Delink legislative, executive works

...to check money power in elections, say politicos

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | February 2, 2012



In spite of doing his best to prevent use of money (close to Rs 70 crore in cash seized in Tamil Nadu during the last elections) and other inducements (more than 8 lakh bottles of liquor and more than 50 kg of heroin valued at Rs 250 crore in international markets seized in Punjab during the recently held elections), chief election commissioner SY Quraishi has accepted defeat.

Last Sunday (Jan 29), he told a news channel that these efforts had failed to clean up the system and hence, it was time to consider “right to reject” as an effective remedy. But do the politicians have anything to offer?

If one were to go by the considered opinion of Manish Tewari and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, spokespersons of the Congress and BJP, respectively, they have and that is: Delink legislative work from the executive work.

Participating in a discussion on “Campaign finance reforms in India: issues and challenges", organized by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi on Wednesday, both strongly pitched for this single idea. Their biggest sales pitch in favour was that having practiced politics at every level for the past 30 years, they know the best solution.

“Why do politicians spend so much money in elections?” asked Tewari and went on to answer: “There is a quid pro quo”. And how that link could be broken? By “divorcing” executive functions from legislative functions, he said.

Rudy said, “The day it was decided that the legislators can’t become ministers, 99 percent of people would leave politics”.

Both agreed that it may not be the perfect solution with a 100 percent success rate but that would be the “only” solution.

This delinking is not easy to achieve though. It would require a fundamental change, starting with changing the basic structure of our constitution – from a parliamentary system of governance to a presidential system of governance.

For ages, the election commission, think tanks and political commentators have made several suggestions about reforming our electoral politics. The key ones are: (a) bringing “democracy” to political parties, which function as personal fiefdom of some individuals; (b) bringing “financial transparency” to all their activities and (c) keeping the corrupt and the criminals out.

Tewari and Rudy may look up to the American presidential system for inspirations but it works in America because they have, among other things, a transparent system of financial accounting. Here, all our political parties unanimously resist it. Our political parties have also opposed every sensible reform proposal, except for endorsing the one that promises more money to them – state-funding of elections.

But Rudy (and Trewari both of whom were speaking in their personal capacities) had the last say. He said he believed that the only possible solution was segregation of legislative and executive powers. There is no point in talking about any other reform because he knew politicians wouldn’t accept. “Why would they? They are perfectly happy and comfortable with the present system”, he commented.

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