For Mains: GS Paper II (Parliament and State legislatures)
About a ‘whip’ in the House, Types of whips, Significance of a whip, Defying a whip
Members of a House are bound by the "whip," and the Supreme Court stated recently that if any MLAs within a political party that is a part of a ruling coalition say they do not want to go with the alliance, the MLAs will be disqualified.
What is a whip in a state assembly or parliament? (150 words, 10 marks)
About a ‘whip’ in the House
Meaning of whip: In parliamentary parlance, a whip may refer to both a written order to members of a party in the House to abide by a certain direction, and to a designated official of the party who is authorised to issue such a direction.
The term ‘whip’: It is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line.
Responsibilities of whip: A whip may require that party members be present in the House for an important vote, or that they vote only in a particular way.
Eligibility for whip: In India, all parties can issue whips to their members.
Procedure to issue whip: Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips, this member is called a chief whip, and he/ she is assisted by additional whips.
Types of Whips
Whips can be of varying degrees of seriousness. The importance of a whip can be inferred from the number of times an order is underlined, such as follows:
A one-line whip underlined once, is usually issued to inform party members of a vote, and allows them to abstain in case they decide not to follow the party line.
A two-line whip directs them to be present during the vote.
A three-line whip is the strongest, employed on important occasions such as the second reading of a Bill or a no-confidence motion, and places an obligation on members to toe the party line.
Significance of a Whip
Whips of various political parties are the vital links of the internal organization of parties, inside the legislatures.
The efficient and smooth functioning of Parliament and State Legislatures depends, to a considerable extent, upon the office of the Whip.
The most important duty is mapping out the time of the session, coordinating, monitoring and management of the business of the Government.
Another important function of the Government Chief Whip is to constantly feel the pulse of the House and to render an account of the same to the Leader of the House/Government.
The Government whips also act as an important communication link between the leader of the House and the Members of the ruling party.
Whips also keep in close touch with the whips of the other parties on matters concerning the business of the House as also on many other matters relating to the House as a whole.
Consequences of Defying a Whip
The penalty for defying a whip varies from country to country.
In India, rebelling against a three-line whip can put a lawmaker’s membership of the House at risk.
The anti-defection law allows the Speaker/ Chairperson to disqualify such a member; the only exception is when more than a third of legislators vote against a directive, effectively splitting the party.
Once a government is formed, it is not open to any group of MLAs to say that they don't want to go with this alliance. It is not open to any one segment of a political party to say we don’t want to go with this alliance. That will ipso facto attract the disqualification provisions.
You are bound by the whip. You are bound to vote with your party so long as you are in the legislature, unless there is a merger.
In the United Kingdom (UK), an MP can lose membership of the party for defying the whip, but can keep her/his House seat as an Independent.
In the United States (US), “the party whip’s role is to gauge how many legislators are in support of a Bill and how many are opposed to it and to the extent possible, persuade them to vote according to the party line on the issue”.
In parliamentary parlance, a whip may refer to both a written order to members of a party in the House to abide by a certain direction, and to a designated official of the party who is authorized to issue such a direction.
What is the role of the whip?
A whip may require that party members be present in the House for an important vote, or that they vote only in a particular way.
What is a whip in India?
In India, the term "whip" is derived from the old British practice of “whipping in” lawmakers to follow the party line. Parties appoint a senior member from among their House contingents to issue whips, this member is called a chief whip, and he/ she is assisted by additional whips.