The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Don’t read your lines Madam, speak ’em

New Delhi, Nov. 29: A move is afoot to bar members from reading out prepared texts in the Lok Sabha. Speaker Manohar Joshi brought forward the proposal in the Business Advisory Committee meeting yesterday.

The BJP is understandably delighted. One person who will be hit the hardest if the suggestion is implemented will be Congress president and leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi, who always reads from a prepared text.

While the BJP and its allies in the advisory committee are receptive to the idea for obvious reasons, the Congress is alarmed. Sources said the Congress argued that reading out prepared speeches would save time and also pre-empt repetitions. Besides, an extempore speech invites more interruptions.

As the Congress and its friends in the Left parties are unlikely to back the proposal, Joshi has been told to go slow for a while. “It is an important issue, let us have some time to think about it,” said a source in the National Democratic Alliance.

BJP sources said while the party has a number of extempore speakers, the Congress president has to rely heavily on written texts. However, Sonia’s well written and well researched speeches have been an envy of the saffron camp.

Sources said when Congress leader Shivraj Patil opposed the move, the Speaker reportedly told him that in as many as nine to 10 countries no written speech was allowed. They said BJP members wanted to raise the issue much earlier but Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dissuaded them.

A first-timer, however, is allowed to read out from a prepared text. While raising matters under rule 377 — which concerns constituency related and other public issues — members are allowed to read out from a prepared text but for not more than two or three minutes.

In a lighter vein, some members suggested that if written speeches are tabled instead of lengthy speeches by all the members, a lot of time could be saved for serious legislative business. They pointed out that in courts, lawyers highlight brief submissions while the bulk of the argument is submitted in writing.

Congress leader Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said: “If at all they want to change, they have to first amend the rules.” Asked if the move would cripple his party chief, Das Munshi said many people give written speeches. The Prime Minister also read out official statements.

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