Refers to Nehru in letter to Speaker.
New Delhi: At a time when Union finance minister Arun Jaitley is getting ready to present the Union Budget for 2018-19 and the Narendra Modi government is desperately trying to create an impression of “all is well” on the economic front, BJP MP Varun Gandhi has not merely raised the issue of a growing “socio-economic disparity” but also voiced severe criticism of the country’s legislators busy fattening their own purses by relentlessly raising their salaries at the cost of taxpayers. In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan earlier this week, the MP from Sultanpur, UP, requested her to initiate a “movement” to encourage economically advantaged Lok Sabha members to forego their remuneration for the remaining term of the Lower House.
The BJP “young turk” who is believed to be not in the good books of the party leadership, not merely attacks the insensitive attitude of legislators sitting in Parliament but has also evoked the example of the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (who also happens to be his great-grandfather), the BJP’s bugbear, to drive home his argument. Mr Gandhi also mentioned that in the past decade, the salaries of parliamentarians have increased by 400 per cent, a rise that is “unlikely even in the profit-driven private sector”.
“In the first Cabinet meeting of Jawaharlal Nehru in 1952, the entire Cabinet took a unanimous decision not to avail of their salaries for three months in the light of the economic situation of that time,” said Mr Gandhi. The BJP MP said if the MPs voluntary participate in the “movement”, it would reinforce the people’s faith in their elected representatives.
“A voluntary exercise such as this would send a positive message across the nation regarding the level of sensitivity we possess as elected representatives,” he wrote in a letter to Ms Mahajan. Mr Gandhi also suggested creating an independent, statutory body to ascertain the affordability of the move and the need for an increase in fiscal compensation for MPs.
Expressing concern over the widening inequality in the country, Mr Gandhi said it was “detrimental” to our democracy. “India’s inequality gap is widening further every day. A growing divide is detrimental to our democracy and we, as public representatives, must be seen to be more responsive to the socio-economic realities of our country,” the letter reads.
The remuneration of an MP include a basic salary of Rs 50,000 per month, Rs 45,000 as constituency allowance, among other allowances. The government spends roughly Rs 2.7 lakhs per MP per month, he wrote in the letter.
He mentioned in the letter that the number of MPs with assets worth over Rs 1 crore rose sharply from 319 in 2009 to 449 at present. Roughly 24 per cent, or 132 Lok Sabha members, have declared assets worth over Rs 10 crores.
According to a report, the average value of MPs’ assets in the 16th Lok Sabha is Rs 14.61 crores. He said even in the Rajya Sabha, 96 per cent members are millionaires.