Discontent with the Parliamentary system
It would be fought on what issues?
Food Bill is not an issue at all!
Critical issues are about reforms!
Not anymore economic reforms!
People would only laugh at it! With the current economic scenario! What all your reforms so far had led you to? Rupee fall continues and may be the new RBI Governor might enjoy some amount of hope but that remains to be seen. Not anymore anyone would believe in the Prime Minister’s wisdom nor in the ever-telling Finance Minister nor in any other economic wizards around the PMO or finance ministry.
The other reforms no one is talking about is the political reforms. But fortunately, there are already trends or pressures from within the polity and society that any further moves, as tried by the government, be it the amendment to the RTI to exempt the political parties from escaping to provide the information sought from the citizens, so much of critical and sensitive information as to funds, many time unaccounted, from anonymous sources(read as black money from the corporate that are now increasingly seen as closer to the ruling combine)and also from other sources(often hefty bribes, again from the corporate and also from other corrupt deals made, again by the government, as in the cases of 2-G.coalgate, rail gate etc.).The list of scams, especially now, at the end of the second term of the UPA-II is getting longer.
And at a time of files and other critical government documents are getting lost, it is anybody’s guess what next are on the list of files or tapes or other such sensitive issues that are often given in sealed cover to the hon’ble higher courts, that are to be declared to be lost.
Now, there are issues that can’t be discussed in a brief column and also the pending tasks are really huge.
There are also some other positive developments, the Election Commission has asked the parties about the funds and also the freebies the parties might dole out on the eve of elections.
There is really not any evidence the government of the day is really concerned about all these things.
Sonia Gandhi says that the Food Bill is the manifesto of the Congress party in the 2014 elections and she is also confident to get the UPA-III to get another mandate for the next(third) five year term.
In this environment of total cynicism and unconcern, what reforms we can talk of?
In fact the serious issues today are the way the Parliamentary system is becoming non-functional and valuable time is being wasted every time Parliament assembles.
So, the most important and the top priority before the country and the people is the major Constitutional reform, among which, Parliamentary reforms comes first.
The next elections ideally must be fought on the nature of the new Parliamentary Reforms. Indian Parliament is fashioned on the Westminster model. In fact, most of the Commonwealth countries’ parliamentary institutions were all started to be made on the Westminster model only. In Sri Lanka and Pakistan (in the beginning) is the famous Parliamentary expert Sir Ivor Jennings who wrote these Constitutions.
Recently, in Sri Lanka I saw how much Sir Jennings is remembered and revered, I saw his books everywhere in good bookshops and I myself was remained my own Oxford days when we read Sir Jennings books, as well as by other experts, the names are too many, I in particular remember Sir Earnest Baker’s famous complimentary remarks about our own Indian Constitutions’ great features. He almost quoted Plato and Aristotle whose spirit was invoked in the Indian Constitutional expertise.
But alas! Where are we today?
We are at the lowest ebb of our very belief system. I mean our own belief in the Parliamentary system of governance.
The Prime Minister, lately, is seen as avoding the Parliament, especially after the scandal of Coalgate files missing! The PM is also not seen visible for lengthy intervals. Then, there are other heavyweights, if we only go by their projected importance in the national scheme of things. Rahul Gandhi, the projected Prime Ministerial aspirant is also missing from Parliament for long times.
If Sonia Gandhi is seen, she is only a token presence for she doesn’t take part in Parliamentary proceedings.
If these heavyweights of the ruling party are seen to perform rather in a perfunctory manner, what about others, other MPs from other parties. The sheer chaos that people witness everyday of Parliament must have driven some sober minds to come out with some suggestions. Some reforms of Parliament functioning.
We have so many really competent experts. The names are again many and everyone must be familiar with such names, experts, legal and Constitutional, no less the number of intellectuals and other experts.
In fact, it is India, Indian democracy that can debate and introduce some basic features of reforms, changes so that the current discontent with the Parliament’s functioning can be really remedied.
Yes, we can learn a lot from the British Parliamentary history.
If only we want to become a better model in terms of the historic context of India today, the context of today’s world, the way various other changes that are taking place or had already taken place(like the EU reforms and the various challenges thrown up by the EU federal structure).
As a student of British parliamentary history, I would urge our reformers to go for immediate, short-term measures like adopting the Prime Minister’s question time once a week as done in the House of Commons would be a sure remedy to the intriguing silence and also some unaccountable practices of nominating names for various assignments (the latest was the PM’s prerogative to nominate one former minister who was indicted by the court for meddling with the CBI report etc.
In fact, the current (unhealthy, unparliamentarily, unconventional) practices adopted by both the Prime Minister as well as the Party President that had eaten into some of the healthy conventions (from the nomination of state Governors, Rajya Sabha nominations to high profile diplomatic and other offices of profit nominations, these are all now done in a routine and low-profile manner but highly objectionable manner.
The real loss, the suffers are for the people. The quality of governance is so poor today. Why? Poor judgement and arbitrary selections only. The rising corruption of such large-scale nature. Why?
Do we need an explanation? Neera Radia Tapes had revealed so much already!
The present system of governance only had brought about the rise in criminalisation of politics. So many statistics is in the public domain. We need not waste time on these things.
What we need is the British parliamentary history of reforms. How the various parliamentary reform bills, in 1832,1867,1888 have all brought about voting rights for all, the universal suffrage, as many other current parliamentary practices had come down to us only from England. Some crucial votes in the House of Commons were taken after several hours of debates at five in the morning! (Unlike endless adjournments at the drop of a hat as in New Delhi!)
We admire such names like Gladstone, Macaulay and Disraeli and oh, so many others, for the simple reason they, in their own eyes, have brought about changes that testify to the current conceptions of individual freedoms, human rights, why many other universal practices that make mankind ever more civilised.
This perception, this vision and this outlook must inform the Indian youth, the middle class so that a new thrust is started towards the coming elections.