May 15, 2009
The 2009 Indian election
Over the next few hours, the results of the election for the 15th Lok Sabha will start coming in. As it is, parties have started negotiations with each other on who will cross-over and at what price.
Then there's the charade of parties potentially abstaining during the vote of confidence so that the majority mark needed reduces, as was considered likely last year in July. That is downright unfair and wrong. The government should have a majority in the house that has been elected. It has to get the support of 272 members of the Lok Sabha.
Unless the BJP and its allies has something like 220-230 seats, I'd find it extremely unlikely that it will form the government. The third and fourth fronts will eventually gravitate to the Congress (I). But, current allies could be cast aside in the pursuit of seats.
The Congress (I) would be more than willing to let go of the Trinamool Congress if they're able to convince the Left parties (and other significant constituents of the 3rd front) into supporting them. The Congress (I) would also be happy to let go of the DMK if the AIADMK gets more seats. In any case, even the DMK is probably thinking along the lines of moving into the 3rd front if the Congress (I) and existing allies say get below 200 seats. The Congress (I) shouldn't find it too hard to wean away Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal from the third front. Of course, the BJD could still go back to the BJP, but given they walked out just before the elections, it is unlikely. The Congress (I) should get the support of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
The BJP would probably be willing to talk to the Samajwadi Party because I'm sure the SP is a "more reliable" (to use a relative term) partner in comparison to the Bahujan Samaj Party. Besides, Mayawati would undoubtedly demand the deputy PM post. In any case, Kalyan Singh has already been co-opted into the SP. I don't think the Janata Dal (United) [isn't that an oxymoron?] will stick with the NDA. In the Bihar Assembly, the JD (U) has 86 seats, the BJP has 54, the RJD has 53 and the Congress (I) has 9. If the JD (U) goes with the Congress (I), the BJP will withdraw support and the JD (U) will have to find around 50-odd seats from somewhere. Given that Lalu isn't going to prop up a Nitish Kumar government, it'd be a very stupid self-goal. The Telugu Desam Party is more likely to ally with the BJP since it was part of the NDA government and is opposed to the Congress (I) in the state for which assembly elections were just held. Of course, nothing stops parties from being bitter rivals in the assembly and allies in Parliament. Cases in point: Communists & Congress (I) in Bengal & Kerala and the PMK & DMK in Tamil Nadu.
Mayawati's BSP is still a big question mark. The SP and BSP can't be on the same side [a bit like the Congress (I) & BJP nation-wide and the DMK & AIADMK in TN]. Mayawati's Prime Ministerial ambitions would make anyone wary of doing business with her.
Ramadoss' PMK will be on the winning side. That's for sure.
Anti-BJPism seems to be the flavour of the day. That concept provides a forum for the unlikely alliances such as those including the Congress (I), SP, Left parties, DMK, National Conference, RJD, LJP, etc.
Until around the mid-1990s, the main theme in Indian politics was anti-Congressism. This was mainly because of the long timeframe for which the party had monopolized power at the centre and its penchant for dismissing state governments for blatantly opportunistic reasons. The Bofors controversy brought together so many parties in 1989 to form the National Front government headed by VP Singh (whose death was pretty much anonymous given that he died a few hours after the terror attacks on Mumbai started). In fact, the BJP supported the government from outside! All this when the Congress (I) had got 195-odd seats and was the single largest party. Anti-Congressism was so strong. I guess the vehement opposition to the Congress (I) lasted for around 4-5 years.
By then, the BJP was completely in its Hindutva mode, having destroyed the Babri Masjid (but of course, they'd like you to believe that they merely touched it and the structure was so flimsy it just collapsed). After that, the 1993 bomb blasts and riots happened. From that point onwards, the BJP became a party that very few others were ready to do business with. It took the BJP around 5-6 years to get some credibility and that was mainly because of the political instability between 1996 & 1999 as well as the projection of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the BJP's head.
But just like anti-Congressism has died out, will anti-BJPism also die out soon?
Having followed multiple elections over the past couple of decades now, I believe the following electoral reforms are needed:
- A candidate cannot contest for more than 1 seat - Currently, I don't think there's a limit. As a result, if the candidate is elected from multiple seats, he retains one seat, resigns from the others and there's a by-election at the tax-payer's expense
- A candidate who is a current member of the Legislative Assembly cannot contest Lok Sabha seat, and vice versa - This is again to prevent the expenses associated with an unnecessary by-election to the seat that is being given up after a successful election to the other house
- A candidate who has lost in the previous 2 Lok Sabha/Assembly elections cannot contest - It is so painfully obvious that the voters, regardless of constituency, have rejected the candidate
- A candidate who has lost in the previous Lok Sabha election cannot be nominated to Rajya Sabha - This is to prevent backdoor entry into Parliament, and into the ministry for someone who was rejected by voters, as has happened in the last Lok Sabha election with Shivraj Patil and Arjun Singh
- A legislator who has resigned their Assembly/Lok Sabha seat cannot contest in any election for any house (assembly or Lok Sabha) until the tenure of the house ends - While the by-election is required, the candidate who has resigned needs to pay a political price
- Only Lok Sabha members should be allowed to become prime ministers - The Prime Minister represents the nation. The Lok Sabha election is a more direct election compared to the Rajya Sabha election. A Prime Minister from the Rajya Sabha doesn't necessarily reflect the country's voters.
- Close relatives (blood or through marriage - including spouse, children, siblings, spouse's siblings/parents, siblings's children, grand-children, etc.) of a candidate cannot contest an election to Parliament (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) or the state legislatures (Legislative Assembly or Legislative Council) for a period of 5 years after the candidate has contested an election for any of the legislative bodies. So, since (for e.g.) Lalu Prasad Yadav contested the 2009 LS elections, his close relatives (as defined above) cannot contest any elections (to Parliament or state legislatures) until 2014. They are free to contest elections to municipal bodies, Zilla Parishads, panchayats, etc.
- Election promises and manifestos should be filed as affidavits - This is to ensure adherence to the promises, force parties to under-promise and reduce the impact of ridiculous promises on the voters
- The multiple inaccuracies in voter rolls and photo ID cards need to be corrected - Why is it so tough for whoever is entering the records to type out exactly what's there in the application form? Why does "Jagadish" on the application form become "Jagadeesh" in the voter roll? I'm not sure about the percentages, but I dare say that that the something like 5-10% of those who turn up to vote aren't allowed to do so because their names aren't found in the rolls or because the names don't match or because the photo ID says they're male when they're obviously not
Labels: bjp, congress (i), elections, electoral reforms, left, lok sabha
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