Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Vice President all for simultaneous polls



‘Of the 533 Lok Sabha members, 475 are crorepatis’

Hyderabad: Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu has called upon political parties to seriously consider the option of simultaneous elections right from panchayats to Parliament, across the country, to bring down the cost of holding elections by the Election Commission of India and also the expenditure by the political parties.

Apart from legitimate election expenditure, he said rise of illegitimate expenditure on vote buying is a great concern as it is making only the rich to be more qualified to become an MP, MLA -- than a well-qualified public spirited person.

“Of 533 candidates elected to the 17th Lok Sabha, 475 accounting for 88% are ‘crorepatis’. This paradox of poor India with rich Parliamentarians is raising concerns about growing role of money power in politics,” he said.

The Vice President was the chief guest at the inaugural session of the first annual national conference on ‘Indian Democracy at Work’ with the theme ‘Money power in politics’ organised by the Foundation for Democratic Reforms, ISB-Bharat Institute of Public Policy and University of Hyderabad at ISB here on Thursday.

Complimenting Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan, general secretary, FDR, for his sustained efforts for generating public awareness about clean politics and its merits, the Vice President called for fixing governance system and effective regulation of political finance along with bold reforms to break the vicious cycle of corruption and erosion of quality of democratic polity.

Any reform would be opposed in the beginning but it would benefit every citizen, political parties and government in the end, he said.

To check this trend, political parties must be made accountable for implementing their promises and there must be a ceiling on populist announcements based on the budgetary resources of a local body, State and the Centre on the lines of FRBM Act, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said.

He said Election Commission alone can not control money power in elections and politics and it is the responsibility of political parties, government and the voters.

A voter would forfeit the right to question the government when he compromises on morals and accepts gift or cash for his vote. It is crucial to plug the loopholes in the anti-defection law to make democracy accountable and transparent, he said.

He appealed to the citizens to vote in elections based on character, conduct, calibre and capability of the candidates and not based on cash, caste, community and criminal prowess. That would be the ultimate solution to check money power in politics, he said.

Earlier Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan said Indian democracy ensured peaceful transfer of power through elections and people cherish their freedom but shortcomings should be addressed to make democracy deliver better, he said. About Rs.1 lakh crore was spent on elections, most of it unaccounted, during the cycle of five years, undermining Indian democracy.

Prof. P. Appa Rao, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hyderabad, said university campuses should become the laboratory for reforms.

Mr. Rajendra Srivastava, Dean, Indian School of Business, proposed a vote of thanks.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Politicians divide people on caste lines: Ram Madhav

The BJP General Secretary Quotes Nehru & Marx At ISB Meet

Hyderabad: BJP general secretary Ram Madhav seemed to be in a candid mood at a conference at the Indian School of Business (ISB) on Friday as he told the audience that politicians divide society, based on caste for electoral gains. He however added not all caste as an institution was not bad.

He also suggested forming a separate Election Commission cadre as part of electoral reforms to avoid political interference during elections, even as he quoted Jawaharlal Nehru and Karl Marx in his speech.

Speaking at the two-day 'Money power in politics – Indian democracy at work’ annual conference, Madav batted for a liberal democracy and liberal constitutionalism.

He observed that society could run on its own without the interference of the government for 90% of its affairs. According to him, government was needed only for 10% of the time.

He even said that it was ok to lose an election for sake of good governance.

“Indian society was never government-centric, but governments have increasingly made people heavily dependent on them," he said and added that power should be contained and regulated.

Madhav did not hesitate to quote India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru during his speech. “Nehru was once asked why he was so fascinated by democracy,” he said. “He answered democracy was the second-best available form. He was against asked what the best form was. Nehru answered it was yet to be invented. We are following the best available form of democracy.”

He added, “In democracy, people are supposed to be masters. ‘Government of the people’ is being done, but ‘government for the people’ is partly true and ‘government by the people’ is not followed. The biggest challenge is to make democracy more liberal.”

Madhav quoting Karl Marx’s principle of the ‘withering away of the state’ said that that it is those who are in power who won't allow it to happen. He said Lenin refused to wither away the state as he enjoyed power.

“I am not saying we have to leave it to anarchy. There should be minimum interference of the government, that too at a local level.”

‘Caste is good, not casteism’

Speaking about the caste system, Ram Madhav said, “The previous varna system is gone but caste system exists in a different form. Caste is good. I am not propagating casteism in the country. As an institution, caste can do good for a community like many social and religious intermediaries. It was religious bodies that fed the hungry and not the kings those days. Once hunger is mitigated, every citizen can be productive.”

‘Need our own version of prez govt’

Ram Madhav believes that the country should slowly move towards its own version of a presidential form of government. “Politics today follows a highly incentivized model,” he said.

“The presidential system may disincentivize politics, but there are many other ways. Every new law made is bondage for the people. We should have laws that reduce responsibilities.”

Courtesy: The Times of India

‘Hyd declaration’ for curbs on money power in politics

After the two-day deliberations on ‘Money power in politics— Indian democracy at work’ at ISB, a ‘Hyderabad declaration’ was released enlisting steps to curb money power in politics. The conference organised by Foundation for Democratic Reforms (FDR) along with ISB and University of Hydrabad stressed on the need to disincentivise and deglamourise electoral office.

FDR president Jayaprakash Narayan said: “In recent decades, there has been an enormous increase of funds in political activity amounting to hundreds of crores of rupees. Realtors, land mafia, owners of educational institutions and big contractors make direct entry to gain access to the government. After the two-day deliberations, we came up with the Hyderabad declaration.”

According to the declaration, a concerted campaign should be taken up by civil society groups, Election Commission and citizens concerned on the consequences of money flooding into politics. The declaration also says that there is a need to strengthen and enforce legislations on political party funding and expenditure.

“There is no perfect electoral system. All electoral models have strengths and weaknesses. In the Indian context, elected legislators taking control of the fate of the government and becoming defector executives has led to competitive bidding for votes. Increasingly, a system of gift-giving to voters has developed. This has led to a vicious cycle of corruption, abuse of power and plutocracy,” said the declaration The conference said a national-level conversation on alternative electoral models is the need of the hour. Election commissioner Ashok Lavasa said that some pending suggestions made to strengthen the Election Commission would help address loopholes. He said at many meetings held by MHA, they did not discuss about electoral offences. He said state governments should investigate and prosecute the cases.

Courtesy: The Times of India

Former CEC moots ‘national election fund'



‘Candidates end up spending 20 times more than the prescribed limit’

Hyderabad: Former Chief Election Commissioner of India T.S. Krishnamurthy suggested creating of ‘national election fund’ with 100% tax exemption to facilitate public funding of polls.

Chairing the plenary session on ‘Legitimate Campaign Expenditure in Indian politics’ at the first annual conference of ‘Indian Democracy at Work’ with the theme of ‘Money Power in Politics’ here on Thursday, he agreed with the views expressed that the limit for expenditure imposed by the Election Commission for Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies could not be enforced. Candidates end up spending 20 times more than the prescribed limit, it was pointed out.

He however asserted that the source of money to political parties should be strictly regulated and bearer bonds did not promote transparency and they could also allow foreign money to come to the parties. He felt cash contribution to political parities was dangerous and there would be limitations even for the administration to check them.

On the suggestion of the Vice-President that simultaneous polls be held, he said it would require Constitution amendment. Reforms are not coming through as political parties want status quo to continue but unless the power of money is controlled, elections and democracy will not succeed in the country, he said.

Telangana State BJP president K. Laxman welcomed the suggestion for proportional representation to give seats to the political parties on the basis of their vote share rather than the ‘first past the post system’ which encourages rampant vote buying. Dr. Laxman said he was the victim of money power as he had lost by 200 votes in 2004 as he refused to buy votes. With advent of regional parties post globalisation, expenditure on elections went up enormously and role of caste, community and divisive politics increased. In 2019 elections, Rs.10,000 crore were spent by political parties in Andhra Pradesh and Rs.6,000 crore in Telangana.

Mr. Konda Vishweshwar Reddy said laws to reign in election expenditure failed as only 10% of actual expenditure was legitimate expenditure while 90% of expenditure was illegitimate/black money. The system needs to be fixed to attract clean people, he said.

Natasha Jog, Election Integrity Lead, India, South Asia, Facebook said since 2016, thrice the number of people were deployed to work on elections issue to make Facebook platform safe. “We brought down 2.2 billion fake accounts to check misinformation, and transparency was being brought on political advertisements.”

Courtesy: The Hindu

Poll expenses must be checked

Ram Madhav supports plan for direct election of PM, CM

Hyderabad: Money is required for politics but it should not be illegitimate. It is also important to define ‘illegitimate’ election expenditure, said Election Commissioner of India Ashok Lavasa.

Speaking at the plenary on “Illegitimate expenditure in Indian Politics”, he said that governments and political system alone should take the initiative for controlling expenditure in elections. Change for the better would happen fast when citizens adhered to social and moral values, he said.

Mr. Lavasa admitted that a situation was prevailing where no one but ‘crorepatis’ would win the elections. Yet, the Election Commission beyond a point has no power to control the expenditure in elections. In the last election, ‘crorepatis’ accounted for 37% of MPs elected and this time, the number shot up to 87%.

In a recent election in a State, it was proved that those who were awarded contracts a few months before the election gave large amount of donations. “A discussion on election expenditure should be held from various angles, including the campaign involving celebrities and media owned by political parties,” he said.

BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav said that they, in principle, supported the proposal for direct election of Mayor, Chief Minister and Prime Minister in the form of Presidential election. But without adopting the presidential form of institutions in other countries, a discussion should happen to suit conditions in our country.

“Huge amounts of money were being spent because of lure for power vested in political posts. At present, power was centralised at the highest level instead of being vested with people. Delegation of powers to local governments alone would bring down the monopoly of MLAs and MPs,” he said.

FDR general secretary Jayaprakash Narayan, who chaired the session, said that parties and leaders could bring forth reforms to make democracy work better and meet people’s aspirations.

“The Modi government has the wherewithal to bring in reforms for direct election of CM and PM, proportionate representation and decentralisation of power to local bodies and Mr. Ram Madhav should take initiative,” he said.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Conference on democracy stresses on political reforms



‘Hyderabad Declaration’ calls for reviewing the First Past the Post System and consider proportional representation

The two-day national conference on “Indian Democracy At Work”, organised to look at the shortcomings in democracy, particularly the flood of big money into electoral politics, passed a declaration to work towards political reforms in a gradual manner to tackle the multi-dimensional problem, here on Friday.

At its concluding session, the “Hyderabad Declaration” called for reviewing the First Past the Post System (candidate who gets the highest number of votes in a constituency gets elected to the seat) and consider proportional representation in place of FPTP and also direct election of the executive. The alternative systems, if adopted, should be tailored to Indian conditions with adequate safeguards to ensure wider regional representations in national power structure to prevent division of polity on caste and regional lines and ensure stability of governments, it said.

The FPTP makes winning every seat critical for political parties and leaders, thereby compelling them to resort to populist promises, offering inducements to voters and resort to poll management strategies that are in violation of the democratic spirit.

A national dialogue on alternative electoral models — clear separation of powers of the executive and legislature and direct election of the executive should be considered seriously, the Declaration said.

Organised by the Foundation for Democratic Reforms (FDR) in association with Indian School of Business (ISB) and University of Hyderabad (UoH), the conference was inaugurated by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu and attended by people from various walks of life — political leaders and members of civil society organisations, civil servants, academicians, media personnel, social activists and businessmen.

Participants deliberated on the negative impact of illegitimate money power in politics and raised concern that it could undermine the very objective of democracy to work for all sections of people and give them a better life.

They endorsed that a robust legal framework was needed to ensure democratic functioning of political parties and regulate flow of money into the political sphere. A legislation should be brought to make parties choose their office-bearers through periodical organisational election and selection of candidates for public office through a transparent and democratic process.

Parties should be made to declare in time their annual income and expenditure and disclose sources of funding. Policy measures should be in place to enable political parties to raise and receive necessary funding in a transparent manner so that all parties have minimum financial support to carry out party activities and compete in elections.

Courtesy: The Hindu

Monday, January 13, 2020

చైతన్యంతోనే ఎన్నికల్లో ధనప్రవాహానికి అడ్డుకట్ట


ఎన్నికల వ్యవస్థ మారాలి: జేపీ


ఒకే వారంలో అన్ని ఎన్నికలు నిర్వహిస్తే మంచిది


అధ్యక్ష తరహా ఎన్నికపై చర్చ జరగాలి


ప్రజాస్వామ్య మనుగడకు ప్రమాదం


అధ్యక్ష తరహా పాలనకు వెళ్లాలి: రాంమాధవ్


ఎన్నికల సంస్కరణలు అవసరం


ధనప్రవాహాన్ని అరికట్టాలి


అధ్యక్ష తరహా దామాషా ఎన్నికల పద్ధతిపై చర్చ జరగాలి


ఓట్ల కొనుగోలు విధానాన్ని నివారించాలి


ఎన్నికల హామీలపై చట్టం తేవాలి


అక్షరాస్యతతో ఎన్నికల వ్యయానికి పగ్గాలు


ప్రజాస్వామ్యానికే పెను సవాలు


ఎవరేమన్నారంటే


Cartoon on the Conference


పంచాయతీ నుంచి పార్లమెంట్ దాకా ఎన్నికలన్నీ ఒకేసారి ఒకేవారంలో


సీఎం, పీఎం పదవులకు ప్రత్యక్ష ఎన్నికలు


ఓట్ల కొనుగోలును చట్టంతో అరికట్టలేం


పంచాయతీ నుంచి పార్లమెంటు దాకా ఏకకాలంలో ఎన్నికలే మేలు



పునర్విభజనతో వికేంద్రీకరణ


ధన ప్రవాహం అడ్డుకునేందుకు కఠిన చట్టాలు


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Indian Democracy at Work: Curbing Money Power in Politics - Hyderabad Declaration

10th January 2020

Two years from now, in 2022, India will celebrate its 75 years of Independence and in another three years thereafter the nation will celebrate 75 years of its life as a democratic republic. For a nation ravaged by centuries of caste-based inequalities, religious divisions, feudal privileges and colonial rule, it has been an arduous journey in making democracy work. In these years, the people wrestled with multiple goals and challenging tasks, including the task of nation building, ensuring social justice, and working for economic development and achieving them all through democratic political framework. In the western democracies these tasks were carried out sequentially and over centuries. India is called upon to manage this transition quickly without the material foundations that the western nations possessed.

That India with a highly plural society and a burgeoning population with relatively low levels of income could endure as a nation and a functioning democracy is a tribute to the wisdom, commitment and hard work of its people. India’s democracy today is a real, vibrant and stable. Like the peepal tree, it struck its roots deep and wide. People choose leaders and remove them in relatively free, fair regular, periodic elections. They have access to sources of information that are not controlled by the government. They are free to express their views without fear of being punished by the government, free to form and join associations and engage in political activity to influence public policy. Political parties have the right to propagate their ideas and openly seek public support. Elected government exercise real authority and are accountable to the electors.

However, India’s democracy is still a work in progress. We have a long way to go. Mere freedom of speech and expression and the right to vote are not enough for a good life. Democracy requires intricate mechanisms to establish links between individual interest and collective well-being, between demands for welfare and imperatives of development, between the taxes paid and services received, and most of all between the authority exercised and accountability enforced. Alongside what India has achieved in these seven decades after independence, there are also several features of how India’s democracy works that are a cause for concern. These are the democratic deficiencies that need to be immediately addressed and tackled by citizens of India.

One such major issue is the flood of money and the heavy presence of the members of the moneyed classes in the legislatures. There is nothing objectionable if wealthy people choose to enter politics and work for the public good. It should be welcome. Also, parties need money to carry regular organisational and political activity and to contest and campaign in elections. But what we see in recent decades is the enormous increase of funds involved in political activity amounting to horrendous sums of hundreds of crores of rupees. If dynastic control of power is one dimension of the party politics of our time, possession of wealth and willingness to spend to gain or retain political power has become the mo33st crucial determinant in the selection of candidates. Business people such as realtors, land mafia, owners of educational institutions, and big contractors make direct entry to gain access to government, bureaucrats and police officials in order to safeguard and promote their private interests. Politicians use their hold on levers of power to make and tweak public policies in order to amass wealth for themselves, their families and cronies. They are ready to invest huge amounts of money in offering gifts to voters in the form of material goods, cash and liquor in order to win elections as they see the returns on investments are high. Well-meaning political parties and individuals who otherwise are public-spirited and want to enter politics face insurmountable entry barriers. There is a widespread recognition that this problem in recent decades is assuming alarming proportions in such a way that it may shake the very foundations of the Indian republic, undermines the capacity of the legislatures to collectively deliberate and legislate on matters of national importance and erodes citizen confidence in the democratic political institutions. The situation warrants urgent corrective measures. Several commissions, such as the Law Commission, Indrajit Gupta Commission, and the Constitutional Review Commission, have addressed this issue in the past and have recommended different remedial measures, although with little effect either on policy or political practice.

It is high time that all of us come together to curb this menace of illegal and illegitimate use of money in politics for partisan and personal gain. The situation calls upon us to work towards political reforms in a graduated manner. As the problem is multi-dimensional, it requires effort on multiple fronts:

1. A rise in citizen awareness about the dangerous consequences of money flooding into politics and how the politicians who offer money, gifts and allurements to vote in their favour later resort to foul ways to amass wealth would go a long way to curb the money power in politics. For this we need a concerted campaign by the concerned citizens, civil society groups and the Election Commission.

2. We need a robust legal framework to ensure democratic functioning of parties and regulate the flow of money into the political sphere. We also need to strengthen our ability to enforce the law. The legislation should make parties to choose their office-bearers through periodical organisational election, and to select candidates for public office through transparent, democratic process. We also should make sure that parties correctly declare in time their annual income and expenditure and to disclose sources of funding, etc. There should be policy measures to enable political parties to raise / receive the necessary funding in a transparent manner, so that all parties have minimum financial support to carry out party activity and compete in elections.

3. The best ways to reduce role of illegitimate money power and gift-giving in politics are:
a. to dis-incentivise and de-glamourise electoral office.
b. To minimise the role and power of the state
c. To empower local governments with accountability so that voters clearly perceive the link between their vote and the tangible consequences impacting their lives, and ordinary citizens can hold the elected government to account and cheque abuse of power.

We note that the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution, though well-intentioned, have not resulted in empowered and accountable local governments. They created unwieldly, over-structured, under-powered local bodies. The Union and State governments, and all political parties should urgently empower the local governments. New and flexible forms of local government organisation should be encouraged, and both rural and urban local governments should become the main point of contact for all service delivery. The principle of subsidiarity should be the defining principle for this organisation of local governments. Then the people will gradually appreciate the value of the vote, and dynamic leadership will emerge everywhere.

4. We recognise that electoral systems and design of democracy shape the incentives for all stakeholders – voters, candidates and parties, embed the political culture and practices, and alter the outcomes. There is no perfect electoral system, and all electoral models have their strengths and weaknesses. In the Indian context, the winner-takes-all FPTP system with the elected legislators controlling the fate of government and becoming de facto executives in the constituency has led to competitive bidding for votes and increasingly a system of gift giving to voters. This inevitably leads to a vicious cycle of corruption, abuse of power and plutocracy. In large parts of India, large amount is distributed in cash, gifts or liquor, often far in excess of the legitimate campaign expenditure. While large, illegitimate spend does not guarantee victory, it has become the necessary condition and entrance fee for being regarded as a serious and electorally viable candidate.

Therefore it is time we review our experience with the FPTP system. The need to secure simple plurality of votes in territorial electoral districts makes election highly candidate-centric. For political parties and leaders, winning each seat becomes so critical that they resort to populist promises, offer material inducements to voters to vote in their favour and resort to poll management strategies that are inimical to democratic fabric. Also the parliamentary executive system gives enormous incentive to candidates to spend extraordinary sums to have access to, and influence over, the executive on a daily basis.

Therefore there should be on open, robust national conversation on alternative electoral models – eg: clear separation of powers and direct election of the executive; and proportional representation in place of FPTP system. Both systems, if adopted, need to be adapted to Indian conditions with adequate safeguards to ensure wider regional representations in national power structure, to prevent fragmentation of polity on caste and sectarian lines, and to ensure stability of governments.

The challenge before us is not an ordinary one, because it involves regulating politicians who are there to regulate the political life of the country. Self-regulation is a big challenge for anyone and the Indian politicians should rise to the occasion.

Let us all come together to make Indian democracy work better and make it robust so that we realise the goals that people of India set for themselves and for the generations to come at the time the nation declared itself a democratic republic. India is still the home for a large number of illiterates and poor people of the world. Among the nations of the world, it stands at the bottom on several indicators of human development such as health care and years of schooling. Identities based on caste, religion, and region threaten to polarise people. Solution to the problems that India faces has to come through democratic political framework through well-functioning political institutions and robust political practice. Ordinary Indian people want to achieve a better life through democracy. As a political system, democracy is the only hope for a better future. Let us all work together to realise this hope, to renew our democracy at this critical time and make it work better.


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అధ్యక్ష తరహా, దామాషా ఎన్నికల పద్ధతిపై చర్చ జరగాలి