People-centric democracy must

People-centric democracy must

The dust and heat generated during the campaign in the recent Karnataka elections do not seem to be settling down anytime soon. The post-election developments have raised unprecedented turmoil in Karnataka, which has the potential of snowballing into a serious law and order situation not only in Karnataka but in some other states as well. Did the people of Karnataka expect that elections will lead to such a situation? Probably not.

Elections, which are generally termed as a festival of democracy, seem to have become synonymous with ugly street brawls which may sometimes lead to violence, death, and destruction of public property, like we have just witnessed during the recent Panchayat elections in West Bengal. Thank God, Karnataka has so far not sunk to such a level. I hope the current situation does not worsen any further.

Every political party claims that it is there to serve the people and to save democracy. They blame each other during election campaigns and even go to the extent of dividing the society on caste, community and religion grounds. They blatantly indulge in bribing the electorate. Their brains are so fertile that they innovate methods of garnering votes. Discovery of thousands of voter ID cards in one place is just an example of their ingenuity.

So, the question is, whom does democracy serve in our country? Elections are the only time when the electorate has some say. He is completely ignored after the elections. Democracy ends for the citizens with the casting of their votes.

Every candidate contests the elections to win and to get hold of power and all that comes with it. Their publicly stated objective of serving the people is soon forgotten and they plunge ahead to somehow grab power even if the mandate is not in their favour. What we are currently witnessing in Karnataka, is a clear example of that.

No one bothers about principles and morality. These terms are only used either to strengthen their claims or to console themselves when they are unable to get hold of power. Cobbling up numbers in a post-poll alliance cannot be equated with the mandate of the people. Unfortunately, we have been practising a pro-political parties democracy and not a pro-people democracy.

I am sure democracy has to be for the people. It is the people who choose a government. It means that parties, which claim the right to form government must have a clear mandate of the people.

Any party or a combination of parties must, therefore, go to the people clearly placing their policies and programmes before them and seek their mandate. And only when they succeed in crossing the half-way mark, they can claim to form a government.

If that was to be the law, then we would not have to go through this chaotic situation. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and there are several precedents where parties without the full mandate of the people have formed governments. We need to have a clear and unambiguous law, which should be strictly followed for the formation of governments, both at the Centre and in the states.

Post-poll alliance

I may venture to suggest that any party or a pre-poll coalition of parties, which has a clear majority, should be asked to form a government and no other party or a post-poll coalition of parties should be allowed to form the government.

I am conscious of the fact that in a multi-party democracy like ours, there may be occasions when no single party or a pre-poll coalition of parties is able to form a government under this rule. I suggest that in such an eventuality, there must be a provision to impose the President’s rule, and meanwhile, there should be re-election in the state.

Since there is no constitutional provision to impose Presidential rule at the Centre, I suggest that the party or the pre-poll coalition of parties, which has the largest number of MPs, should be asked to form an interim government for a period of about three months and we must have a re-election until a clear winner emerges.

I am aware that no political party would like to agree with these suggestions as they care more about themselves than the mandate of the people. I am also aware that this rule may impose an undue burden on a state where re-elections may become necessary, and people may be temporarily deprived of having a duly elected government to run the state.

But I am sure that once such a rule is implemented, sooner than later, we will start getting clear winners in the elections. We must be willing to pay any price to establish a pro-people democracy and to clean up the political system. It is time we got rid of a political parties-and-politician-centric democracy.

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)