FTI demands that the Indian Government implement the electoral reforms detailed below to enable good people to contest elections
Please join FTI in demanding the following electoral reforms for dramatically better governance in India.
But the Freedom Team of India believes that India’s Westminster system of democracy (along with First Past The Post election mechanism) is a responsive and effective system to provide representative democracy. That it has not worked well in India is not due to any inherent shortcomings in the Westminster model but due to the way Indian socialists (starting with Nehru) have totally distorted its functioning.
Once these distortions are set right, India's Westminster system can (and will) perform as well as it has in the UK for more than 500 years. A very similar system works quite well in Australia, as well. Where it works well, parliamentarians are well paid. In addition, state funding of elections (as with Australia) enhances the quality of candidates.
The purpose of democracy will be defeated if we fail to design a system in which good candidates are willing to come forward as candidates. The first task before us is to cleanse the Westminster system of the socialist dross that has destroyed its vitality and prevents good people from contesting elections.
3. High priority electoral Reforms
Three simple electoral reforms can fix most of the defects in India’s democracy:
This reimbursement system would allow good candidates to borrow funds to contest, in the hope of recovering at least part of their expense through reimbursement. Even though corrupt candidates will outspend them, at least good candidates won't end up losing huge amounts of money if they lose the election. Over time, the proportion of good candidates elected will increase, thereby setting up a positive cycle, compared with the current vicious cycle.
Such a system is very successfully followed in Australia and allows competent candidates to contest, thereby significantly improving the quality and integrity of leadership in parliament. This system will also be easy to implement in India, and although the cost to the taxpayer of organising elections will increase, the value of getting good, honest leaders in parliament will significantly outweigh this cost.
3b) Stringent audit of electoral expenses
Although it is not desirable, in principle, to limit electoral expenses, it is important that if the country imposes such limits, that these are strictly monitored. FTI recommends stringent audit of electoral funding and vigorous punishment of those who break electoral funding limits. If corrupt politicians can't gain an electoral advantage through use of huge amounts of black money (which is what the established, big political parties use), then barriers against good candidates will further reduce.
3c) Fast track courts to deal with corruption or criminal charges against MPs
While criminals and the corrupt should be punished, FTI believes that someone not yet convicted of a major crime should not be prevented from entering parliament. India must abide by the principles of natural justice.
In any event, if we try to block entry to Parliament of those with criminal cases against them, it is quite likely that such people will set up dummy candidates (spouse, child) instead. It is not possible to solve complex problems through simplistic solutions.
Therefore, FTI believes that the Election Commission should be charged with fast-tracking criminal cases. Cases against elected MPs should be be given top priority and heard without break until completed. While the Commission has no power to prosecute anyone for non-election related criminal offences, it has a responsibility to ensure that India does not get heinous criminals as its MPs. The Commission has enormous constitutional powers, and in collaboration with the Supreme Court can overcome all obstacles to early delivery of justice for MPs with criminal cases.
The Commission should liaise with the Supreme Court and report monthly to Parliament on such matters. It should should be empowered to apply extra resources where needed (through the court system), enforce tight timelines, and punish those officials (e.g. police officials) who deliberately delay the justice process. A small budget of Rs. 20 crores for the Election Commission could go a long way to rid criminals from India’s Parliament.
4. Additional reforms
In addition, the following reforms will further improve India’s governance.
4a) Political Representative Incentives Commission
FTI believes that “if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys”. Chanakya, who helped unite India over 2000 years ago into the largest empire it has seen (Mauryan) knew this very well. Arthashastra specifies that the highest salary paid by a king should be 800 times that given to the lowest functionary. This was done so as to attract the best talent of the country to the higher positions, which require greater knowledge and judgement.
Socialist Nehru, innocent of the basics of economics, started paying MPs low salaries (which the MPs have circumvented through perquisites and corruption). The immediate result was that good people refused to join politics, preferring to earn a respectable living through other affairs. This has contributed to the inexorable decline in quality of India’s political leaders. Either we get the corrupt or we get demagogues. Honest talented Indians have fled politics. This socialist approach to our leaders, which is completely contrary to basic common sense and also directly violates the wisdom of India’s greatest economist: Chanakya, has to be overturned immediately.
To address this serious problem of inappropriate compensation to our leaders, FTI recommends the creation of an independent Political Representative Incentives Commission. The commission should be charged with research on, and making recommendations on a compensation mechanism for peoples’ representatives that will eliminate all reasonably foreseeable incentives for corruption, or will otherwise promote the freedom of citizens.
In doing so a suitable law could be enacted that creates a system of performance bonuses for all MPs and MLAs, such that (for instance):
The sum of these bonuses will be limited to a total of 50 per cent of the base salary in any given year. This will allow performance orientation to flow into the compensation of elected representatives.
4b) Performance reporting against Election Manifestos by Election Commission
FTI recommends that the Election Commission should also be charged with reporting on the performance of elected political parties against their election manifesto commitments.Almost all political parties make promises about things like poverty, infrastructure, etc. in their manifestos. However, India doesn’t have any system to report on the performance of parties against their promises. While the press, the opposition, and citizens in general do monitor some of these promises, there is no done systematic process.
FTI recommends that the Election Commission produce such performance reports on an annual basis. It should require all parties to lodge their manifestos with it, and require manifestos to specify performance measures for each commitment. The Election Commission would not suggest what should be included in the manifesto, but whatever is included should have key performance indicators. Such a mechanism will significantly enhance the performance of India’s democracy.
It is quite possible that the Election Commission won't need parliamentary authorisation to implement such reporting process. It could perhaps undertake such reporting right now. At a minimum – given possible resource constraints – the Commission could direct political parties to report on such performance on their own websites as part of their annual financial reports.
5. Join FTI in demanding these reforms
Eliminating corruption from India and improving its governance requires fixing the top of the system. All corruption in India starts at the top: through its Parliament. The laws of India are designed today to preclude the possibility of good people joining politics. Only the corrupt are allowed to contest elections.
We need a system where honest and capable people are able to contest for seats in the Parliament. We also need to make it difficult for people with criminal and corrupt background to reach Parliament.
Please join FTI in demanding these key electoral reforms which will pave the way for cleansing the corrupt people from India’s Parliament, and allow other crucial governance reforms to be implemented.