(Last Updated on : 25/01/2014)
A new era in the life of parliamentary democracy in India was harbingered with the elections to the Ninth Lok Sabha. No single political party could manage to secure a supreme majority of its own in the House. And there for the first time in the history of Indian Parliament, it became a 'hung Parliament'. Members of the Lok Sabha, in spite of this unparalleled political improbability, cutting across party lines collectively elected Shri Rabi Ray as the Speaker of the Ninth Lok Sabha. Rabi Ray empowered with an inherent simplicity and transparent sincerity, ameliorated and improved the prestige and dignity of the office of the Speaker by his unbiased and judicious approach.
On 26 November 1926 this versatile personality Rabi Ray was born in Bhanagarh village in the Puri district of Orissa. After appearing for graduation in History from the premier College of the State, Ravenshaw College, Cuttack he studied Law in Madhusudan Law College, Cuttack. In 1948-49, when he was elected as the President of the Ravenshaw College Students Union and the first President of the Madhusudan Law College Students Union in 1949-50, the underpinning of his future political career was laid. Like the rest of his countrymen, Rabi Ray was deeply drained towards the freedom struggle. He has been the possessor of an extreme sense of patriotism; love for the motherland and hatred for foreign rule were entrenched in him since his student days. While doing his graduation, in early 1947, he solicited arrest in connection with the unrolling of the National Flag. The British Government at the end of the day had to give way to the students' demand for unfurling the Tricolor in educational institutions, though the country was still remain under foreign rule.
By the time 1948, when Rabi Ray joined the Socialist Party as its member, he became a passionate believer in socialism from his college days. He until the end of time remained in the front position of the socialist movement due to his innate qualities of leadership and his deep dedication to the socialist cause. By 1953-54, he was honored with the post of the Joint Secretary, All India Samajwadi Yuvak Sabha. He founded the Socialist Party in Orissa, under the leadership of Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, in 1956. During that period, he also became a member of the National Executive of the Socialist Party. Later, in 1960, for about a year, he became the General Secretary of the Party.
The association with the Parliament began when Rabi Ray was selected to the Fourth Lok Sabha began in 1967 from the Puri constituency in the State of Orissa. During this period, he was the Leader of the Parliamentary Group of the Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP). Rabi Ray was man known for his candid and straightforward views and for constructive opposition. He was designated to the Rajya Sabha in 1974 from Orissa and accomplished his full term of membership in the year 1980.
In 1977, the General Elections to the Sixth Lok Sabha resulted in a new political exemption at the Center. The Congress Party lost power at the Center. Since Independence, The Congress Party had been dominating the national political horizon. Now for the first time following this general election, the Janata Party formed the Government. Prime Minister Morarji Desai was impressed by Rabi Ray's selfless service and decided to induct him into his Cabinet as Minister for Health and Family Welfare. In January 1979 he joined the post and he continued in that post till January 1980, during the period 1977-80, he was also the General Secretary of the Janata Party.
In 1989, when the General Elections to the Ninth Lok Sabha were held, Rabi Ray contested to the Lok Sabha from the Kendrapara constituency in Orissa on the Janata Dal ticket. He was unanimously elected as the Speaker of the Ninth Lok Sabha, on 19 December 1989. Rabi Ray guaranteed members that so long as he was the Speaker he would remain above party politics and would remain fair to all. Rabi Ray's possession as Speaker endured a short period of fifteen and a half months. In each Session, he faced many challenges, which he tackled with finesse and steadfastness. He initiated certain procedural innovations, as well as gave the decision on some problematic procedural and related issues, which have definitely made the functioning of Parliament far more valuable as an institution mirroring the urges and aspirations of the common people.
As a Speaker, Rabi Ray took several decisions, one of the most important and far-reaching decision was related to the issue of ineligibility of some of the members from the membership of the Lok Sabha which subsequent a split in the Janata Dal. On 6 November 1990, when the Janata Dal split, fifty-eight members claimed to have established a group on behalf of the break-away faction of the Janata Dal and they adopted the name of Janata Dal (S). There arrogates and counter-claims about the timing of the split vis-à-vis the timing of eviction. Tackling these complex issues was not an easy task as Speaker Rabi Ray had a tough time. He examined the pros and cons of the issue, displaying a high sense of accountability, objectively before arriving at the decision. His nonpartisanship was well served by his legal penetration. Without a doubt it can be said that he was an example-setting ruling. Rabi Ray as Speaker has taken a number of important decisions .
Rabi Ray opened up an institutional arrangement in order to regulate the proceedings of the House for the better utilization of the time during the 'Zero Hour'. Seven members were allowed to make brief submittals after insuring the views of the Leaders of different parties and groups in the House. This arrangement was not only resulted in matters being raised in a more orderly manner but was also treasured by all sections of the House. From now there was more optimal use of the time of the House.
With the implementation of the Parliamentary Committees in the Indian Parliament, they had sufficiently proved to be a helpful appendage to the political system. A need to have subject-based Committees was felt largely on the pattern obtaining in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, keeping in mind the growing complexities of a modern Welfare State. The need was felt to cover the entire gamut of administration for an exhaustively and unremitting scrutiny of administrative performance.
The working of the Lok Sabha took a new direction with Speaker Rabi Ray. He allowed the members of the parliament more and more opportunities to elicit issues distressing the common people. The issues like availability of food through the public distribution system, drinking water facility, housing, health care, lands for the tiller, agricultural inputs, employment, development of cottage and small industries, primary education, protection against exploitation and harassment of the poor and weaker sections were looked after.
During Speaker Rabi Ray's tenure, a Motion of Confidence moved by the Prime Minister, V.P. Singh was discussed and for the first time history was created. The Motion was adopted on the same day. Eleven months later, resulting in the fall of the V.P. Singh Government, history was again created for the first time, when a Motion of Confidence was beaten. For the first time on 20 December 1989, the Address by the President to the members of the two Houses tacked together in the Central Hall was telecast and broadcast live. In the subsequent year as well, the Address by the President to the Parliament was telecast and broadcast live. Later, Rabi Ray instituted a Joint Sub-Committee of both the Houses to examine the popularity; technical achievability and cost involved in televising the proceedings of the two Houses. As he strongly believed that this process of televising would bring Parliament closer to the people.
To Rabi Ray, a Speaker has to ensure that the Parliament plays its due role in the promotion and strengthening of the parliamentary relations. Speaker's job is therefore just not to merely act as a guardian of the House. In this manner, he encouraged greater exchange of Parliamentary Delegations in order to promote mutual relations in general and between brotherly Parliaments in particular. This in that way gave a new direction to parliamentary diplomacy.
Speaker Rabi Ray conducted Parliamentary Delegations to different countries during his tenure. In April 1990 and October 1990, correspondingly, he also headed the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to the 83rd and 84th Inter-Parliamentary Conferences held in Nicosia and Punta Del Este. On September 1990 in Harare, besides, Rabi Ray attended the 36th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. By leading the Indian Parliamentary Delegation to the 10th Conference of the Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers, in Harare in January 1990, once again he proved himself. In 1991, Rabi Ray was elected as the President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Rabi Ray was in favor of the valuable contributions made by our national leaders and wanted to aware the next generations. During his tenure, Rabi Ray in order to recall, memorize and place on record the services of imminent parliamentarians, decided to celebrate the birth anniversaries of eminent parliamentarians by holding meetings/seminars/symposia, etc., and by accentuating Monographs under the "Eminent Parliamentarians Monograph Series". These imminent parliamentarians were remembered as they played a notable role in the country's freedom struggle and contributed much to the development of the parliamentary system as well as to the building of modern India. Monographs on Dr. Rammanohar Lohia, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Pandit Nilakantha Das, Panampilli Govinda Menon, Bhupesh Gupta, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, Dr. B.R, Ambedkar, Dr. C.D. Deshmukh, Jaisukh Lal Hathi, V.K. Krishna Menon, M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, S.M.Joshi. Dr. Lanka Sundaram, Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur and Pandit Mukut Bihari Lal Bhargava were brought out.
Rabi Ray being busy parliamentarian was and still is actively associated with several official and non-official organizations in various capabilities. During 1977-78, he was Member, Central Silk Board, 1974 and the Chairman, Press Council. He was also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, 1975.
Rabi Ray, essentially an activist in thoughts and an optimist to humanism, thinks that socialism is not a mere intellectual article of faith. In his real life he practices it too. For him 'socialism is an effective instrument for improving the lot of the underprivileged'. He had taken part in several constructive activities in his early years. His activities involved building of village roads by mobilizing voluntary labor, organizing study circles and youth clubs like the Samajwadi Nirman Kendra for alleviating the materialization of a strong, broad-based youth and peasant movement on socialist lines.
He has special interests in reading and social activities on Gandhian lines. To his credit Rabi Ray has many literary accomplishments. He has edited the 'Samata', an Oriya monthly, and 'Chaukhamba', a Hindi weekly brought out by the erstwhile Socialist Party. His book on 'Parliamentary Diplomacy' was very well received. He also contributes regularly articles on contemporary political and social issues to various leading journals in Oriya/ Hindi and English. After the Tenth Lok Sabha, Rabi Ray did not contest the elections furthermore. In rational forums he continues to take part as a political activist. Since 1997, he has been leading a people's movement through a non-political organisation 'Lok Shakti Abhiyaan'. In advancement of ensuring integrity, he has also been touring different parts of the country and transparency in all spheres of our national life.