We have heard, for the past five or six days, "Acche din aane waale hain." That's all very well, but, to quote a very popular fantasy series partly based on real-life historical events and characters, "Words are wind." Why is that so? Let's look at a few facts:
- The Congress may have been ignominiously trounced but the virus of dynastic politics still infects the political system. There were many politicians who spoke out in the 1970s and 1980s against Mrs Indira Gandhi's decision to induct her sons into politics--it's interesting to see that so many of them have followed in her footsteps. Imitation seems to be the sincerest form of flattery here.
- Another major concern: 34% of the MPs in the 16th Lok Sabha have declared that they have criminal cases against them. Why is it that parties persist in giving tickets to such people, who will eventually do little to improve governance or add to development? Could it be because fighting an election in India is increasingly expensive? Could it also be because many candidates offer handouts to the electorate to get elected?
- We have modeled our parliamentary system on the UK--why can we not insist that political parties cap their total expenses per election at a certain fixed amount? Our inability to limit party expenses on general propaganda enables people with big money power to call the shots.
So, what are the solutions to these problems? Here are a few suggestions:
- Ensure that each constituency (central and state) has a volunteer committee of party workers, who are not just career politicians but also work for a living, from which candidates for elections (central and state) are chosen.
- Use the massive mandate given in this election to sweep out the 34% criminal elements out of the House. Otherwise, the 34% rotten apples will spoil the rest (66%) of the crop, and everybody will feel free to consider a politician corrupt, even though they might not say so, for fear of defamation charges. Lawmakers, like Caesar's wife, must be above suspicion. Pass a law that prevents anyone with criminal charges of any kind (or their family members and friends) from fighting an election until said criminal charges are dropped after investigation or the person charged with the crime has paid a debt to society.
- Come up with realistic estimates of how much an individual candidate must spend to fight elections at the state and central level, and how much each party must spend per candidate fielded. Get election accounts audited (by CAG if necessary) and submit these to the Election Commission--provide copies of these to all media houses upon request.
Unless such steps are undertaken, this vote for change will be nothing more than yet another mirage in the desert--or, as the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (The more it changes, the more it's the same thing).