Thursday, May 8, 2014

Proportional representation a must to safeguard democracy: Dr.JP

Loksatta Party national President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan today appealed to all parties in the country to work for replacement of the present first-past-the-post electoral system by proportional representation to protect democracy from collapsing.

Under the present dispensation, Dr. JP said, the competent cannot get elected and those elected with resort to money and liquor cannot deliver.

Addressing a media conference, Dr. JP pointed out that the country is witnessing a mad scramble for power. In the general elections which have just concluded in Telangana and residual Andhra Pradesh all the contestants put together have spent not less than Rs.6000 crore and perhaps Rs.8000 crore as they viewed the election as a life and death struggle.

Dr. JP advocated direct election of the State Chief Minister as a corollary reform. One might spend Rs.10 crore or Rs.50 crore to become an MLA or MP but it is unlikely that one will spend Rs.5000 crore to get elected as Chief Minister.

A third associated reform is empowering local governments with devolution of powers and resources if the present MLA raj is to be ended.

Dr. JP pointed out that united Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of initiating the culture of buying votes with money and liquor. It has now spread to most of the States. With large sections of people remaining illiterate and steeped in poverty, politicians come to power by dangling freebies too. Yet, we shamelessly feign we have a wonderful democracy.

It is distressing that political parties are bent on coming to power by offering money and sops and not focusing on what an elected Government has to do. In any civilized society, a Government has to provide quality healthcare, education, skills and livelihood opportunities and basic infrastructure and ensure rule of law.

Unmindful of the grave fiscal deficit the newly emerging Andhra Pradesh is about to face, the main political parties have promised loan waivers ignoring the future of the youth. Similarly, political parties in Telangana too have promised loan waivers and other freebies. The fiscal surplus in Telangana will vanish into thin air if the irresponsible promises are sought to be implemented. Hyderabad City is crying for investments to improve its creaking water supply, drainage and sewerage facilities. Yet, political parties hold out promises of turning each State into a Singapore or Dubai or Shanghai.

Dr. JP warned that India will face a bleak future if it does not focus on providing at least a crore of jobs every year considering that 1.5 crore people are joining the workforce every year. “We still have one last window of opportunity since China is exiting manufacture of low-value goods with its population aging and wages rising. If we fail to grab the opportunity, countries in South-East Asia, Africa and Latin America will.”

Dr. JP pointed out that in the past few years there has been a severe contraction in GDP growth because of the criminal negligence of the manufacturing sector by the UPA Government. The country has witnessed a drop in the number of people employed in the agriculture and unorganized sectors. Even in the few spheres which have witnessed growth, there is no increase in the number of jobs. If the jobless growth trend is not reversed, the demographic dividend will turn into a demographic curse and trigger political unrest and chaos.

Replying to a question, Dr. JP said that irrespective of the outcome in elections he would devote the rest of his life for ushering in fundamental reforms in polity.

United Andhra Pradesh Loksatta Party President Katari Srinivasa Rao, and party leaders N. Saroja Devi, Bandaru Ramamohan Rao and Jagadeeswaran from Tamil Nadu took part in the media conference.

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