It is election time in Karnataka and political parties have already started their campaigns. They are also busy finalising their election manifestoes. Some parties have even sought public suggestions for the same.
Of course, whatever may be the common man's views, the manifestoes will be full of promises for the poor, the youth, women, farmers, the jobless and numerous freebies for certain categories of people. Never mind whether these promises can be fulfilled or not. And who cares, for their limited purpose is to garner votes and capture power. Have we not seen this happening election after
What is most worrying is that successive elections have witnessed lowering of standards of political discourse, increasing use of money and muscle power and criminalisation of politics. One should not expect anything better in the forthcoming elections in Karnataka. Political parties and their leaders are responsible for all the filth, corruption and criminality in our country's body politic, which is holding us back from social and economic development.
There is an urgent need to clean up the mess that pervades not only all the political parties but also our society as a whole. No amount of noise and agitations against these ills is going to improve the situation. Lure of political power is so strong that crusaders against corruption themselves get sucked into politics as we have seen.
I am convinced that it is the political parties that should take up the broom and clean this dirt, for it is in the interest of the nation and also in their own interest. They are the perpetrators of corruption and criminality in electoral politics.
Once they clean up their house, rest of the country will follow them. It is with this hope and belief that I suggest the following issues for inclusion in their election manifestoes. Let Karnataka elections set into motion reforms in electoral politics.
Resolutions to make
- Party will not receive any donation or subscription in cash. Every single donation will be through cheque or other authorised means with full details of the person making such donation, like PAN and Aadhaar number.
- Party will not give election ticket to anyone facing any criminal charge which is punishable by a prison term of one year or more.
- Party will not give ticket to anyone who has resigned from his/her earlier party within one year from the date of election.
- Party will not give ticket to any retired bureaucrat to contest election within two years of his/her retirement.
- Party will give at least 30% tickets to women.
- Party will publish its audited accounts annually in the public domain.
- Party will refrain from taking any divisive or communal stance during the election campaign.
- Party will also not disrupt proceedings of the legislature under any pretext.
- Party will take effective steps to upgrade and modernise all existing public assets like buildings, roads, schools, hospitals, irrigation projects, forests, parks, tanks, power infrastructure, etc.
- Party will take effective steps to enforce rules governing traffic, construction of buildings, hoardings at public places, cleanliness, respect to the national flag and national anthem.
- Party will take effective steps to control noise, water and air pollution.
- Party will take effective steps to ensure that individuals and organisations indulging in anti-national and terrorist activities are brought to justice expeditiously.
- Party will take effective measures to eradicate the menace of capitation fee from all types of educational institutions in the state.
- Party will encourage civil society organisations to work for inter-faith and inter-regional harmony and will provide financial support for taking up such work.
- Party will take effective steps to ensure that there is no political interference in the functioning of government at all levels, including transfers, postings and service matters of government employees.
I am sure that people would like many more issues to be addressed by the contesting parties. I hope they, too, flood the parties with their suggestions and force them to include them in their election manifestoes.
There is no doubt that most political parties would not include these suggestions in their election manifestoes. However, I will be happy if these suggestions are taken up by the civil society and the media and are debated. I am sure that one day some of these suggestions will find their way into the election manifestoes of at least some parties.
It is not suggested that political parties should not have other subjects or issues in their manifestoes, as they must inform the electorate about their policies and programmes. But unless parties demonstrate that they are serious in cleaning up their own house, people will have no trust in their promises.
I hope that some like-minded men and women, civil society organisations and the media will also add their voice supporting these suggestions. All those who want our political system to be less corrupt and more accountable should also take to the social media to make these and other suggestions and build up a popular movement to cleanse our political parties. Let us hope that some political parties consider these suggestions seriously and heed our suggestions. We need healthy political parties to have a healthy democracy.
(The writer is a former IAS officer)