Perils of Westminster Model

The events of the past one month in Maharashtra hold a mirror to the crisis in our democratic polity.  Once again, the nation witnessed buying and selling of legislators, party hopping, back room deals, political instability, holding MLAs captive in tourist resorts in other states, a vote of confidence, and the usual scramble for loaves of office in the impending cabinet expansion.  This has been seen in several states all over the country over the years.  Now this culture of ayarams and gayarams has inflicted a grievous blow to India’s most prosperous state.

Pitfalls in Political Funding Reform

dir="ltr">As Mark Twain said, nothing concentrates the mind more beautifully than the knowledge that one has only fifteen days to live. As the political and economic crisis is worsening, and as illegitimate and unaccounted election expenditure is skyrocketing (there are instances of candidates buying votes in village panchayats spending Rs 1.5 crore!), parties are showing belated but welcome signs of eagerness for political funding reform.

A Time to Applaud and Follow the Lead

The gruesome tragedy in Nepal and the excitement of the Indo-Pak summit have pushed other potentially far reaching developments from the front pages.  The 9-member committee report on Congress Fund Raising by Dr Manmohan Singh is of fundamental importance to the polity.  The Singh Committee recommended raising a corpus of Rs 50 crore to meet the recurrent party annual expenditure of about Rs 5 crore.  The Congress Working Committee accepted the suggestion and decided to raise money only by cheques hereafter.

Long-term Public Good vs Short-term Political Costs

One of the great challenges in a democracy is how to reconcile the long term public good with the short term political price to be paid. Most major public policy decisions have a slow rate of social pay off, and involve instant political losses.  Leadership is essentially the ability to persuade people to accept the temporary pain for long term gain.  While there is no substitute to visionary and inspiring leadership, the political culture of a society and electoral system have a  profound  impact  on this ability to reconcile public good with political costs.

Who Holds the Most Important Office?

“The punishment suffered by the wise who refuse to take part in the government, is to live

under the government of bad men.” Plato

Many of us have heard of numerous stories of wealthy individuals and successful businessmen who appointed trustees, managers and accountants to handle their affairs and a few years later discovered to their dismay that they have become bankrupt and often do not have any chance to recover their misappropriated assets.

Elections and Voters’ Lists

Elections to MCH are round the corner. After a long gap of 15 years, blatant violation of the Constitution and a judicial directive, elections have been finally announced! Elections are vital to democracy. Unfortunately our electoral process is severely flawed. I am not talking merely of inducements, impersonation, intimidation, and myriad other things we talk of in our drawing rooms - but of flaws in the electoral rolls. Electoral rolls are the heart of an election and if they are flawed the whole process is perverted.