What is wrong with our politics? Nothing much if you go by global yardsticks, yet everything is.
Looking around the world at large, we see at least one surviving religious monarchy (Vatican), a wide range of other monarchies, several religious dictatorships (one down … sorry, two, if you count Nepal, overcompensated by several new ones, all Islamic), a vanishing breed of communist dictatorships, a few overt or tacit dictatorships, several underdogships that go in the name of liberal democracy, but by far the most popular and preferred form is democracy—warts and all. And there are too many warts to be tackled by grandma’s remedies. You remove one and two more will rear their ugly heads. Let us look at the warts, those that we know of, one by one for a start.
- Who all should vote? There is no dispute that universal adult franchise (even for the unlettered, and those who are deliberately kept that way by a series of well-meaning governments) is the most desireable electoral process. (Tick that.)
- Should excercise of the franchise be mandatory? (How can you?)
- Who should pick up the tabs of campaign and other electoral expenses, the exchequer or the candidates? (No solid answer.)
- Who all should be allowed to put up their candidature: all adults, adults with a certain verifiable minimum level of formal education, adults with no criminal records, adults with a certain specified maximum age at the time of the poll? Should there be reservations based on caste, tribal standing, economic status, or simply ones sex? (Hmmm!)
- In multiparty politics, should the electoral authority allow any and every party, and any number of independent candidates to join the fray? (A most annoying question that cannot be answered.)
- In the event of a hung house who gets to form the government? (This is a para-mathematical poser by any count.)
All these questions, basic and pertinent as they are, intend no disrespect to those who had put together the relevant parts of the Constitution of India. An infant republic of this day and age, after all, can only choose a pre-existing model (the Westminster for India) and change a bit here, a bit more there, and issue it as the declared intent of the nation. It is for the polity to amend it from time to time, if at all, or to scrap it altogether as has been done several times in other countries.
I shall examine the pros and cons of the questions posed and our societal mores in subsequent instalments.