The framers of India’s Constitution adopted the system of democracy, with a government “of the people, by the people, for the people” that would ensure for them equality and safety. Elections have been held roughly every five years in the States and at the Centre, and the Election Commission has fulfilled its roles commendably.
Politicians have been signalling issues of caste, community, religion, language and region. Fifty years ago, based on the language criterion Andhra was formed by removing eight Telugu-speaking districts from the Madras Presidency. Subsequently, States such as Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were formed, and Telangana is about to be formed. Demands for the formation of Gorkhaland, Bodoland and Vidarbha persist. The claim that small States can provide good governance is questionable.
Based on different criteria, educational, job and other entitlements have been granted to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe populations, OBCs and minorities. Muslims, who number about 170 million, are considered a minority and are eligible for concessions, in particular financial assistance to undertake a pilgrimage to Mecca. Christians get pilgrimage assistance (at least in Tamil Nadu). Jains are now considered a minority, and get OBC quota. Jats have been given concessions by one State; several communities are demanding similar status and concessions. Since the Constitution has declared all citizens equal, why cannot eligibility criteria for financial assistance, reservation and so on be based on levels of poverty? The only exception perhaps should apply to tribals.
Ahead of the elections, certain groups are demanding concessions and favours based on caste, community and so on. Some political parties seem to identify candidates for elections on similar lines. Nobody asks: “Are we not Indians First?” Born in India, are we not Indians? Yes, but does the voter feel and act primarily as being ‘Indian First’, or as a member of a certain caste, religion, community or language? Before casting the vote, does he or she assess candidates with regard to integrity, social welfare consciousness, ability to express their views and so on. There is scope for this sort of exercise, and the Election Commission has given the voter the option of NOTA, or ‘none of the above’.
In an election, votes get divided among candidates. In some cases, the gap between the top two is not substantial. Compared to the total number of votes polled, the top-scorer barely scores 30 per cent. Can such a person claim to represent all voters? Hence the voter gets the Parliament and government he deserves. The performance of Parliament has steadily deteriorated. Several elected members face criminal charges; many have a record of poor attendance in the House.
According to some pre-election surveys, no party will get a majority. Hence, to form a government, the BJP — if it wins more seats than the Congress — will have to get support from regional parties. If the BJP forms an alliance and is able to form a government, it cannot be free from pulls and pressures. Effective governance will not be possible then. Will not the nation suffer?
The thought occurs. In the interest of the nation and the need for effective governance by a stable government, why can’t the leaders of the two major national parties, the Congress and the BJP, forgo ego, end slogan-shouting, vilification and so on, and try to come to an ethical understanding? A committee consisting of, say, three from each party can meet and discuss the issue. If the BJP gets the larger share of seats but not the majority, the committee can decide that the BJP would form the Central government and the Congress would support it, subject to the following: all major policies and programmes and matters requiring legislation should be discussed by the committee. If there is no agreement, then the subject should be placed before Parliament and debated. Only if the vote is in favour, the government can go ahead. The Congress can express its dissent during voting, but it will continue to support the government.
Such a system will enable the Central government to implement measures to improve security, the economic situation and so on, and will be an eye-opener to all democratic countries. The credit for success will not be attributed to the BJP alone but also to the Congress. Both believe in the welfare of the nation and therefore senior members of both can be expected to ensure that there is no rupture in their understanding or in the functioning of the government.
Such an understanding should not be only for a government to be formed after the 2014 elections. When elections are held in 2019 and if neither the BJP nor the Congress gets a majority then it should be agreed that the Congress would form the government with the BJP supporting it and conducting itself as the Congress did in the earlier round. Thus, the understanding can be expected to strengthen the national parties based on ideology and provide all round security and welfare to the people.
There are questions that could be raised about such a solution. The details will have to be worked out.