Edit/Op-Ed

Reforming for a Qualitative Democracy

Subhash Chandra Agrawal for BeyondHeadlines

India is experiencing evils of democratic form of governance which presently is just quantitative based on vote-bank politics for selfish interest of many in politics taking politics as profession rather than a tool to serve nation and its citizens. It can and should be reformed to a qualitative democratic system to eliminate many evils like including frequent change of governments and costly mid-term elections. Reformed system should rather be role-model for other countries.

Prime Minister/Chief Ministers should be elected by secret and compulsory vote of members of the Lower House through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) on nominations signed by at least 34-percent members. Such an elected PM/CM may be removed by same process but with compulsion of naming alternate leader in the same motion. Even Speakers and Deputy Speakers should be elected simultaneously with Chief Ministers in the same manner. Members not opting to vote may lose membership, and may be disqualified to contest any elections for next six years.

Reforming for a Qualitative Democracy

Secret voting for Rajya Sabha elections should be restored. Open-voting system for these elections has virtually given open licence for sale of MLAs’ votes for the Upper House of Parliament which has become ‘billionaire’s club’ because of the changed system. However since Legislative Councils (Vidhan Parishads) in states do not serve any fruitful purpose, Constitution should be amended to abolish provision of Legislative Councils in states. Only those not having contested any election in life, should be appointed nominated members of Rajya Sabha. Experiencing generally biased role of political persons as governors, persons having not contested any election in life-team may only be appointed as governors.

Only non-members having not contested elections for last say one year should be made Ministers so that MPs/MLAs may become real king-makers to serve as real watchdogs in service of their voters and constituencies, and to have a close watch on such appointed ministers rather than themselves lobbying for ministerial posts! Rather since being an MP or MLA in itself a full-time job, no MP or MLA should retain any type of post even in their party or society by considering posts of MPs and MLAs also as ‘Office of profit’. Those aspiring for ministerial post need not contest elections at all. Ministerial-strength then can be reduced for 10-percent of strength of lower House. Post of Parliamentary Secretaries should be altogether abolished.

Frequent elections can be avoided by reducing or extending terms of assemblies by up-to one year to hold any elections only once in a year in a month considered best suited by various aspects. Any by-election or even regular civic or panchayat election may also be held in this ‘election-month’. Since a person cannot represent two constituencies or become member of both Parliament and state-assembly, no person should be allowed to contest from more than one constituency or for both Parliament and state-assembly. A sitting MP/MLA should resign first from his earlier post before filing nomination for the other seat.

Security-losing persons should be barred from contesting elections for next six years. Rule 49(o) for ‘None-to-Vote’ should be put on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). All candidates in a constituency getting votes less than ‘None-to-Vote’ option may be barred from contesting any future election. System will force political parties to put good candidates. Persons with more than two children should not be allowed to contest elections. Parties getting twenty-percent votes at national and state levels may be respectively recognised as national and state-level parties. Since parties make gimmick assurances for votes, election-manifestoes should be given legal status. Election Commission may be empowered to de-recognise parties going against aspects mentioned in their manifestoes. It should be compulsory for political parties to give at least one-third party tickets to women in every such state where these are contesting elections. Study should be made about UK-system where only three parties are allowed to contest polls.

Post of Lok Sabha Speaker should be upgraded to that of a Vice President. President and two Vice Presidents should be simultaneously elected by all MPs and MLAs in the manner President is elected. In case of vacancy caused at post of President, a Vice President may be made President for rest of the term. But in case of vacancy caused at post of a Vice President, an interim Vice President may be elected by MPs only. However in unusual case of none of the three duly-elected persons may be able to hold post of President, fresh simultaneous elections for all the three posts may be held with Chief Justice of India as interim President, without waiting for completion of five-year’ term.

Suggested three posts (President and two Vice Presidents) can and should be filled by direct elections to be held with general Lok Sabha elections where nominations for these three posts may require 34-percent signatures of members of last Lok Sabha thus having direct elections between only two contestants for these posts. Persons once posted on these posts (and also state-governors) must quit active politics for ever. Otherwise all their post-retirement benefits including pension and government-accommodation may be withdrawn.

To avoid usual delay in approving poll-reforms by the Parliament, Election Commission should be empowered to implement poll-reforms by giving six-month’ notice to the Parliament. If Parliament does not disapprove reforms proposed by Election Commission within stipulated six-month’ period, these should be taken as approved by the Parliament. Election Commissioners should be selected by a committee also consisting of Prime Minister and Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha, in the manner Chief Vigilance Commissioner is selected to avoid any chances of bias in Election Commission. Rather appointees for other top posts requiring impartiality like of Chief of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should all be by same procedure involving also Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha.

Considering highest-level of immorality amongst Parliamentarians normally experienced also during confidence-vote, immunity to elected representatives and ministers should be withdrawn even from Parliamentary proceedings because in the infamous JMM-bribery case even the Apex Court expressed its inability to act against guilty ones because their bribed act to vote for Narsimharao-government was considered to be immunised being under Parliamentary proceedings. Investigating agencies like proposed Lokpal should handle such cases against Parliamentarians rather than Chairpersons of Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha/ Parliamentary-committees which are ultra soft against immoral activities of members. For instance, Lok Sabha mildly punished its member Rajesh Manjhi taking his lady-friend as his wife on foreign-trip at government-expense by just barring him from few sittings of Lok Sabha even though such an act was not immunised. It should be duty of Secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to compulsorily inform to law-enforcing authorities about criminal activity of any Parliamentarian which may not be immunized as being immunity available to Parliamentarians, even though Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha may be punishing otherwise also such member/s for such unlawful act/s. Presence of a Parliamentarian at Sansad Bhawan even for attending the session should be immediately informed to concerned police-authorities if the concerned Parliamentarian is absconding from warrants/summons issued by any court. Absconding member must not be allowed to leave Sansad Bhawan till execution of summons/warrants is complete. Even otherwise, everyone at Parliament is a citizen first whose natural duty should be to assist law-enforcing authorities in every manner possible. Parliamentarians and legislatures with attendance less than say 75-percent in the House, should not be allowed to contest any elections for next six years. Curious case of George Fernandes having been elected Rajya Sabha member despite having lost all his memory, even calls for some minimum medical-fitness certificate before allowing contesting elections!

All those getting salaries from the exchequer including MPs, MLAs, ministers, judges should not only declare their wealth and assets, but also give details of one-time expenses above say rupees twenty thousand to their respective heads in the manner government-employees are required to do. Parliamentarians should be required to compulsory fill all their particulars in their bio-data including name of spouse/s to be put on public domain of websites of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This can check several malpractices like travel of some other lady in name of wife of some member like was noted with the then Parliamentarian Rajesh Manjhi, and/or hiding name of additional (more than one spouse) like was done by Dharmendra when he did not disclose name of Hema Malini also as his wife as was evident from bio-data of these two persons as available at websites of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at that time. Salaries/perks of MPs can be withheld till they provide all these particulars. Rules of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha should be re-written in an stringent manner by encoding fixed punishments for Parliamentarians for not following rules and norms, snatching discretionary powers of Chairpersons and Parliamentary committees which are ultra soft in punishing guilty-found Parliamentarians.

Rule should be to make all deductions of government-dues like of water, electricity, telephone, rent or any other from salary/perks/pensions etc payable to them. Likewise pensions and other payables should be hold till former Parliamentarians/Ministers do not vacate government-accommodations. Defaulters should be barred from contesting any next elections or holding any official post till all dues are cleared against them, and non-entitled government-accommodations are vacated. It is shame on Indian system that even persons posted on highly dignified post of Prime Minister are defaulters of dues for use of Indian Air Force (IAF) aircrafts for non-official purposes like also poll-campaign. Either the Prime Minister or political party sponsoring that Prime Minister on post may be asked to deposit advance-money for use of IAF aircrafts. For previous recoveries, defaulting Prime Ministers must not be allowed to contest any election, their pensions and other entitlements like having a government-bungalow should be withhold till due are cleared. They may not be posted on any official-post. Above all, parties having sponsored such defaulting ex Prime Ministers should be derecognized. Government must make it clear how it intends to recover heavy IAF dues from ex Prime Minister/s since deceased. Political parties (and others) opting land/accommodation from government at concessional lease/rent/cost should be automatically covered under RTI Act. Other such reforms aimed to ensure Parliamentarians as model citizens should be studied and implemented.

(Writer is Guinness Record Holder for most letters in newspapers and an RTI activist)

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