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uncaging the MP
notwithstanding the poorreputation of the MP,(member of parliament), i feel that he is a victim ofcircumstances. look at the issue holistically.
what is his role in thedemocratic set up expected to be? he is to represent his constituency i.e. thepeople of his constituency. the true representation will only be there if he isin a position to convey their views to the higher authorities. but he is notable to do so because the political party to which he belongs has no forumwhere he can express his views. even if there was, he would not be able to doso because his survival in the politics is dependent upon the continuedpleasure of the high command of his party. even if the electorate is happy withhim, there is no guarantee that he will be allowed to contest again next timeif he defies or is inclined to defy the high command. the candidates are chosenat the whim of the party bosses and seldom on the merits of the candidatesthemselves. the public, or for that matter, the workers of the party concernedhave no voice in the selection of the candidate. the candidate has to hire orpersuade the party members, or the public, to organize demonstrations in hisfavour when the central observers come looking for merits of differentclaimants. this costs money. it is also open secret that nominations can bepurchased. after his nomination, he is expected to spend his money to getelected. he has to take care of finances to fight the election. all thisexpenditure leaves him poorer and he has to make up for it through hismembership and all the opportunities that it presents. not only he is expectedto recoup his expenses, he is also expected to contribute to the party funds. thisleads to corrupt practice which thus feeds on itself.
the parliament does debate theissues facing the country which is its role in democracy. but the MP can neitherexpress his views nor that of his constituents. he can only toe the party linewhenever he is given a chance to speak by the party boss. even if he feels thatthe stand of the party in anti people, he cannot vote against it. this is because,should he vote against it, there is danger of his being disqualified under theanti defection act. he is like a bonded labour obliged to shout aye or to raisehis hand (or press his button) at the command of his party boss.
of course, for the loss of hisliberty to voice his views, he is compensated. first he is paid handsomely.secondly, he is given the power to boss over the bureaucrats. since this cannotbe done in a straightforward manner, devious means are devised. one is theformation of the committees which are then allowed to tour all over the countryin the name of on-the-spot verification and call the bureaucrats for evidence. hecan then browbeat them into doing his bidding or otherwise give words to hisfrustration. the second methodology is to place at his disposal a large amountof money (known as local development fund) which he can spend at hisdiscretion. even if it does not involve corruption, it is still a means todispense patronage which can be cashed in term of votes or otherwise. another indigenousmethod is to give him the powers to dispense patronage. earlier it was in termsof recommending a certain number of telephone connections or allocating acertain number of gas connections. he could nominate a certain number ofstudents for admission into kendriya vidyalayas. there were many such avenues.some of these have since dried up because of the open economic policy.
all this means that the peopleare left with no avenues to persuade their representative to convey theirfeelings to the policy makers. the policies are made without reference to theneeds or demand of the public. the net result of this policy is outpouring ofanger whenever an opportunity presents itself. the spontaneous demonstrationsarising out of trivial causes can be traced to this frustration to genuinelymake their voice heard. it can only be expected that if the present trendcontinues, in times to come, there would be more such outbursts.
what is the solution? the MP hasto be made more answerable to his electorate than he is at present. the most obviousway to do this is to reduce the powers of the party boss. one of the electoralreforms can be to provide for changes in the procedure of nominating a personas candidate. this must form the basis of electoral reforms. let there beprimaries in the concerned area for election of the candidate. the workers ofthe party would select their candidate. this will oblige the person concernedto listen to the views of the local party members and to express their views inthe appropriate forum. to keep the electorate in the loop, the process shouldbe open to public or, in other words, transparent. the candidate must declarehis policies (mostly they will be in line with those of his party but he mayhave a local agenda also). they will form the basis for the members present inthe primaries to decide between various candidates.
the second requirement is torepeal the anti defection act. this will take away the power of the party bossto impose his views on the members. if the member is not able to persuade inthe party fora, he can put forth his point of view in the parliament. thereduction in dependence on the party bosses will increase his discretion and hewill be more willing to learn the viewsof his voters and to express them freely.
a question will certainly be raisedabout the aya ram gaya ram phenomenon and the danger to stability of thegovernments (which is quite often illogically equated with safety of democracy).the answer is - has the act provided the security of tenure of the government. notwithstandingthe anti defection act, there have been instances where the cross voting hastaken place. the disqualification was stalled by the speaker of the vidhansabha concerned by taking his own time for disposal of the party applicationfor disqualification. on the other hand, there are cases where speaker hasdisqualified members instantaneously, against principles of natural justice, tosave the government. these decisions have been challenged in the courts. by thetime the courts pronounce a verdict, one way or the other, the purpose has beenserved.
the danger of instability isthere but is it worth negating the very essence of the democracy. the realsolution lies in having a mature electorate. if the unprincipled defector ispunished with defeat, the malady can be controlled. but then a matureelectorate can only be there when the locals have a say in selection of thecandidate. which brings us back to the original proposal of holding primaries. whenthe candidate is their own, he can be disciplined also.
in short, if we have to uncagethe MP from being bonded labour of his party boss and to reduce the level of corruption,we should do away with the anti defection act and, on the positive side, makeit mandatory to hold primaries, in full public glare, to have a person popularat the lower level away from the high command to be the candidate of the partyconcerned.