A PLEA FOR AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL MODEL OF DEMOCRACY
A PLEA FOR ADOPTION OF AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL MODEL OF DEMOCRACY IN INDIA
Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal need not be unduly apologetic about his remarks on Indian Parliament or Parliamentary democracy as practiced in our country or for that matter about not being able to vote at an Indirapuram booth. Nor should Shri Anna Hazare have any prickly feeling in not going to vote at all. Certainly they are not the only ones not having much faith in the system (as practiced in India). Riddled with one too many inadequacies, malpractices and glaring shortcomings, our ‘parliamentary democracy’ has lost all meaning and purpose, if at all it had any; anytime in the annals of Independent India. The term which remained a meaningless jargon for the common citizenry so far, has now obliquely been castigated as worthless by no less a person than RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat whose considered view is that India was better off under British Rule. Voicing his concern over the dominance of the ‘rich and powerful’ in politics, he reportedly observed,” India was better off during the British Rule……….” “All political parties were in power at some time or the other during the last 64 years, but the situation has not improved”. He, therefore, exhorted citizens to ‘introspect over what went wrong”.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi, ex-Prime Minister of India, and a great visionary, not only ‘introspected’, but had also made up her mind to replace this rotten system with the ‘Presidential model’ but unfortunately, the icy hands of death snatched her from us, and we lost the one and only Prime Minister who not only could think out-of-the-box but also had the guts to execute plans fearlessly.
DELINKING EXECUTIVE & LEGISLATURE
The evils like rampant corruption and criminalization of politics are so innately intertwined to the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy, which was shoved down our throats by the founding fathers of our Constitution, for the reasons better known to them, that scrapping it and replacing it with the American Presidential model, seems to be the only way to get rid of these debilitating maladies responsible for maiming and paralyzing our democratic institutions and polity. Though, it is easier said than done, we must proceed towards this goal first by de-linking the Executive from the Legislature. The President, who as of now, is only a titular ceremonial head of the State (some would like to call ‘rubber-stamp’), should be vested with exclusive, independent Executive Powers to run the administration independently as the Chief Executive Officer of the nation. This would, to some extent, go to justify the colossal amount spent on maintaining the institution (a rough estimate places the expenditure incurred on the institution in the region of Rs. Ten million per day - a colossal amount by any reckoning - and a shameful luxury indeed for a poor country, one third of whose population of 120 million strong, even after 65 years of Independence, does not know from where the next meal would be coming!
Likewise, the Judiciary should also be independent; not only theoretically, as it is now (slightest hint of a judicial pronouncement not favouring it or not to its liking, is excuse enough for the ruling class to accuse judiciary of indulging in ‘Judicial activism’, and ways are devised and the decks are cleared to ignore the unpalatable judicial verdict), but in actual practice as well, for all intents and purposes. As a natural corollary to it the Police force i.e “the law enforcing agency” must work directly under Judiciary i.e. "the Justice dispensing agency". The Parliament and the State Legislative Assemblies, the Legislative Bodies should work exclusively as “Law making agencies” sans any Executive powers whatsoever, which, as indicated above, should exclusively be vested in the institution of President.
The reinvented Institution of President, should also have a self-regulating mechanism in the form of Jan-Lokpal to effectively check, balance, regulate and control the Executive and the Legislature in the broader public interests and, in turn, this Institution must be made accountable to the Judiciary. The mechanism should be enabled to optimize cross-accountability among all the organs of the government. The incumbent Jan Lokpal may hold the office for only one full term, if not otherwise impeached for misconduct, misdemeanour, felony, corruption etc., after which he/she may not seek re-election to any political post or hold any office of profit in the Government. This prescription: ‘one-person-one term’ should be made applicable to all the political posts across the spectrum.
All these three organs of democracy should function, in tandem, though quite independent of each other. Likewise, media, the Fourth Estate, should also be independent. The electronic media, should also have a self-regulating mechanism ( just as the Press Council is for the Print media) to affectively check, balance, regulate and control their functioning. There should be no visible or invisible control or interference of the ruling political class and/or the government in the working of media except on the recommendations of the self-regulatory body seeking the government’s intervention and action in the rare cases.
This, coupled with a few electoral reforms, will ensure stamping out the multiple evils, such as rampant corruption; politics of vote-bank, unabashed use of black money and muscle power by the wily powerful demagogues, who are long on rhetoric and short on everything else. Just by enacting gimmicks, dolling out huge largesse from the public exchequer to some carefully identified, targeted sub-groups in the electorate, and making toll promises never intended to be honoured, these worthies, through a deft and skillful use of black-money and muscle-power, gain entry and stay securely and comfortably in the great power sanctuaries- the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies have since become under the present dispensation. And that too for generations after each succeeding generation with the ‘politics’ cunningly gaining acceptance as family business.
MOCKERY OF DEMOCRACY
The grossly unprincipled and wild conduct of our power-drunk tainted legislators and their cronies, inside and outside these power Houses, that flows from the existing system based on the Westminster model of Parliamentary democracy, makes a mockery of democracy. The cobweb woven around the system by the wily political class renders common citizenry quite helpless. More it tries to wriggle out of it, the more it finds itself entangled in it. And that calls for immediate revamping of the entire system, short of which, nothing is likely to work.
COMMON MAN’S DISENCHANTMENT
No useful purpose is served by playing the blame-game and trading charges. These are counter-productive to constructive, purposeful and systematic action in the right direction. The politicians routinely indulge in them to detract and distract focus from the basic issues. When the system itself is negatively related to democratic and civilised norms who can protect it from getting debased by criminalization and corruption? For the last 65 long years, we have been experimenting with it. In the process common man has been thoroughly demoralized and marginalized and, therefore, has become indifferent to all that which the politicians love to call “National Issues of great Importance”. This indifference manifests in myriad ways and phenomena, such as, lesser voter turn-out in the polls, educated youth’s increasing involvement in the violent movements like Naxalism and Maoism, widespread distrust in the democratic institutions and so forth.
Now, what else this negatively charged system has given to us: Generated and sponsored the identity politics and the politics of vote-bank forcing the ruling political class to adopt soft-on terror and minority appeasement as undeclared State policies. This, in turn, as its natural corollary, has resulted in unchecked repeated terror attacks and violence from which no part of the country is safe now. (The sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every common citizen and nobody is willing to shoulder responsibility).
Besides this, the whole country is plagued with the insurmountable odds, such as: sky-rocketing cost of all the essential commodities and goods; gross mismanagement of economy resulting in the rich getting richer by the day and the hordes of poor committing suicide; rampant corruption impeding balanced and sustainable growth and development; degradation of the basic values and deprivation of the society and the polity; vote-bank cherished burgeoning population- nurtured and nourished by the identity politics and the politics of vote-bank for its own sake; unplanned and wild urbanization with crumbling and rickety infrastructure rendering urban life extremely miserable, stressful, torturous and tiring; yawning unemployment; reservation and quota-based division of the society and communities on caste, community, religion, language and regional lines; an army of political parasites busy amassing tons of black-money by corrupt practices and stashing it in foreign banks; favours and punishments given selectively.
A FALLACOUS CONFIGURATION
While the Rajya Sabha at the Centre and Legislative Councils of the States are dispensable institutions ( a luxury sanctuary of out-of-the-job, arm-chair politicians which, in the first place, ought to have never been forced on a poor country like India), the Lok Sabha and the Legislative Assemblies of the States have also since become the sanctuaries for most of the so called elected members who gate-crash into these august houses by exploiting to the hilt, the money and muscle- power they wield to cobble together, in most of the cases, much less than 50% votes polled (the percentage would be reduced even to less than 25 if the total number of voters including those who choose to abstain from casting votes in a constituency is taken into account).
In several states 90% of the M.L.As graces the house on the strength of minority votes. In some cases, the candidates polling even less than 20% have got elected. Thus in our blessed democratic set up, quite frequently, candidates not favoured (read rejected) even by more than 50% of the voters, grace high positions in the government. Quite a few of them are tainted with criminal record and their sole purpose for being in the government is to further augment their resources, mint tons of money by all means- fair or foul-cultivate their vote banks of minority, caste, region, religion or language for winning the next election(s) besides enjoying the bountiful freebies, handsome pay, perks, privileges and pension for the life. Those (elected?), even though rejected by more than 50% of the voters, show off as “people’s representatives” and want everybody else to recognize them accordingly (even if they watch blue films sitting in the august houses). They go ahead to form main legislative bodies: 1) The Lok Sabha at the Centre and 2) The State Legislative Assemblies in the States. The government is run by these persons on the principles of “collective responsibility” that stipulates that no single minister would be responsible for any of his actions- not singly and individually responsible for anything he does or does not do as a minister. As a natural corollary, the vide-spread perception is: “collective responsibility”, in actual practice, translates into “no responsibility’ or accountability”, whatsoever, for anything one as a political functionary does or does not do. Reduced to bare substance, what we have is: “nobody-responsible-for-anything” syndrome in the ruling class. It has been a long time since we are taking chances with such people and in the process corrupting, criminalizing and crippling our democratic institutions.
Integral to the legislature is the Executive - officialdom and the state machinery under a ministry headed by a minister. The bureaucracy either is insolent or is willingly subservient to their political masters: so-called people’s representatives. The self-serving bureaucracy and officialdom, even after 65 years of independence, still find it difficult to shed the colonial mind-set. They, as the framers of public policy, have been consistent in milking the state. They gobble up most of government goodies, unofficial fringe benefits-which in many instances are tax-free. On one hand we have conceited babu on the other we have craven babu who is all too willing to serve his or her political boss (es). This leads to a common man’s total disillusionment, cynicism, lack of trust in government - its agencies and democratic institutions. This lack of trust breeds disdain, if not downright contempt, for these exalted institutions of democracy and governmental machinery which is further compounded by the routine spectacle of corruption in high places that percolates down to the lower levels as well. The Legislature and the Executive are inexorably entwined. Since nothing can get more banal than this vicious arrangement, the sooner we de-link the Executive from the Legislature, the better it would be for the health and proper functioning of democracy in our country. And this can be done only by switching over to the American Presidential model of democratic set-up.
DEMOCRACY BY DEFAULT
The Westminster system of parliamentary democracy was adopted in great hurry. Even before anybody knew what was happening, “ We the people of India ", on the fateful day of 26th November 1949, had already enacted, adopted and gave to ourselves the Constitution of India for the governance of this country without any debate or discussion on the document at national level. No wonder, the faulty system makes for a fertile breeding ground of unchecked terrorism (Vote Bank politics compels the ruling politicians to act soft on terror and its perpetuator terrorists- no terror attack can successfully executed without the local support), corruption and mal-practices of every hue and colour. A la, the economic theory which articulates the obvious that “bad currency drives the good out of circulation” in this system also the bad elements in the polity drive the good out of governance. Our democracy has been degenerated into the worst form of tyranny. The people have not only been enduring it since long, but also paying through nose to sustain it-complete with its hugely expensive elephantine & decorative institutions, such as President, Rajya Sabha etc.etc. However, what looks very strange, and depressing at the same time, is that all the big leaders cutting across the party lines are staunch votaries of this system and do not want it to be replaced by the presidential form of democracy and governance. Contrast it with the Presidential system of democracy of the U.S.A which, barring one single exception that of Nixon, who also was unceremoniously jettisoned out of the job and the White House immediately on the happening of the infamous Watergate scandal, has thrown up one after another singularly brilliant Presidents right from George Washington to Barack Obama to govern that country. And without exception they invariably acted in the best interests of their country keeping aside all personal interests and considerations-regardless of the world opinion. Incessantly they work in the best interests of America and the American people.
CULT OF INCOMPETENTS
Obama, Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Bush, Roosevelt, Clinton, and scores of other American Presidents, are not the product of the times as is, sometimes, erroneously believed; they are the discoveries of their ‘System of Governance and Administration’ which gifted them to the nation in service of the people of America. But for the flawed Parliamentary system of democracy and governance we unwittingly have adopted, our country of more than a billion, would have by now produced at least couple of Lincolns, Obamas and their likes in its history of last six decades of independence. Instead here the things are getting bad to worse. We should not search them in the few young faces in Parliament for the simple reason that they also are the product of our grossly debased System which they now patronize to promote their own entrenched self-interests by playing all sorts and games and gimmicks just like every other run-of-the-mill politician. The kind of histrionics done by the Crown-prince of the Congress in certain constituencies would, expectedly, be repeated many times over, with other actors also joining in as the gimmicks help a lot in winning the elections (particularly in U.P and Bihar). Any deviation from the accepted norm of the practised sycophancy is scornfully viewed as happened with the Congressman Shashi Tharoor's remarks about "Travelling in cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows" drew lot of flak for him from those who perceived in them the exposure of their gimmickries and sycophancy. Mr. Tharoor was castigated for his being politically incorrect even though he was factually correct in exposing the sycophants in his tribe. In turn, his targets saw in him somebody who was getting too big for his boots. Ultimately, in the teeth of huge hostility that ensued against him in the aftermath of his remarks, he COULD NOT manage to keep his job,. “ In Indian politics no sin is bigger than the sin of being politically incorrect.”
QUICK- FIX SOLUTIONS
So far we have experimented with so many quick-fix solutions which promised the moon but fizzled out even before they took off. A recent example is about seeking information etc. under the much touted Right to Information Act-2005 which was enacted with great fanfare. Ask any of the thousands of ordinary information-seekers and s /he will tell you that seeking information by agitating the Act is a hugely time-consuming, expensive, frustrating, nightmarish experience, and for every ordinary info-seeker there is total darkness at the end of long, labyrinthine tunnel. S/he will end up earning everlasting, relentless wrath of the all powerful government authority. Quite understandably, for obvious reasons, the experience of the powerful persons and N.G.Os etc. in this respect would be different. Ditto for the Consumer Protection Act-1986. More recently, Civil Society’s draft Jan Lokpal Bill, still in its infancy, has been done to death by the wily politicians.
GROTESQUE DISCRIMINATION – A FEW EXAMPLES
Ask any Pre-1996 central government pensioner and he will tell you that thanks to the hugely discriminating provisions in the Pension Rules of the Government, a pre-1996 retiree Section Officer with say 15years of service as Section Officer, in quite a few cases, could be drawing lesser pension than a post-2006 retiree U.D.C with the same length of service as U.D.C at the time of retirement. Ask any Autonomous Body Pensioner beneficiary of the CGHS and s/he will tell you how is s/he discriminated against those retired from purely Government service in the matter of availing CGHS facilities such as cashless transactions for medical treatment in the Private recognized hospitals and other similar matters, though charged contribution for availing the facility for the life equal in amount to that is charged from his/her counterpart retiree from the purely (What does it mean?) govt. service.
CSIR, ICAR etc. are central govt. autonomous bodies- 100% funded and financed by the Central Govt. and function under the aegis of the respective Central Govt. Departments such as . Science & Technology, Food & Agriculture etc. The Prime Minister of India is the President of the CSIR. Service rules are exactly those applicable to the Govt. servants/ pensioners. Then why this blatant discrimination between the two sets of similarly placed pensioners- vulnerable to similar types of debilitating and/or terminating diseases, coming off a similar financial back-ground, saddled with similar burdens and liabilities, struggling to survive with the similar ‘empty-nest-syndrome’, retiring from the govt. Service under the similar service conditions. Why should then the Central Govt. Health Scheme (CGHS) economise on and compromise with the health and well-being of the pensioners retiring from autonomous bodies?
The list of instances of blatant discrimination between similarly placed citizens, under the very nose of the Government itself, is endless, and the Government, does not feel guilty in looking the other way all the time. Whether this evil consistency: 'more we change, the more we remain the same" is because of the Article 14 of the Constitution or in spite of it, only God knows.
No national level debate held before promulgation of the document called the Constitution. All the saner voices of dissent which were then raised from several knowledgeable quarters, were ignored with contempt. The same culture of intolerance prevails till date. The power-drunk political-class, grossly intolerant of dissent, as ever-before, not only mocks and looks down on the Civil Society’s draft of the Jan Lokpal bill with huge contempt, but also manages to torpedo it. Why?
We have this democracy by default- we never ever had the political will, intention or inclination to seek people’s participation in designing our democracy to answer the needs and aspirations of the common men. No wonder, our democracy breeds rampant corruption, blatant discriminations, glaring inequalities, down-right favouritism, nepotism, scandalous scams, unbridled frauds and all the political vices that define a really and badly sick polity and the society.
LEAVES MUCH TO BE DESIRED
His outstanding qualities and brilliance notwithstanding, Bill Clinton faces the fury of the Congress and the country as a whole for the crime of perjury. As soon as the term is over, the lame duck President has to vacate the White House. The incumbent goes for house-hunting before the expiry of his term. No other political functionary is provided with the government accommodation free of cost. On the other end of the political spectrum is the whole army of Indian legislatures occupying spacious Govt. Bungalows and other Govt. property years after any functionary ceases to be a legislator. Even the Apex court’s verdicts fail to get them evicted out of their luxurious, palatial sanctuary and the other facilities that go with it, as the system makes everything possible for Mr. Somebody. And that could be the reason why this system of democracy is favoured by all the politicians cutting across the party lines though they know better than everybody else how totally unsuitable and flawed it is- a wasteful, corruption-ridden luxury with which the poor of the country has been saddled by its wily politicians in the name of democracy which, in fact, is some sort of strange politico-crazy.
It is hightime that we waged another freedom struggle.
- SANJOG MAHESHWARI.
C1-A-42 B M.I.G FLATS,
JANAKPURI, NEW DELHI-110058.