Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lok Satta advocates direct elections to Curb money power

That candidates contesting to the Legislative Council from local bodies’ constituencies are prepared to spend up to Rs.15 crore merely reflects the depths of depravity to which politics in Andhra Pradesh have plunged, commented the Lok Satta Party here today.

Talking to the media, party leaders Mr. V. Laxman Balaji, Mr. G. Raja Reddy, Mr. V. Vijayendar Reddy said it was amazing that for the mere prospect of sitting in the Legislative Council candidates are prepared to spend enormous amounts. The Upper House cannot decide the fate of the Government, pass any money Bills or even delay any legislation beyond 90 days.

The Lok Satta leaders said that despite its credible and independent functioning in many aspects, the Election Commission of India had miserably failed in curbing money power in elections.

A systemic remedy to the problem lies in direct election of heads of Government at the State and local levels and a switch over to proportional representation for election of all MLAs and MPs. Money power has become ubiquitous under the first-past-the-post system because the marginal vote influences the election outcome.

A legislator’s primary job is to attend to legislative work. Unfortunately most of our legislators are least interested in it. Their sole aim in getting elected is to enjoy the privilege of influencing the executive by virtue of their position.

Once people elect the head of a Government directly, legislators cannot destabilize him or her with their vote in the House, and as a result will lose all their clout. With proportional representation marginal vote will not be vital, and therefore vote buying will end.

On the State Government’s move to increase the management quota in professional colleges from the present 30 to 40 percent, the Lok Satta leaders said they could understand Government’s anxiety to limit the outgo on fee reimbursement and grant of scholarships. As of now, the State has allocated only Rs.2300 crore against the needed Rs.3490crore.

A solution to the problem does not lie in increasing the management quota. Higher education is already highly commercialized as a result of which a child’s education and career are dependent on his or her parents’ wealth. Education should be a tool to provide equitable opportunities for growth to all children.

The Lok Satta leaders said that the Government could reduce its burden if it facilitates liberal education loans to all economically and socially weaker sections and subsidizes the interest burden based on the student’s attendance and academic performance.

Because of poor targeting, even children of high income groups are availing themselves of fee reimbursement and scholarships.

The Lok Satta’s innovative proposal will cost the Government less than Rs.500 crore against the Government’s present commitment of Rs.2300 crore and the needed Rs.3490 crore, and will ensure justice to all poor students.

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