NEW DELHI: BJP MP Varun Gandhi has urged Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to initiate a “movement” where rich MPs forgo their salaries for the remaining term of the present (16th) Lok Sabha. The term of the lower House will end in May next year.
“A voluntary exercise such as this will send a positive message across the nation regarding the level of sensitivity that we possess as elected representatives,” Varun said in his letter.
Seeking Mahajan’s “moral leadership” on this issue, he said, “If relinquishing salaries is too much to ask for, the Speaker could introduce a fresh narrative focussed on an alternative strategy rather than the current practice of arrogating of salaries at will to ourselves.”
Varun referred to a report of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) which showed that 132 sitting Lok Sabha MPs (roughly 24%) had declared assets of more than Rs 10 crore. The ADR report also mentioned that the average assets of MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha was Rs 14.61 crore.
“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 our country’s socio-economic realities,” said Varun, MP from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, in his letter to the Speaker on January 24.
Noting that salaries of MPs had increased by 400% over the last decade, Varun demanded setting up an independent statutory body to fix parliamentarians’ salaries, replacing the current practice where MPs themselves decide their salaries.
He noted that an independent statutory body, on the lines of the Review Body on Senior Salaries in the UK, would check the “affordability of such a move and need for a rise in fiscal compensation for MPs and decide for the same”.
Mentioning that the remuneration of an MP included a basic salary of Rs 50,000 per month and Rs 45,000 as constituency allowance, among other allowances, his letter said, “The government roughly spends Rs 2.7 lakh per MP per month. In the year 2016, Rs 176 crore was spent on the 543 MPs of the Lok Sabha alone.”