Legislative Assembly elections in five States are fast approaching, and there is much political drama around. The electorate is awaiting the day that will decide their fate for the next half-decade. The success of the new-born AAP at Delhi, believed to be a product of the anti-corruption movement, has made the common man, particularly the youth, hopeful about a possible progressive politics in the country. As a responsible member of the public and, of course as a youth myself, I would like to share my views on what I expect from political parties.
Simply put, I want people with a vision (preferably from the youth) to become political leaders. They are more likely to have new ideas that are compatible with the changing trends of society.
But are we given the opportunity to contest elections based on our ideas and vision?
The answer is always "no". Parties only take into account affiliations with political families and rank within the party itself.
“The purpose of law is social engineering”, said the great jurist Roscoe Pond. So party leaders must determine what engineering a candidate plans to do as a legislator. Only when he knows his responsibilities as a legislator and the responsibilities of other agencies of the Government should a candidate be given an opportunity to contest elections on behalf of the party. A second or third opportunity to contest elections should be based on the person’s performance alone.
According to me, it is the duty of a political party to ensure that elections are contested by those who do not look for personal gain. In this country, corruption is omnipresent. It is natural that only when a selfless person becomes a political leader will there be an end to corruption. No amount of anti-corruption laws or ombudsmen like the Lok Pal would suffice unless there is a political will to curb corruption. A candidate's ideas to solve problems like the depletion of natural resources and the need to explore new renewable resources should also be taken into account.
It is in this context, Kautilya in his Arthashastra must have said: “It is in the happiness of his subjects lies the King’s happiness, in their welfare his welfare.”
Expression of bold ideas without fear or favour is necessary. If, as a first-time legislator, a candidate does not have a vision independent of his political party, he would just be doing what his party leader wants him to do without any individual contribution. The very purpose of wanting a youngster as a political leader would be defeated. If a Member of Parliament does not possess these qualities, we have to rethink whether he should continue to serve.
First-time contestants from registered political parties must be given an opportunity to share their views in the legislative house so the electorate from their constituencies gets to know their ideas and vision. This will give people an informed decision. Before selecting a youth as a Minister, we have to determine whether he is a jack of all trades. Because quite often ministries need to co-operate with each other for healthy governance.
For instance, fishermen from the southern coast are constantly harassed by the Sri Lankan Navy. If they don’t get their grievances remedied, there is a chance of unrest among these fishermen. This might, in turn, become an internal problem in the long run. So, to make a good home minister, one has to keep a check on India’s foreign relations as well. Only knowledge of the demographics of India, problems among States within India and tensions among different sections of the Indian population is not adequate.
As I am a young lawyer, my peers and I usually talk about the enactment of laws and policies. With a sense of shame, I recall how people have questioned me if it is the Supreme Court that enacts laws. There are a few others who think it is Dr. Ambedkar who framed all laws in the country. I am unsure if their ignorance is to be blamed. Perhaps, the behavior of a few parliamentarians makes people believe that they are wrestlers and not lawmakers.
From the times of our great grandfathers to this day, we keep calling India a developing country. Anger surges in my heart when I think of this, particularly when we boast about being the largest democracy in the world.
Electoral reforms of the highest degree are the need of the hour. We have seen how the Judiciary and the Election Commission of India have recently paved way for reforms. They have decriminalized politics by preventing convicts from contesting elections and introduced “None Of The Above” option in the Electronic Voting Machines. However, that is just the beginning.
The ideas I suggest are a few reforms that can be made by the parties themselves to Indian democracy. If people know that their prospective legislators have a definite vision and agenda, they will turn out in large numbers to vote in the elections. Only then will we taste the democracy we often boast of.
I am reminded of a line from my favourite Thamizh film song: “Nallavar yaavarum othingi kondaal narigalin naataamai thodangividum”. It means "If lions stay aloof, foxes boss around." I request political parties to give opportunity to lions.
We've had too many foxes.