I have been covering both Houses of Parliament as reporter since 1997. When I began covering Parliament, it was the last session when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was performing as the Leader of Opposition. Have seen performance of all Muslims MPs including Maulana Mehmood Madni, Arif Mohamad Khan, G M Banatwala, E Ahmed and many others from the press gallery and have also interacted with most of them in the Central Hall. There is no doubt in my mind and I can safely vouch, that Assadudin Owasi so far has been the best parliamentarian cutting across party or communal lines, in terms of attendance, utilization of time and participation in debates on varied subjects.
In the current House, where Opposition has a feeble voice, Owasi, N K Premachandran (Kerala), Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD), Prof. Saugata Roy (TMC) and Shashi Tharoor are amongst few voices, who participate in every debate, attend House regularly, raise points of order on issues of concern, confront treasury benches and use every available parliamentary means, during the enactment of legislative business.
In major debates, Owasi and Premachandran get just five minutes to speak. But it is a treat to see, how painstakingly they come prepared. How effectively they utilise time. Both of them also use rich parliament library to its full extent. Since I began covering parliament, I have seen just few MPs, Jagmohan, late Girdhari Lal Bhargava, Arjun Ram Meghwal, Shashi Tharoor, late Rajesh Pilot, Shiv Shankar sitting in parliament library cubicles and preparing notes. Most of the MPs, otherwise are dependent on Research and Reference Section of Parliament Library, who prepare notes for them. That is why, you see at many times, similarity whether statistics or otherwise in the speeches of MPs during the debate across the aisle.
Before any major debate, I have seen Owasi consulting and interacting with subject experts as well. His seriousness to the subject, call of duty towards voters and to the parliament had crossed limits on December 27, when he came to speak on Tripple Talaq issue in Lok Sabha, leaving midway preparations and ceremony in Hyderabad, where his eldest daughter was getting married.
I am sorry to state that I haven’t seen so far, any other Muslim MP, including all big names be that religious scholars using parliamentary forum so effectively as Owasi. It is not so easy for a one-man party MP to make his/her presence felt in Lok Sabha.
Time has come to seek accountability from all Muslim leaders, who have been in Parliament. They must tell what they did during their term, when they were on the higher pedestals. Having full respects with late Maulana Asrarul Haq sb, I never saw in him as an effective parliamentarian. Otherwise as representative of Congress he had more allotted time than any one-member party. (Time is distributed as per strength of the party in the House) He may have done many good things in other fields, but in Lok Sabha he didn’t had any scintillating or even an average performance.
Not necessary to vote and support Owasi, but do make efforts to send representatives like him to Lok Sabha cutting across party and communal lines. At least vest your vote with those, who at bare minimum, can speak and raise your voice at the highest democratic forum.
Kindly don’t take it as an eulogy or ‘Qasida’ of Owasi. That is the easiest way to dismiss the post and an attempt to hide your head in the sand. Take these words as bare facts that I have witnessed from the Press Gallery of Parliament over past two decades.
Shayid Ki Uttar Jayay Teray Dil Main Meri Baat
Iftikhar Gilani is the Editor Strategic Affairs of DNA. Gilani was earlier associated with Kashmir Times as its Delhi Bureau Chief and has extensively covered national and international politics.
The above write-up is originally published on his Facebook timeline on 30th December 2018.