Things we need to do to strengthen our democracy

India is the biggest democracy in the world today. Many of our institutions like the Election Commission, or CAG are few of the biggest assets of this democracy and are respected world over.

There are several facts which are not good sign for our democracy. They are big liabilities to country and addressing those will strengthen our democracy and will be in long term interest of country.

Democratic functioning of Political parties

Role of political party is very important in democracy. Political party forms Govt, run the country, take forward issues of national interest, take people voice to legislature house and play role of opposition. But it is misfortune of this country that most of the political parties have become family businesses. Most of these parties neither elect party president democratically nor function democratically. They neither have fair party constitution based on sound democratic fundamentals nor abide fairly and honestly.

Key posts like party president, constitutional ruling posts (like PM, CM, opposition leader) are always kept with owner family. A quick glimpse of key political parties reveals a dangerous scenario for country:

  • Congress is one of biggest national parties which has ruled country for largest duration after independence. But state of democracy within party is pathetic. Even party constitution used to say prime minister will be party president assuming only this party will rule country through one family. Congress party is family business of Nehru family. There were party president and PM from outside this family as exception for very small duration. Only little big duration was after Rajeev Gandhi’s death when family abstained from politics. Current president is ruling party for more than 18 years.
  • Rashtriya Janta dal is family business of Mr Lalu Yadav who trusted to hand over chief minister ship to his wife who was a house wife, far away from politics while going to jail. Rather than giving it to truly deserving party member. He ensured to cover his entire family during ticket distribution during all elections. His 9th fail son is dy CM of a big state. He himself is facing so many charges, has been sentenced but freely moving around on bail.
  • So many other political parties in country are also run as family business, few of them are:
Political Party (Owner) Family Note
Biju Janata Dal Patnaik family
Indian National Lok Dal Chautala family Family involved in various serious corruption charges and many family members are in long term jail
National Conference Abdulla family Reason to trigger militancy in J&K is because of death of democracy in state by NC and congress
People’s Democratic Party Mr Mufti Mohammed Sayeed family
Lok Jan Shakti Mr Ramvilas Paswan family
Samajwadi Party Mr Mulayam singh Yadav family
Shiromani Akali Dal Mr Prakash singh Badal family
Shiv Sena Bal Thakarey family

Lack of transparency in political parties

Political parties contest elections, occupies treasury or position benches, run Govt, occupies senior most Govt and constitutional posts. They occupy posts above senior most Govt bureaucrats. Most of the legislative, appointment and governing power is with these political party leaders (politicians). All 3 forces head reports to a defence minister of ruling party, all top civil servants report to council of ministers, CM and PM. Most of the Govt departments come under the ambit of RTI. Considering spirit of RTI political parties must come under the ambit of RTI, disclose source of funding (must accept only documented money) and expenses, disclose internal working, each and every action must be in public domain. Even though political parties don’t come together on issues of national interest yet on these issues all political parties have come together.

Voting on caste and religion basis

Caste and religion are biggest factors for voters in all elections over capability, honesty, past corrupt record, criminal background, national interest, candidate qualifications, knowledge of constituency problems, capability to raise people issues in assembly/parliament and commitment. Our politicians are also smart and they further politicise this issue, divide people on these lines, and distribute tickets according to this equation in constituency. As long as this is biggest criteria to vote, how can there be good governance, development, law & order, forward looking, national interest. In fact, we people also fight and are divided on these factors.

Maximum tenure for key posts

All developed nations and democracies have maximum tenure for individual on key constitutional posts like a person can’t be an American president for more than 2 tenure (8 years). It gives opportunity for others and safe guard from any wrong person holding key post and destroying country. People like Mr Jyoti Basu and Lalu Yadav have been CMs up to 25 years and destroyed state. Our country must also have provision for maximum tenure for key posts like PM, President, CM, political party president. Considering Lalu appointing Rabri as CM suggests this cap must be for whole family because our politician may misuse one person law by appointing anyone else from family and ultimately family rules.

Hung parliament/assembly and horse trading

There are so many national, regional, city and mohalla level parties in country. Many election outcomes have not given clear mandate to any one political party because of this these situations happen:

  • Horse trading happens, MP, MLAs are sold at very high price, lucrative posts, ministerial berths and so many under table deals (like dropping charges, cases, investigation) take place
  • Two or more political parties form Govt. These parties pull each other, carry forward their political interests and pressurize to drop any cases/investigations against their leaders, hamper various moves of national interest.

Constitution writers might not have even dreamt of these situations so didn’t address but gave provision to change based on need of hour. It is high time to find solution to this problem. Make some guideline like allow only national parties to participate in parliamentary election, party with highest number of seats to form Govt even if they don’t have majority etc.

Criminals can contest election and become legislatures

A smallest Govt employee can’t be in office if chargesheeted in petty issue, not even heinous crime. But this rule doesn’t apply to politicians. A politician can contest election and become legislature even if he is behind bars, has serious and heinous criminal charges, cases in court, investigations are undergoing.

Because of this criminal are becoming legislature and once they are in power then it is literally impossible to get them punished (either they get rid of all charges or drag cases beyond their life). There are very rare cases when politicians got punished, punishment is upheld by higher courts and he remains behind bars for years. There should be rule like:

  • A politician can’t contest election if chargesheeted
  • Case against any politician (at least serving/ex MLA, MLC and MP) must be completed at all levels within pre-defined time period (say one year)
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