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Governance after next Indian elections
Publication Date : 15-03-2013
Peace in Kashmir is shattered by a terrorist attack in Srinagar. Italy has treated India with contempt by refusing to return two marines after its Ambassador gave a solemn pledge to our Supreme Court.
The economy has plunged to new depths. The chief accused in the infamous gang rape case who pleaded not guilty and threatened to give fresh information was found hanging in unexplained circumstances while in high-security Tihar jail. His death may not have impacted the trial but may it not have disguised the whole truth?
Corruption cases dating back from years continue to mount without the guilty being nailed. In the helicopter scam, the former Air Chief and relatives have been named by the Central Bureau of Intelligence for having received 2 lakh euros. (One lakh is equivalent to 100,000.)
Italian prosecution claims that 10 times that amount was paid to “the family” in India. Whatever the versions coming out of the central secretariat, the street has made up its mind. As soon as the AgustaWestland helicopter scam broke in Italy, people on Twitter and on the street began worrying that the marines would return to Italy in return for the main recipients of kickbacks in the copter scam not being named.
There are solutions and remedial policies for each of the issues bedevilling our nation. These have been frequently written about. It is futile to repeat them. It is futile to even discuss policies.To translate policy into action, there must be a government. We have a government without a shred of governance. Indian democracy has collapsed. The Indian nation is tottering. The first and foremost need therefore is to restore a government. No hope may be placed upon the present dispensation reforming itself. One must focus on how to ensure that India gets a government that can deliver after the next general election.
The Congress is in a shambles. The Indian People's Party (BJP) is horribly divided. Little hope may be placed upon either national party to emerge as a credible alternative after the next election. That leaves the regional parties that exercise influence on their respective states. Their best prospect as at present rests upon the successful working of the coalition dharma. That has never delivered in the past. It will not deliver in the future.
People are sick and tired of the pulls and pressures, the pressure and blackmail, the revisions and rollbacks that have characterised coalition governments. The coalition dharma deserves burial. It must be replaced by federalism. That means a strong centre and self-ruled states. People demand stability. Governance demands authority. Policies demand direction. India demands a government. How might that be acquired?
Regional parties must get together not in a coalition but as a proper federation. In other words, the federating units may remain autonomous at the state level but must unite at the centre. This can be accomplished through the simple device of contesting Assembly elections under their present symbols but contesting parliamentary elections under one common symbol. Thereby neither a party recognised at the state level nor a party recognised at the national level would lose recognition. The state party would retain its symbol at the state level. The national party would retain recognition even after surrendering its symbol at the parliamentary level on the strength of its minimum presence in the requisite number of states.
To achieve this there is first of all the need for an agreed election manifesto. There would be required the drafting of a constitution for a party that contests only elections to parliament. The norms of electing the prime minister to head the federation would have to be agreed. The norms of selecting candidates for the election would have to be agreed. All this poses no problem and can be addressed easily in the proposed party constitution. The problem is about who can bell the cat. There are three possibilities.
First, the Congress converts itself from the Indian National Congress by also floating the Indian Federal Congress to accomplish the aforesaid. Secondly, the BJP converts the National Democratic Alliance into a full-fledged federation by roping in as many of the regional parties as possible and allowing its own state units to function as autonomously as all the regional parties.
And finally, the regional parties get together and hammer out a common programme and federal party constitution and create the federation. I see no other way by which a new alternative can emerge.
I see no other way by which governance and sense of direction in India can be reclaimed. Doubtless there is much that the next government would need to do in order to introduce meaningful political reform. But for reform there must first be a credible government. To create such a credible government the Congress, the BJP or regional parties must initiate action.
Are there any takers?
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist.