We are a democracy. In a democracy The government should run with the support of the majority of the population. Why then do we land up with governments that have a minority share of the total population support. Are you surprised? Even the present government which has a huge majority in the Lok Sabha actually collected only about 46% of the total votes. If you take away the votes received by the NDA candidates who lost the election the figure will be much less than the 46% that we now consider as the ruling parties’ share. This situation is caused by our following a system known as First Past the Goal Post. Everyone knows that this system is not perfect, but there seems to be no alternative. Structurally we are destined to have this minority rule.
Should we do something to remove this structural lacuna? That only the Government and Parliament can decide. This paper has suggestions that will remove this problem . The plan is actionable. It operates within the four walls of the Constitution.
Aims of the project
- The Lok Sabha is to be filled with men and women who have been chosen by the people.
- The Lok Sabha must ensure that groups in need of special protection get represented.
- The Government must be free to employ bright and effective citizens as ministers from outside the Political Class
- The elected Government must be stable by design.
- The elected MPs must be able to spend most of their time in their own constituency.
- The election process must be smooth and be less dependent on Black Money.
- The basic structure of the Constitution must not be impinged upon.
Fill The Lok Sabha
Data of our elections is well preserved with the Election Commission (ECI). A study of this data shows that even though there are many candidates in each Constituency, the vote share of the top two contestants are very high. As a matter of fact, for a third contestant in any Constituency, it is difficult if not impossible to save the security deposit.
I propose that any contestant who does not lose his / her deposit be sent up to the Lok Sabha as an MP. The core of the proposal is that simple. The size of the Lok Sabha will be more than doubled. That problem will be tackled later in the paper.
Represent the Weaker Section Effectively
Ensuring proper representation of the weaker sections is a very complex task that we have not been successful at for the last seven decades. The new proposal will try to rectify that weakness.
- Create a List
- There is a need to discuss and decide on the special interests that need special representation in the Lok Sabha. This can be done only by the Lok Sabha. Therefore I suggest that if this paper is to be acted upon, then a special session of the Lok Sabha be called to debate, create and authenticate a list that will control this special representation. To make the proposal easy to understand, I am displaying a dummy list so that the MPs find it easier to create the real list
For example it can include
– Women 30% of 543
– Parsi 1 number
– Muslim(Sunni) % of population
– Muslim(Shia) % of population
– Muslim (Ahmedia) 1 number.
– Sikh % of population
– Jain % of population
– Christian %of population
– SC % of population
– ST % of population
– OBC % of population
– Agnostic/Rationalist % of population
– medical 1 number
– legal 1 number
– Agriculture 10% of 543
– Industrialists x Number
– Third Gender 1 Number
– Supporters of propagation of Sanskrit 5 number
– Supporters of propagation of Arabic 5 Number
The creation of this list will need a lot of multi-partisan Political Will and great application of mind by all concerned. Once the list is made, it will be frozen as an appendix to the Constitution. Any tinkering will amount a Constitutional Amendment.
Apply the list to elected MPs
Th list will be the framework of reservations
- Along with the Declaration of a set of election for a given set of constituencies, the ECI will declare a list containing the numbers of seats open for special representation by categories in the list
- While preparing this list of numbers, for all special interests based on % of population, the ECI will base its calculations on the latest census. Percentage will be converted to numbers on a base of 543.
- After the election, The ECI will declare the names of all candidates who have saved their safety deposits. These people will become MP.
- ECI will then examine how many special interest seats have been filled by MPs already elected.
- The remaining vacancy will have to be filled by nomination.
Find people to Nominate
This task will also rest with the ECI
- ECI will prepare a list of all candidates who have failed to save their deposits and arrange the list in order of their Popularity Index (PI).
- PI will be calculated as ‘Votes received’ / ‘registered voters’ in the constituency.
- This list will be stripped off of any linkage to state, caste, religion, political party affiliation or any other context except the person’s special interest as declared. It will be an all India list that will be presented to the President to nominate from.
- If the President does not find suitable aspirants from the presented list, he may direct the National Parties to fill the vacancies by direct nomination, proportioned on their own national popularity.
Limitations for Nominated MPs
These nominated MPs will function within some limitations as they are without popular mandate.
- They will be free to speak in the house
- They will be free to vote on bills and motion except for a motion of No Confidence.
- They cannot hold the office of a minister of any kind
- They cannot be appointed as chairman of any committee or group of MPs.
- They will be treated as Independent MPs without political party affiliation.
- They will receive pay and allowances of an MP except the constituency allowance and any other allowance disallowed by the Parliament
Reservation of Constituency for SC/ST
With the procedure described above, marking of any constituency for ST/SC will not be needed.
Talent from Outside the Political system (TOPs)
For governing a country of India’s size, a number of very talented people are needed. In India there is no shortage of talent: scientific, financial, strategic, forensic, administrative, executive, political, just about every field has adequate talent. Unfortunately many of these people do not have political / electoral talent to go with their other valuable talents. They cannot ever be elected. Since currently only elected people can become ministers, a lot of talent is wasted. It is proposed that the Prime Minister be empowered to invite talent from outside the political system to be ministers in the government.
Selection of TOPs
The proposed method is simple.
- The process will start with the PM officially informing the Parliament of his intention to nominate a person for a post.
- How the PM chooses a prospective incumbent should be left to him. He can create a ‘search committee’ if he so desires.
- After the PM announces the name, the Speaker of Lok Sabha along with the Vice Chairman of the Rajya Sabha will form a Joint Vetting Committee (JVC)
- The size of the committee can be laid down by the Parliament. (Say 8 to 10) . The members for the JVC will be drawn from the ruling as well as opposition benches. of both houses.
- JVC will meet the person.
- The candidate will have to make a presentation to the JVC to convince the JVC of his suitability for the job.
- The JVC will be free to question the candidate after his presentation, but will not interrupt the candidate during the presentation
- After the presentation the JVC will visit the PM and submit a simple position report limited to three options : No objection / split verdict / negative verdict.
- If there is no objection then the process of the candidate’s induction into the cabinet will begin.
- If there is a split verdict then the JVC report will be forwarded to the cabinet. The PM, after he has discussed the matter in the cabinet, will decide about the induction. His decision will be final.
- If there is a negative verdict for the induction proposal, the PM cannot proceed with the proposed induction. However, he can renominate the person once, after 6 months of first rejection, if he so desires.
Ground Rules for TOPs
The proposed TOPs won’t be elected members of the Parliament. Therefore, their authority as well as their functional limitations in the parliament will have to be clearly defined. While these boundaries will have to be defined by the Government, I have some suggestions.
- TOPs will be appointed as either MoS or Cabinet ministers with similar pay and allowances.
- TOPs will not get allowances disallowed for Nominated MPs..
- TOPs will be treated as Ministers with all the privilege and all the limitations.
- The Prime Minister will be free to allot the charge of any or many Departments to a TOP.
- A TOP will be answerable to the PM through any senior minister if applicable They will be required to attend relevant sessions of both the houses, Listen to the views expressed by others, answer questions relevant to his ministry, and make policy statements as required.
- The PM can dismiss a TOP from his job with or without financial compensation as approved by the government rules.
- There will have to be a limit of how many TOPs can be appointed. I suggest the limit to be 10. It will not be necessary for the PM to appoint all TOPs at once. There may be some opposition to the concept of TOPs from the political parties and some pressure to reduce the limit of TOPs to a smaller number. Remember, the size of the Cabinet is limited and TOPs will take away posts from the political class.
- The appointed TOPs will be treated as a part of the treasury bench. Their appointment will go into suspension if the Government falls. The new PM or temporary PM can ask them to resume work. Without such invitation their appointment will cease and they will be entitled for full financial compensation for separation.
The Government must be stable
In this enlarged Lok Sabha if two Parties come close to parity at the top then there might be instability. That possibility will have to be ruled out by design
- If there is to be a coalition of parties to fight a general election, the agreement for coalition partners must be signed and presented to the Election Commission within seven days after the polls are announced. The agreement must include a Common Minimum Program (CMP) as an attached document. In their electioneering campaign there can be no canvassing for any promises not contained in the CMP.
- If different coalitions function in different states even then the conditions laid out above will apply. That would mean that all coalitions for a given set of elections announced, in all affected states, will have to declare the coalition(s) and submit their CMP within seven days of the announcement.
- No post poll alliance will be allowed.
The Concept of a Reserved Bench
This is a novel concept.
- Before the commencement of election procedure each National party will nominate 5 persons as their reserved bench strength. These gentle persons will be required to be practising politicians and a current member of the political party nominating. They must also fulfil all requirements for being elected as an MP.
- These persons will have to go through all procedure for applying for a nomination. However, they will not need the certificate of residency from any place. Their constituency will be marked as ‘Reserve’.
- Which ever National Party , on its own or in a coalition, is asked by the President to form a government will have to prove its majority in the floor of the parliament.
- After the government proves its majority, the party in power will induct its reserves as MPs from their party.
- If there are more than one National Parties in a coalition then their reserved bench will be shared equitably.
- Coalition partner who are not National Party will not share in the Reserved Bench strength.’”
- The concept of the reserve strength is to provide some stability to the incumbent government after it has proved its majority in the house.
- Subsequently, if the government falls, these reserved MPs will have to resign and lose their membership of the Parliament. The party will not be authorised to recall any of the reserves even if that National party is included in another government that comes to power.
- The reserve-benchers will not hold ministerial posts as they have come into the Parliament without testing popular mandate. (This would perhaps encourage political parties to send promising young talent into the Lok Sabha)
Formation of the Government
- If one party or combination emerges as a clear majority then that party or combination will be called upon to form the government
- If no party or combination emerges with a clear majority, then the President will call upon the leader of the National Party which has the maximum number of Winning candidates to form the government.
Additional Steps for Stability
- After the formation of the government , the PM will be free to start inducting the TOPs of his cabinet. As the TOPs will have power to vote in the house, the treasury benches will be strengthened.
- There will be a lock-in period of 2 years during which no ‘No Confidence’ motion can be tabled
- For a No Confidence motion to be tabled, a proposed replacement government with names of proposed Prime minister and other ministers of cabinet rank must be agreed upon by the non-governing parties to the satisfaction of the speaker.
Administrating the Enlarged Lok Sabha
Housing, transporting, security of such a huge Lok Sabha will certainly be a challenge. There are also other challenges associated with the Lok Sabha that needs attention.
- Live telecast of the Lok Sabha often shows empty chairs. It seems that the members of the Parliament do not attend sessions unless they are forced to do so.
- Members also tend to spend time in Delhi even when the Lok Sabha is not in session. Perhaps presence in Delhi helps them someway. But this absence from the constituency distances the MP from his people
- Extended stay in Delhi perhaps also encourages groupism within political parties.
- Staying in Delhi also necessitates additional journeys to home base.
All these can be avoided by basing the MP permanently in their Constituency.
To contain with many of the problems associated with administration of Lok Sabha the following steps are suggested:
- Create suitable residence cum office complex in the constitutional location where two sets of residential and office buildings will house the two MPs. If a third MP gets elected/nominated from the same constituency then he can be offered hired accommodation .
- Connect the office of the MP with the Lok Sabha through a high tech video-conferencing facility over a unique physical or digitally secure optical network.
- Hold normal sessions of the Parliament on the video net.
- Create a video control centre in New Delhi with the capability to control visibility effectively and record Divisions securely.
- Let each member attend two sessions of the parliament in Delhi: The Budget session and any other session of his choice with the consent of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
- Build in capability of the control centre to permit party-wise secure meetings not visible or audible to other MPs.
These measures will permit holding of sessions of the Parliament securely without the presence of the member physically in the Parliament House.
Get the MP to Attend the Sessions
We have to cater for the possibility of the MP being away from his chair. The video conferencing software will have to record and report the actual presence of the MP to the Speaker of the house. It is for the parliament to decide what punishment the erring MP would deserve, be it pecuniary or administrative.
The Election Process
The election process in India is well established and has stood the test of time. Let us not tinker with that. There is however lots to be done for the process of electioneering. The present style of electioneering is very noisy. It is also very expensive in money, time and manpower. It is impossible to run election campaigns in the present style without black money. This generation of black money taints the political class as a whole. It repels many capable persons from politics. We must change this style.
My suggested style would :
- ensure that Doordarshan has TV cover (with low power transmitters) over each and every constituency.
- with the announcement of dates for an election, these specified TV stations covering the land mass of the constituencies going to the poll will come under the jurisdiction and control of the ECI. The ECI will apportion airtime for the various candidates for the full period of canvassing time. TV will be the main means of canvassing. The DD will provide a ‘per minute’ rate for the facility. The candidates will pay for the service. (Can be subsidised if the Parliament so desires )
- No road show or massive gatherings would be permitted.
- No wall paintings will be allowed.
- No hoardings or banners will be permitted.
- Door to door canvassing will be permitted (encouraged?)
- Use of hand bills and pamphlets will be permitted.
- Use of telephones will be permitted for canvassing with the caveat that social media forwards will be barred.
- Video canvassing by or for candidates will be permitted.
- For all video or audio canvassing, the network provider must record and reveal on demand the identity of the person/handle loading the video/audio clip.
- canvassing through a sound amplifier or from a vehicle will not be permitted.
- small gatherings ( of less than 500 ) at suitable locations for invited guests may be permitted with prior police and municipal permission.
Under these conditions perhaps the electioneering can become less hectic or chaotic. Hopefully, this will also reduce the need for Black Money.
Summary and Conclusion
Before we close this ideas box, let me summaries and add a few comments:
- Structurally we deny ourselves the possibility of being governed by the majority
- A restructure is suggested to remove the weakness. The suggested restructure is implementable
- The core of the suggestion is to fill the Lok Sabha with every candidate who has managed to save his deposit.
- Prepare a list of desired reservations. If the reservation was does-not get filled automatically then fill them from the people who have failed to save the deposit, arranged in order of their local popularity (Votes Received / Total voters in the constituency).
- If even this source is insufficient then let the remaining reserved seats be filled by nomination by the National parties shared in proportion of their popular support ( Total Votes Received Nationally / Total Votes Cast Nationally )
If the proposal looks outlandish, it can be tested by the Election Commission doing an easy paper exercise, applying the suggestion to the results of the last four general elections.