Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi today lent his voice to the growing chorus about doing away with MPLAD schemes saying 50 per cent parliamentarians are not in favor of it.
Last month, Union minister Milind Deora had written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking changes in the provisions of the MPLAD scheme or replacing it with a new programme if its provisions cannot be changed.
"I want to tell you a reality. If you ask MPs, at least 50 per cent of MPs will tell you that put an end to this MPLAD scheme because one has to face problems in the Lok Sabha seats as the scheme does not give so much money that development work can be carried out in the entire Parliamentary seat. This is something to think about," Rahul Gandhi said.
He was addressing a meeting of panchayat representatives from over a dozen states as part of the party's programme to involve stakeholders from various sections for its manifesto making exercise for the Lok Sabha polls 2014.
Citing the example of telephone vs PCO revolution in the country, he said that as PCOs took away the monopoly of few in the telephone system, the pradhans will do it in the political system.
"There was a time when 500 MPs used to give the quota of phones and if you did not know any MP, you had to just forget about getting a telephone connection. How was this monopoly broken? This monopoly was broken by opening a PCO," he said.
"In every village, a public call office opened, mobiles came soon after which they are now in everybody's pockets. As the PCO broke the monopoly in the system of telephone allotment, you are also like a PCO for the political system."
Rahul Gandhi also agreed with the contention of a participant that political parties should include the representatives from local bodies in their decision makings and promised that he will ensure that it is done.
"It is true that local body leaders are not consulted. Local body leaders have to have an identity in the party. We are going to do this at least in the Congress party in the near future," he said.
Rahul Gandhi said whenever there is talk about devolution of power and about the 73rd and 74th amendment in the Panchayati Raj Act, people complain that they are not given power.
Pointing towards Minister of State for Rural Development Pradeep Jain Aditya, he told the audience to ask him whether he is consulted when laws are made in Parliament though the primary work of MPs and MLAs are to enact laws.
"Every party issues a whip in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha be it me, Meenakshi Natarajan (party MP) or Pradeep Jain (party MP), we are told to press either the green or the red button. In the case of MPs, they are at least told. MLAs are not even told about it. State legislatures sit for only few days," Rahul Gandhi said.
"MP is not given power, they push the MLA and MLAs then push the Gram Pradhan and take away each other's power in this fashion. Right from the MP to the pradhan all the three are disempowered. Power is either with the chief minister of the state or five six bureaucrats... then there are pressures from the media and judiciary. My job is to empower MPs in Parliament, MLAs in assemblies and pradhans in panchayats," Rahul said.
Talking to women panchayat members Rahul Gandhi said that they are far ahead from women Members of Parliament and assemblies in one aspect -- their representation. He said that while they have 50 per cent reservation in panchayats, those in the assemblies and Parliament do not have even 33 per cent.
"If the political system has to be changed, local government has to be empowered. As long as this is not done, there will be no change in the political structure."
"Our strength is democracy. We have to deepen this by strengthening the hands of aam aadmi, aam MPs and aam MLAs. MPs MLAs and pradhans right now do not have the powers for the responsibility they have to discharge. We have to change that," Rahul Gandhi added.
He maintained that the country cannot be a super power unless crores of youths are given employment. He said that people are not proud of India because it is rich, they are proud of it because of what "we believe in and everyone loves the country for the ideals it stand for".
"I want to know from you what you want me to do. I can have my ideas but unless I ask from you, what you want, this is meaningless. Three things will have to be done if you want to make India a powerful country. My priority is to give voice to as many people as possible through these processes," Rahul Gandhi added.