Saturday, January 07, 2006

Break Up Our Broken Polity

UPA’s plan for minorities: we will fix govt spending as per their population share (Indian Express)

Whoever came up with this idiocy needs serious IQ injections.

Why is the Government obsessed with dividing Indians through rigid quotas -- instead of seeing them as one people with similar development needs?

Besides, this lunacy will require its own monitoring bureaucracy. How much more babudom can India take?

Fareed Zakaria observes the Indian state is failing badly, our society succeeding nevertheless. With Indians trapped between the bigotry of the religious-right and the divisiveness of the secular-left, how long before the society gets dragged back in the mire it's desperately trying to emerge from?

Somehow, someway, our broken dysfuctional political structure has to be broken up.



Anonymous said...

First, start calling a spade a spade. This is hare brained scheme of the Congress.

Second, we are setting the stage for a second partition. This time it will be even more bloodier than the first.

Finally, if sense needs to prevail, we need a new political party. It is us who are needed. If not us, then who?

Apollo said...

dammit these people are getting more and more anti-national do we stop them?

Jaffna said...

Perhaps its time to think the unthinkable - i.e. constitutional reform. One has to shift the incentive structure in the Indian polity away from short-term and divisive populist gimmicks (epitomized by the Congress Party today) to a more long-term platform of policy planning. The objective is to secure the enlightened state.

Apollo said...

How do u think we can achieve this constitutional reform? one needs 2/3rd majority in lok sabha to pass a amendment. do u really believe that the present motley crowd will do something that hurts their own selfish interests?

Jaffna said...


Think long-term my friend, not the current motley crowd in the lower house of the legislature. There needs to be debate in civil society, in the print media, in the electronic media, in legal forums and in blogs such as this.

Eventually one party will include the subject of constitutional change in its party manifesto - and voila - constitutional reform might then become feasable.

The previous BJP Government had appointed a committee to brain storm ideas - and as always - it failed to provide anything of value.

I favor a presidential model for a vast, diverse country such as India. An elected President will be forced to campaign in all parts of the country and emphasize national issues rather than legislative elections which highlight local issues.

I will attempt a post on this controversial subject when I get the time :-) I must stop now and prepare for Thai Pongal - Makara Sankranti - a big event where I come from.

libertarian said...

Jaffna, best wishes for Makara Sakranti. Do you guys fly kites during the festival?

libertarian said...

jaffna seems the issue is with the executive and not as much with the legislature. I'm not sure constitutional amendments will solve the problem.

zakaria's observation is very perceptive.

Jaffna said...

Senor Libertarian,

I was not suggesting a constitutional amendment. I was hinting at society debating a complete rehaul of the constitution. Perhaps we need to think of the second Indian republic (to replace the moribund Nehruvian vision of 1950).

You are indeed right that the issue is with the executive. All the more to change the incentive structure at the level of the executive. He or she will need to be answerable to the entire electorate. Campaign issues will need to be debated nationally. And term limits will ensure that no executive thinks of narrow political advantage when formulating policy (at least in his or her second and final term). A system of checks and balances, of designating cabinet ministers from outside the legislature, if possible (to ensure the best brains are on hand while retaining legislative scrutiny), and the reinvigoration of the earlier committee system (like the committee of international relations, of defence, of public finance etc) in the legislature will help broad base policy making. The idea is to reduce the populist impulse and to incentivize long term decision making.

Change of topic. No kite flying (from what I recall) for Makara Sankranti here. But there used to be lots of bullock cart racing! The Tamil New Year is on April 14 -Baisakhi in North India and Poila Boishakhi in Bengal. Lot more cart racing then with coconut fights too :-). And competitions on how fast you climb the palmyrah palm....(I never managed that).

Best regards

Apollo said...

there is a danger of turning into a banana republic if u try to write a new constitution. the secular-left will call u anti-dalit since u want to replace a constitution written by a dalit intellectual and then afterwards everyone who comes to power will want to write his own constitution.france has suffered this fate it had 11 constitutions since the french revolution.less said abt the latin american, african, SE Asian banana republics the better.

Jaffna said...


I agree with you that constitutional change needs to be approached with extreme caution. Hence, I called for debate and consensus. You give good examples of countries that repeatedly change their constitution. (This said, I am unaware of the French instance that you allude to. I had thought that France only had 5 since 1789 but I stand corrected). But the current one in India had been drafted in an era whose basic premises may no longer hold. Hence 104 Amendments in contrast to the United States which has had far fewer despite being around for far longer. It is also an extremely long document unlike the United States constitution which has proved to be far more resilient. Moreover, the Indian polity (and I include security policy making as just one example) is increasingly dysfunctional. How does one address these issues? Hence the call for a debate in civil society.

Apollo said...


actually the US has fewer amendments because of stringent rules. the amendment has to gain 2/3rd majority in both houses and then it has to obtain the approval of 2/3rd of the states in the union. whereas in india u have to get 2/3rd of lok sabha and a simple majority in rajya sabha. that is why there are so many populist amendments. out of 104 i'am sure most if not all are useless or clearly anti-national.How abt including stringent rules like this in our constitution? i'am sure most political parties will not favor this it will destroy their discretionary power to pass populist measures and also why not include a "Recall" clause so that ppl can recall their MP's and MLA's if they are not happy with them. even this will have no takers in our political establishment.

cynical nerd said...

Apollo: Jaffna is right that it is the 5th French Republic currently in place. I think the last time it was under Charles de Gaulle mandated by a popular referundum.

My ideal for a constitutional reform would be a stronger federal structure with more power for the states. The center should restrict itself to defence, foreign affairs, external trade, major disaster management, high level economic policy guidelines, central income tax. The state can give a fixed percentage on the VAT (proportional to their relative prosperity ?) it collects.

I don't know what to do with the Governors though? It looks like a redundant post, time to take it off.

Jaffna: How I miss Pongal here. Iniya Pongal Nalvazthukkal from a cold place!

Apollo said...

jaffna, cynical_nerd u ppl r right it is the 5th french republic maybe i got confused with the number of switches they made between monarchy and republic.

cynical - the center cannot become so remote. even in US the central govt runs the highway network and postal dept. devolving power to the states is of no use because most of our states are bigger and more populous than half the countries in the UN.

In my home state karnataka. bangalore is located at the south east corner of the state and most of the places like north karnataka, coorg and coastal karnataka complain that they are neglected. the better solution will be to devolve power to local level. i.e., cities, towns and villages should be able to elect mayors directly who will run a local govt responsible for all day to day running of the city.

the local council can pass rules & regulations of relevance to the city/town/village and also help take decisions on infrastructure & investment related to their place.

libertarian said...

apollo: regarding devoltion of power to local government, it boils down to a simple question of money. Indian citizens only have a central (federal) tax - no state tax, and now, a VAT to simplify sales tax. If local governments have no independent sources of "revenue" (all tax is stealing in my opinion), they will be incapable of planning and executing infrastructure and investment projects.

Apollo said...

something needs to be worked out libertarian.else there is no point in a situation where some one from Gulbarga should travel 800 kms to bangalore and beg the state govt to give them money to repair a road or some one travelling from kanyakumari to delhi to do the same.local autonomy is very much required so that people can find solutions to their own issues & concerns without having to beg some brown babu or some pot-bellied politico to attend to them

libertarian said...

apollo I cannot agree more with the objective. I'm just having difficulty seeing how local governments will raise the money needed.

Apollo said...

@libertarian. that is certainly food for thought.maybe the constitutional reform committee should consider this issue seriously.whenever it is setup that is.


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