all suitably express our distaste for the low standards
of public life, and get on with our lives once the visible
crisis passes. What we fail to understand is the deep and
continuing crisis in our political process, reducing our
democracy to shambles.
legislator is elected in our country not as a law maker
and custodian of public interest. A legislator is essentially
a disguised executive, and his primary objective is to exercise
unaccountable power. He is often the uncrowned king of the
constituency. Politics has become big business. A lot of
money, often a crore of rupees, is spent by a leading candidate
for election as MLA. Once elected, the MLA decides everything
that matters - transfers, postings, promotions, contracts,
tenders, licenses, public projects and police cases. Robert
Wade graphically documented this intricate web of corruption
and abuse of office mediated largely through transfers and
placements in states. While influence and power flow in
one direction, money flows in the opposite direction. All
functionaries in the state machinery are willing or passive
players in this vicious cycle of dangerously stable equilibrium.
administration has to do the MLA's bidding, or else there
will be dissidence, rebellion and defection leading to the
fall of government. Candidates spend exorbitant sums because
they get multiple returns. Such returns are possible as
they are the de facto and unaccountable executives. The
government has to satisfy legislators because its survival
depends on their good will. Given the conditions of our
society, there is always this unspoken compact between the
government and the legislators in a system in which the
executive is drawn from the legislature, and survives only
as long as it enjoys legislative majority. Honesty and political
survival are thus no longer compatible under these circumstances.
Our politicians are not crooked by nature. They are compelled
to venality and corruption in order to acquire power and
survive in office. The price paid by society to sustain
governments is horrendous. Rule of law, justice, competent
governance, integrity, fairness, economic growth - all are
causalities. What we have in the process is change of players,
but the rules of the game remain unchanged. No matter which
party is elected to office, the people end up being losers.
Therefore voters look for the short-term gains and either
sell their vote or are swayed by emotion and divisive impulses.
this system, the state government, legislators and senior
officials - all want centralization, discretion and patronage.
That is the reason why the corrupt, centralized, automatic
system of governance is very resilient.
need to take a hard look at our system of drawing executive
from legislature. A clear separation of powers between legislature
and executive with sufficient checks and balances to prevent
abuse of office alone will break this vicious cycle of money
power, corruption and survival of governments. We need to
elect the head of the government directly, and he should
be free to choose his cabinet from outside legislature.
Such a government will have fixed term of office, and will
have to carry the legislature with it in order to get laws
passed. Its powers are actually more limited as the legislature
will zealously guard its independence. Now the legislature
is least interested in making laws, and whatever the government
wants is enacted, as long as it enjoys majority support
many people harbour legitimate fears of authoritarianism
at the national level if a single individuals is seen as
the fountain of all executive power. In reality, a directly
elected president is much less powerful than a prime minister
enjoying a comfortable majority. However, these fears of
bonapartism cannot be dismissed lightly. Therefore it would
be best if we continued with the parliamentary executive
as the national level. But there cannot be any fear of authoritarianism
of the directly elected executive at the state level. The
Union government, Supreme Court, Election Commission and
other constitutional authorities are more than adequate
to check executive tyranny in states.
too long we persisted with the disguised executive model
in states based on the Westminster system. Governance has
been a causality, and the nation paid a heavy price as a
result. It is time we woke up from our deep slumber and
redesigned our democracy to ensure integrity, stability,
competence and good governance through separation of powers.