilities/ Assembly performance: trace the bills introduced by your MLA through media reports or his comments on bills.
- Availability in the constituency and accessibility. How often does the MLA visit your constituency or locality to listen to your grievances? Is he easily accessible?
- Solving Constituency issues: How soon are the problems resolved in your constituency?
- Honesty/criminal records/ perception index/ Profile: Check the criminal records of your MLA. MLA Local Area Development (LAD) Fund: Each state has its own MLA Local Area development Scheme Fund. In Manipur, each MLA is allotted Rs 2.00 crore annually for this purpose. The MLA can choose to utilise these funds on any project or scheme of their choice in their constituency. The objective of the scheme is to identify and implement the essential works to bridge the critical infrastructure gaps in the constituencies. The District Collector will accord administrative sanction for the chosen works and will also identify the implementing agency. Unlike other functions of the MLA, this is one aspect which citizens can monitor since definitive data is available in the public domain.
Citizens must constantly monitor whether their MLA is spending the money in their constituency and also monitor whether projects sanctioned under this fund are completed or not. Despite listing out these parameters, it remains a difficult task to obtain raw data on how your MLA is performing, since many states do not have the requisite system in place. The need to change, and if MLAs are to perform actual duties, greater powers, funds, and capacity must be injected into panchayats and municipalities.
The writer is a former Member of the Manipur Legislative Assembly (4th, 5th, 6th,7th and 8th Assemblies) and four times Minister of Manipur.