India's polity must consider radical election reforms or the implosion will be irreversible

Jaiprakash Narain suggested a"Total Revolution" in the political system; that is what India needs, says editor-in-chief Shiv Balak Misra.

Indias polity must consider radical election reforms or the implosion will be irreversible

Karnataka witnessed a democratic tug of war for several days and the Supreme Court intervened to facilitate a coalition government of the Congress and Janta Dal (Secular). The apex court approved the formula used in Goa and Manipur elections results but the situation in Karnataka seems different. The voters of 38 Janta Dal (S) had voted to oust the ruling Congress from power. But JD (S) leader Kumarswamy reinstated the Congress to the seat of power. This is an insult to the people's choice. If the aim was to keep the BJP out of power, the Congress could have given outside support to the Janta Dal without sharing power.
Democracy, as we know, is "by the people, for the people and of the people" and it should therefore reflect the will of the people that cannot be ascertained by a head count. We should take account of the opinion count. In a pre-poll alliance, there is a common minimum programme, a leader, a manifesto, a political direction and the people know whom they are voting for, and why.

This provides an alternative to the ruling party with little scope for deception. However, the political parties want to keep the deceptive mandate alive; otherwise they could make the recommendations of "Sarkaria Commission" more explicit. It was desirable to disallow the post poll alliance; a political merger could be allowed instead.
There can be many ways of providing a government of people's choice and one of them is that parties fight elections instead of individuals. Thereafter, the parties can nominate their best candidates to Parliament and the state Assembly in proportion to their vote share. This will avoid the agony of "Ayaram-Gayaram" besides groupism and indiscipline. However, the negative point is that organization will dominate the government as in many communist countries. Individuality of members and their liberty will be lost.
The second option is to adopt presidential form of government as in America, France and many other countries.
The president there represents the will of people, is all powerful, and there is no scope of a power struggle within parties. The irony of our democracy is that we borrowed the parliamentary system from the British and never attempted to think of its alternative or to improve upon it. Our leaders were educated and trained in the Western world and were unaware of the ancient Indian Republics and Panchayats, to develop our democracy on that foundation.

Under the present state of our system, there is no clear option before the electorate to chose from. Innumerable parties divide votes in a way that the winning candidate cannot be said to be the people's choice, with less than 50 percent vote share. To avoid this situation, the Election Commission could limit the number of registered parties and promote principled mergers of parties. Voting can be preferential as in the upper houses of states or in the Rajya Sabha.
The time required and money spent on elections used to be much less when the elections to the state assemblies were conducted along with the General Election of the country. Even corruption, hooliganism and violence was much less. But Indira Gandhi, the prime minister during the seventies, suggested that issues in the state and general election are different, therefore they should be held separately. The result is before us when elections are due in one or the other state. Let us see if Modi succeeds in clubbing state and general elections. State parties have dominated the electoral scene in provinces and the Centre has become weak.
Jai Prakash Narain, the well known socialist, made a major contribution to the democratic system of India. He brought the splinter parties under the single banner of Janata Party with one name, flag and manifesto. He had suggested the right to recall the elected members, right to reject one or all the candidates, and many other suggestions under the so called "Total Revolution". The entry of criminals in politics is the greatest problem that has been brought by politicians themselves. First the politicians took help of criminals and afterwards the criminals became politicians themselves.
Exhorbitant expenditure in elections, violent atmosphere, use of muscle power prohibit gentlemen from entering the arena of politics. They are shocked while seeking tickets and political parties ask them, how much will you spend? And this is not in some lakhs of rupees but in crores. If the government bears the election expenditure of recognized political parties, they will not shy away from exposing themselves to RTI and will not need to amass black money.
The Governors play vital role after a hung election, in determining the majority and minority. The tradition of Governors was started by the British rulers and we are continuing with it. Their role often is dubious and adds to the political confusion leading to judicial intervention. It is desirable that the claim of a party to form the government should be unambiguously defined. Constitution needs necessary amendments not just commissions to eliminate uncertainties in people's representation laws. Otherwise, the situations like those in Karnataka will crop up now and then. Let us hope our people will learn from the experience of Karnataka.

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