Meritocracy in politics

Alternative form of govt

It is sad that the available political options are no good for instilling confidence in 1.2 billion people who are fast losing hope.

Indian people have been going through a period of turmoil. Corruption in politics on such a scale has been unprecedented. Just a decade or two ago, a politician possessing a property worth Rs 40 crore to Rs 50 crore was looked upon with suspicion as that amount -- if obtained through unfair or unknown means -- was considered as a huge loot of the exchequer. One may recall the distrust and disrepute which former prime minister late P V Narasimha Rao came under, when he was alleged to have bribed JMM to win a vote of confidence. The amount of the cash was said to be Rs 3 crore – a trifle compared to the corruption amounts spoken about these days. And, that corruption case was one of the issues on which his party lost the elections badly and Rao lost the PM’s position.

Today, the sky seems to be the limit. Commonwealth Games, 2G spectrum, coal block allotments scam, with which the Congress-led UPA alliance is charged, have amounts increasing in arithmetic progression if not in geometric progression. The alleged coal scam, by a conservative estimate, has touched a figure of Rs 2 lakh crore. If one puts the three well-known scams together, they total up to nearly Rs 4 lakh crore. All the reported swindles prior to this spate of scams put together total only a fraction of this. But, still the UPA government is in New Delhi, safe and sound and stronger than ever, with political help from parties outside of the UPA alliance.

BJP, the main opposition, is also caught up in several alleged corruption charges. Karnataka, BJP’s current bastion, has been in the news for several alleged swindles in the mining sector. The party does not have an unsullied reputation in other states governed by it. Unauthorised mining and favours in mining rights/licences allotment have been rampant in our country. Natural resources are being plundered by various people with affiliation to various political parties. Plundering of mineral wealth – ‘nature’s bounty’ – knows no political party affiliations.

During the last couple of weeks, BJP’s party chief Nitin Gadkari has come under media (and now IT) investigation for his venture of Rs 500 crore Purti Group with insinuations of money laundering through a maze of cross-holding of equity and other investments by several alleged shell companies with unverifiable office addresses and proxy directors.
Despite a strong public outcry and condemnation, the party and the RSS continue to express solidarity with the beleaguered chief.

SP of Mulayam Singh and BSP of Mayawati both are, at different times, bailing out the troubled UPA government at the Centre allegedly for warding off the CBI and IT enquiries against them. DMK has already had two of its Union cabinet ministers and an MP in judicial custody regarding the 2G scandal. These instances speak volumes for the other constituents of the political alliance at the Centre.

National swindle

So, during 2014 general elections, what is the party one should vote for? The perception is that most seem to be participating in the national swindle. There is so little to choose from. All appear to be equally adept at corruption.

How about Arvind Kejriwal’s newly organised political group? Other than naming one person a week, the group does not seem to be either desirous or capable of doing much constructive. Exposés are good up to a point; but one has to go beyond pointing to the rubble and show ways of national reconstruction. It is sad that the available political options are no good for instilling confidence in 1.2 billion people who are fast losing hope on this front.

Perhaps there is a need for a different form of government at the Centre. We need a group of people at the national level who are experts in their fields of activity. For instance a person may be an expert in the field of transport, another in energy, some other in chemicals and pharmaceuticals. These persons should respectively head these special activities. We need dedicated innovators, experts and implementers with vision and commitment. India certainly does not lack in such men and women. The present political system does not seem to be throwing up such talent. In fact, it appears to be inhibiting the persons of such capabilities from participating.

Some countries, notably United Kingdom, in the past have had ‘National Government’ during critical junctures in their history.  Indeed, India - with all its scandals and scams - is at such a delicate state of affairs. It needs honest, efficient and devoted problem-solvers. It needs path-breakers and committed and result-oriented people at the helm of various activities. For instance, excellent educationists should direct the essential and basic activity; excellent health-care professionals should direct the way for much needed reforms in people’s health, hygiene and sanitation.

There is a need for keeping politics away from national governance for some period of time; at least until the basic issues plaguing the nation are taken care of. We need to keep away from politics of any kind. India needs expert leaders who can transform the nation – those who can transcend their self and devote their knowledge and skills to the governance of the nation. Of course, the question as to how should India go about selecting such people at various positions in the government needs to be mulled over. If people are sufficiently tired of the raging corruption and of inept people handling critical points in the government, this selection should not be too difficult a matter.

(The writer is former professor at IIM, Bangalore) 

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