Friday, April 28, 2017

Time for a National Debate on Direct Election of CM - Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan

Now that there is a vigorous debate about simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. 

The best way to accomplish that goal is election of the head of government in states by the people in a direct election, with clear separation of powers, fixed tenure, term limitations, and the freedom to appoint the cabinet from outside the Assembly. In a large, aggregate election in the whole state, the risks of vast investment in vote buying are too high, and rewards are too low. Therefore leaders and parties will depend on the personality, character, record and credibility of the candidate, and the agenda, rather than on vote-buying. At the same time, as the legislative majority is no longer necessary for the survival and functioning of the executive, the profit making opportunity of the legislator diminishes substantially (he can no longer pressurize government for transfers, contracts and other favours). One might spend 5 to 10 crores for an assembly seat but is highly unlikely that one will take risk of spending few thousands of crores to become C.M .Therefore, the risk of high investment in vote-buying becomes unsustainable, as the rewards are few. The whole system will go into a virtuous cycle, and black money and corruption will decline significantly. 

Along with Direct Election of CM we should start debating on Proportional Representative Electoral System in States

Proportional Representation in States

The requirement of marginal vote in the winner-take- all first-past- the-post system is at the root of vote buying in a poor country with our historical and political background. In the quest for winning votes, most major contenders for power – candidate and parties – are forced to spend lavishly and buy votes. Vast, unaccounted expenditure has become the necessary entry fee for serious electoral competition; but it does not guarantee victory. Thus while money does not guarantee political success, it had become a huge entry barrier, has distorted political competition and incentives in politics, has attracted wrong kind of people and repelled most of the public-spirited citizens, and created a system of corruption, bad governance, cynicism and under-performance. 

If we allocate seats in proportion of the share of votes of a party in a state, then marginal vote is not vital; winner does not take all; there is no desperation to buy votes; ethical groups and parties will have voice; consensus becomes necessary in governance; representation is available to all views; and ethical politics and entry of truly public-spirited citizens become assets, not liabilities for parties. 

There are various models of such Proportional Representation (PR). But simple, state-based models with a reasonable threshold of vote requirement to prevent excessive fragmentation, and multi-member constituencies to continue link between people and their representative will work best in Indian conditions. 

Such a PR system is technically easy to introduce – it only requires a change in law. However, it is unlikely to materialize at the national level now, when a major party has a clear majority, and is a beneficiary of FPTP system. Nevertheless, if there is political consensus at the national level, PR can be introduced in States. Real politics and governance challenges are in states. As seen in the UK, there is no need to have the same FPTP model at national and state levels. In the UK, while the House of Commons is elected on FPTP model, regional parliaments in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are elected through PR. So are members of European Parliament elected so far (until Brexit becomes a reality). Similarly London city mayor is elected directly by all people. 

Therefore PR model for state assembly elections is a viable, practical reform which will transform nature of politics and governance in states. As the real governance touching citizens is at state and local levels, it will be transformative in nature. And it can be achieved by a simple law of parliament as the Constitution provides space for multi-member constituencies.

Courtesy: Social Post News

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