Indra Hang Subba is a man in an enviable position, but also someone with a huge responsibility on his shoulders. Not many people in India can claim to represent an entire state in the Parliament. But as Sikkim’s lone MP, Subba carries the hope and voice of over 6 lakh people from the Himalayan state.
This is why it was nothing less than a shock that the MP completely missed the winter session of the Parliament. The Sikkim MP had zero attendance during the almost-month-long Parliament session from November 29 to December 23. While the national attendance average hovers around 80 per cent, Subba has a record of only 68 per cent attendance in seven Parliament sessions so far.
The MP’s performance was shocking this season, but it is not out of the blue. The MP has 100 per cent attendance only in two parliamentary sessions: once in the 2020 Monsoon session and again in the 2019 Budget session. Apart from the zero attendance this Winter session, he has 39 per cent attendance in the 2020 Budget session, 70 per cent attendance in the 2019 winter session, 75 per cent in the 2021 budget session, and 82 per cent in the 2021 Monsoon session.
Even when present, Subba is not the most active participant in the Parliament. He has participated in eight debates so far, compared to the national average of 28.9. He has raised 16 questions so far, compared to the national average of 108. He is yet to present a private member bill, although at least, in this case, one can excuse him since the national average is also at a measly 0.6.
Subba’s performance stands in contrast to his 2019 victory, when he, a fiery youth leader, bagged 47% of the total votes polled. His win was a big fillip to the Limboo community, which Subba represents. Subba had, after all, won on the pretext of securing Assembly seat reservation in Sikkim for Limboo-Tamang communities, who secured tribal status way back in 2002 during the tenure of the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government.
When compared with former Sikkim MP Prem Das Rai of the Sikkim Democratic Front party, Subba’s performance is a mixed bag. Rai, for example, never raised a question on the Limboo Tamang seat reservation in his first term as an MP between 2009 and 2014. In his second term as an MP (2014-2019), he took part in the debate regarding recognition of tribes in Sikkim as part of Lok Sabha Matters under (Rule-377) on August 7, 2018, and on August 1, the same year on the topic regarding reservation of Limboo-Tamang communities of Sikkim in the State Legislative Assembly which was also Lok Sabha Matters under (Rule-377).
Rai, who served twice as an MP, was 59 when elected in 2009 for the first time. Rai presented one private member bill as against the national average of 0.8. He took part in 180 questions, against the national average of 300. He took part in 70 debates, against the national average of 37.9 per cent. He had 87 per cent attendance, against the national average of 76 per cent.
Das improved his numbers in the second term between 2014 and 19 when he presented three private members bills against the national average of 2.3. He asked 405 questions against the national average of 293. He took part in 73 debates as compared to the national average of 67.1. He had a 79 per cent attendance against the national average of 80 per cent.
But most importantly, unlike Subba, Rai never missed a parliamentary session in his 10 years as an MP.
Even fellow Nepali-speaking MP, Raju Bista from Darjeeling on a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket, has performed much better than Subba. Bista, who like Subba, is also in his 30s, has a whopping 93 per cent attendance so far in seven Parliament sessions.
It was not as if Subba was on leave due to medical reasons. During the winter parliament session, Sikkim’s MP was busy attending cultural functions in the state, inaugurating schools in Sikkim, and even hosting the entire cabinet, including the Chief Minister, for his three-day wedding in Hee Patal, West Sikkim in the second week of December.
A day before the winter session in New Delhi, Subba was playing host to Sikkim Krantikari Morcha party’s mouthpiece Hamro Varta Television, which had organised a literary event.
Of course, Subba believes he has strong reasons to miss the entire Winter Session. Speaking with EastMojo, he said, “I was not absent. I had taken leave…it (Winter session) coincided with my marriage. I think there are provisions where you can take leave to get married. When the auspicious occasion of marriage was declared, it coincided (with the Winter session). Hence I took leave and submitted it to the speaker.”
On being asked if he had any intention of attending after the marriage ceremony, Subba responded, “I had to prepare for the marriage, along with rituals to follow, which curtailed me from going. I met our party president. After taking his due permission, I took leave.”
Speaking about his performance being lower than the national average, Subba said, “Many sessions in the past have been disrupted, and many questions that I had put forward both starred and unstarred were selected in the lottery. I have been asking many unstarred questions. As a single-member party, (during) COVID-19, farm laws disruption, it’s not normal times, and it gets difficult to clear questions.”
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