M C Raj What ails our governance – II 01 November, 2012 India has already arrived at coalition politics irreversibly both at the Center and in the states, and many of our electoral problems, sometimes even crisis such as corruption, violence, communalism and casteism are because of this misfit of our electoral system to the composition of democratic governance of our country.
THE PRESENT SYSTEM of reserved seats is one of the most efficient ways of co-opting the Dalits and Adivasis. One does not need magnifying glasses to see that it does not provide power to these sections. Even then the question remains as to why religious minorities are left out of such provisions in representation. How can a country that croaks about being the best democracy in the world and being inclusive ensure only 7% of representation for Muslims while their population has reached about 15%?
The crux of the issue is that while the rulers speak of inclusion what they actually mean is access. There is a huge difference between the two. Providing legal measures for accessing governance is not the same as including citizens in governance. In our education system, for example, access is legally provided for all. But inclusion would mean also ensuring the economic empowerment to sustain the access that one gains. ‘All are free to take admission in any college’ is grossly inadequate to provide inclusion. If communities do not have any right to learn about their history, culture, religion etc. and have to learn only about a dominantly designed ‘Indian’ history, culture, and religion the ultimate sufferer will be inclusive and good governance. One cannot hide for along such democratic anomalies under the blatant bullshitting that we have the best accommodative governance in the world.
India, as a multicultural society is in need of special provisions for historically oppressed minorities, Dalits, Adivasis/Tribals, MBCs and women. Such provisions have to be integrated into the electoral system itself in order to enable such communities to come to level playing fields and gradually grow out of the present ‘reserved seats’ for only SC/ST categories.
This should be very clear. Reservation is a provision that has to be provided by mechanisms of governance and should not be equated with electoral system. An electoral system cannot make, for example, provisions for seats in Parliament according to population of any community. Electoral system deals with votes, parties, counting and seats according to the number of votes that a party gains. Any provision for inclusion has to be made by the parliament and integrate it into the electoral system. Many countries in the world with PR system have done this to make their democracies as inclusive as possible.
The present FPTP system has proved beyond doubt that from the time of independence it gives leverage only to certain dominant groups in India to capture and retain power of governance without sharing power with all sections of people. India’s caste mindset is known for accumulating power in the hands of particular caste groups and clinging on to it like leeches sucking the blood of victims without sparing any thought for survival issues of the victims. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely on the foundations of caste in India.
In the FPTP system, parties with less than 25% of votes have proved capable of gaining adequate number of seats and subsequently forming governments. This results in huge wastage of votes, which is the antithesis of representative democracy. Genuine representation genuinely skewed in India both through FPTP and through reserved seats. Any democracy that wastes nearly 75% of its votes can only be called a sham democracy.
By it’s very core principle FPTP professes to declare a candidate with more vote than the others as winner. Similarly, it also declares a party with more seats than the other parties as eligible for forming the government. The high risk for democracy in this case is the huge disparity between the share of votes and the share of seats. This often is not a representation of the will of the people. This has the potential to lead to manipulative politics.
Rightly or wrongly, a general impression in India has been created that political parties are accountable to none either before or after elections. Gone are the days when cadre of political parties used to have street battle in order to get their candidates in high positions in the party elections. Such was the euphoria of internal party democracy in the 1960s and 70s. FPTP has gradually demolished internal party democracy and has rendered it a mythical endeavour. With a small minority of votes as the winning vote it is bound to lead to dynastic rule, family rule, mafia rule, goonda raj etc. Instead of crying foul at such emergence under the FPTP India should simply usher in a different electoral system to save itself from a possible disaster in the name of democracy. Most countries in the world that have opted for PR system have ensured such inner party democracy.
What then did they find so fascinating about PR system? Many Indians with vested interests have quite evangelically propagated the lie that PR system is a Western product while in the same breath they also say that American and British electoral systems are much better. How come something that is Western is not good for India and something that is British and American is good for India? They somehow puke out the ‘hidden’ interest of excluding many communities in India from genuine representation and subsequent sharing in power. In the same breath they also acknowledge that the Blacks and the Native Americans are not duly represented and they do not share power in the US. What value then can the US democracy have if the most vulnerable sections of citizens are excluded? This fact about any democracy with FPTP is as clear as broad daylight to the rest of the world. India is no exception.