By 2014 the country was completely fed up with the system as well as with the people at the helm. Notwithstanding his personal caliber, sobriety and convictions we have had a Prime Minister for ten long years who never faced the people and was not elected by them. It was perfectly alright by the constitutional legality but definitely, it was against the constitutional probity and political humility. The leader of the state derives authority and strength from the people in parliamentary democracy. One would just not have enough morale and strength to stand with solid feet if the people are not physically behind him. Congress just did not allow Dr Singh to be elected as it wanted him always to be dutifully, rather pitifully, dependent on the all-powerful high command for he was supposed to derive authority from and remain accountable to them only. Congress knew too well that his unimpeachable ability and scholarship coupled with people’s mandate would make Dr Singh unmanageable and uncontrollable and thus a well-knit conspiracy was hatched in to make Dr Singh remain without feathers to try fly. This was perhaps the severest of blows to the basic principles of parliamentary democracy.
BJP just struck the iron when it was appropriately hot and selected a masculine leader to lead the party to victory and also lead the country with enough capability, strength and mandate. Political corruption and system sobriety was the basic slogan on which Narendra Modi led BJP got the trust of the people. It was now incumbent on the new dispensation to translate the mandate into qualitative performance. Six years into action Modi govt is yet to take up the real agenda, though there have been glimpses of its resolve in the direction.
BJP govt is destined to do historical things and it may not afford to lose time doing them. Next four years into the yet another mandate Narendra Modi govt has to take the historical political plunge to cleanse polity from the dirt it is drenched with for this is the govt which has the true inner will, the strength, the courage and above all the mandate to do it. It has to do things eliminating political corruption making solid systems at place thereby consolidating and strengthening our democratic ethos, spirit and most importantly the constitutional morality.
BJP had been the first-ever a party to fix the retirement age of its leaders to hold an executive office and implement it ruthlessly – no other party even on date dared to adopt that. This in itself remains a great achievement and an example to follow. Demonetization, though severely criticized, had its effect on the flow and circulation of black money. Whatever arguments we hear against it, the fact remains people did understand its spirit and did welcome it. There are economists who feel and propagate rather frequent demonetization to control and do away with black money. In a country where we have a parallel economy going on with black money, the criticism of the step was quite natural. There have been remarkable improvements in the quality of governance with reduced corruption in govt functioning.
These are but surficial beautification and makeover having no permanent impact. There has not been a major systematic change to eliminate corruption and resultant favouritism at the higher levels. Few terminations of tainted officials in our huge administrative system might be symbolic showing govt intent but hardly have much of lasting impact. Govt deptts handling in revenue, taxations and infrastructure either at state or center levels, in general, are still riddled with money-making exercise and people largely feel that the chain remains from top-down below. More systematic changes – like the one as faceless handling of tax matters – would be required to have a permanent impact.
Nothing visible is done to check political corruption – no systematic and institutional change at least, though seemingly and visibly there is zero tolerance of it at the top. But this, again, remains person-oriented and would change with the change of faces. Systematic changes make it last irrespective of who remains at the helm. Broadly speaking changes in electoral laws, laws relating to defections and splits and making defined systems for political aspirations are badly needed and must form the political agenda of Modi govt.
Funding of political parties is the crux of all unholy beginnings – nobody gives money anybody without any self-interest and the money rendered are always sucked back in multiples. Funds are required to fight elections and make and unmake govts. If electoral reforms are undertaken parties would not need much of money. There is the limitation on spending money by the candidates in the elections, no such restrictions are there on the parties – so the candidates can arrange the money to the party to be incurred on his election. If there is state funding of elections and complete bar on the party’s spending all of election ills could be contained. State funding and state management of elections is the need of the hour. Once the elections are declared an independent body of the state could take control of all the aspects of it reducing the roles of political parties. Even campaigning and door to door contact programs of candidates – which has become synonym to huge cash flows – could be restricted, controlled and managed.
Drastic changes are required in the tenth schedule dealing with defections and splits in political parties. Again the law put restrictions on the lawmakers but does not stipulate any limitations on political parties – nothing punitive for the parties engineering defections and splits and being beneficiaries of these. We have had enough of it and all the political parties have been the victims of it at given times. Time has come to put a complete ban on any defection and split rendering them illegal except after elections are declared. Once a candidate is elected on a party ticket, the party must have him for up to next elections. Even full mergers of parties must be banned except on declaration of and before the elections.
Political parties are lifeblood of parliamentary systems. There have to be strict and transparent laws and rules governing their conduct. There should be a standard format of their constitution which should clearly stipulate all its processes – its internal elections, its methodologies and most importantly it’s funding. They should be publishing their audited accounts and all annual minutes of proceedings and decisions.
Administrative machinery should be granted appropriate liberty and autonomy of functioning. They should be refrained from being seen aligned to the ruling dispensation. There should be independent bodies taking care of their general functioning, placements and accountabilities though these bodies should always be reporting to and responsible to the political bosses as they are eventually responsible to the people.
Most importantly there should be a complete ban on cash transactions at all levels and all transactions must be made on online mode. Covid-19 and lockdowns do have an encouraging impact on online transactions and this should increase ultimately putting a ban to all cash transactions. If we are capable of controlling and managing our cash flow, we would be able to put a full stop to many corrupt practices.
These are not new points and have been discussed too often at various levels by various people. But putting emphasis on these points in these columns is based on the belief that these historical political initiatives can only be taken by Narendra Modi govt since of all the govts till the date this is govt which has the courage to take the decisions out of the box and bell the cat. If these are not done by this govt it will not be done for eternity and things would go on deteriorating day by day rendering entire body politic of the nation rotten and beyond repair!
Making systematic and institutional reforms: Modi Govt has to bell the cat – Part I