Indian Democracy

Indian Democracy

Nagarajan L V

 

India has achieved a great name for itself as the biggest working democracy in the whole world. Sure the Indian democracy is the biggest with more than 500 million voters exercising their voting rights periodically. Also sure the democracy is working but for a brief aberration in 1971 when ‘national emergency’ was declared. Peaceful changes of governments have occurred on the power of ballot. But is it really a true democracy? Is it reflecting the will of a true majority? Does the democracy exist, in all levels of political activity and organisations, in representation and formation of local and federal governments, in governmental decisions and during change of governments? In all counts it is a big no. Crime and criminals are forming an unacceptably large part of Indian political scene. Corruption has become the major source of funds for political parties for fighting elections and as such corruption in governments has been accepted as normal. Nepotism, hero-worship and sycophancy are at the highest level. Just the conduct of periodic elections of representatives to the legislatures and parliament cannot alone assure a real democracy. The umpteen obstacles are in the way of obtaining a truly representative government, evolved through meaningful debate within and across all political spectrum and governmental bodies. Following are a few suggestions for improving the democratic process in the running of our great country, India.

 

1) Every political party in India should be forced to implement the democratic process within their parties. Periodic elections for organisational posts should be ensured as a precondition for official recognition of the political party.

2) Every political party should be made to submit audited accounts on an annual basis.

(The need for the above two reforms has already been widely accepted. But the political heavy weights across all political parties are turning a blind eye towards implementation of these electoral reforms, less they should loose control of ‘their’ party.)

 

3) There should be a set of minimum qualifications criteria for contesting in various elections to local bodies, legislatures and parliament. Education, experience, service record, moral background will all form part of such criteria.

(The need for minimum qualification, as above, is being scuttled with the lame excuse that it will not give chance for the so called ‘Common Man’ to contest the elections. A graded criteria for candidates will, in fact, encourage the qualified ‘Common Man’ to contest the elections; like, a) elementary education for candidature to Local bodies, b) high School education or membership of local bodies for at least 5-years for candidature to legislature, c) Graduation or membership of legislature for at least 5-years for candidature to Parliament. Good conduct and Social Service record could be common criteria for all candidature. Similarly ministers in State cabinet should be specialists (Post Graduates) in their area (portfolio) or should have been member of legislature for at least 10-years. Ministers in Central cabinet should be specialists (Post Graduates) in their area (portfolio) or should have been members of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha for a total of at least 10-years.)

  

4) The candidates for any election should be selected through a democratic process within the political party, instead of the high command deciding the nominations.

(The above suggestion ensures a much wider democracy at the grass root level. Every political party should encourage proposals for candidature from the party members at the constituency level. The party may try to obtain unanimous choice; however it should not shy away from holding party level elections to select the most popular candidate among many aspirants.)

 

5) There should be a limit on number of terms/years for anybody to continue as President, Governor, Prime Minister and Chief Minister.

(This suggestion will see an end to widespread hero-worship, sycophancy and nepotism seen in our democracy.)

 

6) Election expenses by all political parties and candidates should be closely monitored. Any party or candidate spending more than the stipulated amounts should be disqualified.  

7) The Election Commission should subsidise election expenses for all candidates, the amount of subsidy varying depending the size of the constituency. However, after the elections, the candidates placed fourth or lower, on number votes polled, will be asked to repay the amount of subsidy availed.

8) The candidate, who loses security deposit due to low percentage of votes polled, should also be asked to make good the expenses incurred by Election Commission on account of his candidature, like, providing security, telephone and other such facilities and subsidies. It could even be an ad-hoc amount based on the size of the constituency. This will be in addition to the subsidy of election expenses availed by him from the Election Commission as in item No. 7 above.

(The two suggestions as above will encourage only the serious candidates to contest the elections. Number of contestants per seat will reduce. This will make the election process more meaningful and largely reduce the cost of conducting elections, in terms of simpler voting machines, less security and fewer facilities provided to the candidates, etc.)   

 

9) Elections should not be countermanded for a death of an ‘independent’ candidate who does not officially represent any political party or group.         

10) If an elected member resigns before his term or gets disqualified for any reason during the term, he will be asked to pay the entire election expenses incurred by Election Commission in his constituency. This could also be an ad-hoc amount based on the size of the constituency. This member should also be disqualified from contesting elections for the next 5-years.

11) The term of every elected body should be fixed, be it Local, Legislature or Parliament. Dissolution of any of these bodies should not be permitted, and neither its extension. When the leader of the house loses majority, a new leader should re-elected with majority support. House may be kept in suspension till a new leader is elected.

 

(The three suggestions as above will dispel the need for unnecessary repeated elections and the subsequent expenses and disturbances to public affairs and administration.)

 

12) Voting should be made compulsory for all voters. It should be made a condition for availing any government grants, loans etc. The tax-payers should be asked to present proof of voting in any of the elections (at least once in the preceding 5 Years) to be able to avail tax exemptions. Alternately they should get prior exemption from voting with valid reasons.

13) Electronic voting should be introduced at all levels. The voting machine should include an option for No-Vote.

(The above two suggestions will help attract quality voters to the voting booth. The present trend of ignoring these voters in preference to poorer class is not good for our democracy in the long run.)

 

14) Upper house (Legislative Councils) should be restored in all the states to offer political space for the experts with social objectives.

15) Proportional representation had been discussed umpteen times in India but not considered due to obvious complications. A simple way to obtain the same is to consider membership to Upper Houses (both at State and Central level) based on percentage votes polled, (instead of number of seats won), by the political parties in State and Central elections respectively.

(The above two suggestions will enable future Manmohan Singhs and Abdul Kalams to contribute to our national policy matters and administration.)

 

It is hoped these suggestions will be considered by the election commission along with other electoral reforms already on their cards. These reforms should be widely discussed by the people in all the media including internet, TV channels and print media. Is not that a true democracy?

 

L V Nagarajan

1 Aug 2008

 

I have been closely watching the recent presidential elections in USA. One aspect I liked there was the possibilty for early voting. Early voting opens about one month before actual polling date. The people are encouraged to vote early by Email and postal ballot. This can very easily be adopted in India and it will encourage more middleclass elites to vote. Right now in India this middle class is totally neglected in elctioneering. Nobody bothers for their vote

L V Nagarajan , 6th Nov 2008

 

 

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9 Responses to “Indian Democracy”

  1. Mr WordPress Says:

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  2. sudhakaranck Says:

    you are correct. we are thinking in the nearly same laines.
    but i am stressing just on one point … i.e rectifying the ‘charactor-crisi’ in our political leadership.
    every thing else is secondary … because if the ‘raja’ – political leadership is not competent and committed … especially if they ar of the vicious type we have today – they would not be competent to coprehand what we say or even if they understnd they would not itry to implement a proper democracy would be against their interest.

    on the democracy in the functioning of political arties… is their a consensus??/
    pl visit my site :greatindiatrust.org

    sudhakaran

  3. Nita Says:

    A comprehensive post but I was wondering why you have not referenced the places where you got the information from? It’s always best to do that and I am only telling you this because you wrote and asked for my opinion.
    Best of luck with blogging!

  4. serialbus Says:

    LV, Thanks for visiting my post. I thought that above was very comprehensive and well thought-out. My only concern is with the point 7. You have mentioned that seeking reimbursements from candidates placed lower in the final tally will desist non-serious candidates. I believe such a measure will actually desist those without financial means to support their candidacy and has no bearing on one’s seriousness to contest. A well-meaning school teacher will be discouraged to contest and a ganglord with lot of ill-earned money will be hardly bothered by such fine print. What say?

  5. Nagarajan Says:

    Refering to comment by serialbus: The well meaning school teacher should contest only if he has confidence that he can atleast finish third in the race, if not win it altogether. Secondly, if he thinks he cannot reimburse the amount of subsidy, he should avail subsidy from the government. Thirdly, he should definenly have his group of supporters who should be able to collect sufficient money for bare election expenses, if not in millions. In such case only we can consider the well meaning teacher as a serious candidate.
    I have been closely watching the recent presidential elections in USA. One aspect I liked there was the possibilty for early voting. Early voting opens about one month before actual polling date. The people are encouraged to vote early by Email and postal ballot. This can very easily be adopted in India and it will encourage more middleclass elites to vote. Right now in India this middle class is totally neglected in elctioneering. Nobody bothers for their vote

  6. Marcie Says:

    Great work.

  7. Nagarajan Says:

    There is yet another way to involve people in the political process, known as referendums. Some of the very important and sensitive decisions could be taken by adopting referendums on such propositions. The process referendum and resultant public debate augurs well for any democracy. Any decsion taken by this process is owned by the people and hence more easily accepted. When such a massive exercise as general elections is undertaken, we get more benifits out of the same by using the occasion for a referendum on a few larger issues. Hope indian election commission will be more proactive to such reforms.

  8. Prof Bala N Balasubramanian Says:

    Thanks Mr Nagarajan for asking me to review this post. I enjoyed going through it. Here are my comments, on matters relating to political parties, their recognition etc.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. Having said that, and given decades of our experience with inner party democracy, I’d add the following reforms:
    (a) Each “recognised” party (more on this later) must be asked to structure their hierarchical organisation on the same lines as the country – national, state, district, down to taluks and villages if necessary. At the national (and State level) the executive must adopt a federal structure, with each of the constituents at the level immediaely below being represented, such representatives being elected by those constituents (from among themselves or by selecting an outside individual from that district, taluk and so on).
    (b) Executive councils at each level should meet at least once in a quarter and their agenda and proceedings must be placed in public domain. Elected members who do not attand at least half the number of meetings each year should be disqualified from future memberships for a specified period, may be a full year or so. The idea is to get only people who can devote time to party issues at their hierarchical level.
    (c) People on these councils at every level including the national level should be asked to vote on each resolution, affirmative or negative, and not to abdicate their decision-making power by initiative such as deciding to “leave it to the President” to decide.
    (d) Presidents and Secretaries (and may be other office bearers as well) of party councils at every level (including national level) may not hold same office for more than two terms of say three years each. (This will help to minimise chances of entrenchment on a permanent basis although it will not necessarily eliminate family control over party indefinitely)
    (e) At the national and preferably also at state levels, party councils must constitute Audit Committees with responsibilities similar to those of publicly listed companies, comprising of a majority of members with knowledge of financial and accounting disciplines. Audit committees at the national level should report to members in the party’s annual reports on their activities, findings and decisions.
    (f) Parties’ annual reports and aaudited accounts should be reviewed and approved at annual meetings of party members attending either personally or through nationally televised interactive gatherings of such members.
    (e) Parties which do not comply with these minimum organisational requirements should not be given recognition as national or state parties, with all the associated benefits of common symbol etc

    2. Fully agree. Further points for consideration:
    (a) Auditrd accounts must be displayed in Party web sites. Appointments of auditors Audit Committee and approved at annual meetings of members.
    (b) The Institute of Chartered Acountants of India should be asked to prescribe appropriate Accounting Standards applicable to political parties and they should be adhered to by the auditors and parties, with deviations being highlighted and commented upon by the national council of he parties.
    (c) Disclosure of material funding sources and other such matters involving transparency must be prescribed in such Accounting Standards.

    3. Agree. Additionally, Parties should be asked to evolve a model Ehics and Probity Code which every official and member at every level of the party hierarchy should annually sign. A whistle blower policy (as applicable to publisted corporations) must be evolved and the Parties web sites should display particulars of omplaints received, disp[osed of and so on.
    (d) All related party transactions must be reviewed by the councils at national and state levels and arms-length dealings and appropriate disclosures should be mandated.

    4. Some further points for consideration:

    (a) To qualify as a national party, parties must demonstrate reasonable membership and organisational structres and processes as above in at least one state/ UT in at least three of the five regions of the country (north, west, south, central, east)
    (b) Only recognised national parties to contest elections to parliament; other parties may be allowed to contest such elections in association with a national party but once that pre-poll arrangement has been approved, no change can be permitted untill the next general election. If this condition is breached, elected members will forefeit their membership of parliament.

    Sorry Mr Nagarajan, can not continue now, but will revert with more later on. Meantime, please let me know if this is the kind of review and comment youbeen looking for.ou had in mind

  9. Nagarajan Says:

    I fully agree with all your comments. My idea was to make this post as brief as possible so that readers can sustain their patience to read it through. I surely wish to have more of your considered comments on other points also. We can have such brief suggestions as mine, as a preamble for a detailed monogram on Electoral Reforms. Perhaps you may ask one of your students to take up this as a project and develop a detailed monogram. It will definitely have more value than my humble blog.

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