The NITI Aayog chief recently made a brilliant suggestion that, I am sorry to say, has been widely unappreciated. Instead of gratitude for expressing a bold idea, his comments provoked outrage. Everyone apparently thought he wanted to sell India’s family jewels to the cheapest crony capitalist.
A magic passport
Nothing could be closer to the truth. The outrage is as misplaced as a fish on a bicycle. Or a prime minister on a rock. People were worried that the family jewels in question could end up with someone like Nirav Modi, a famous jeweller with a magical passport that keeps working no matter how many times it’s revoked. According to my sources in the MEA, the passport is immune to revocation because of its special powers derived from the Tesseract.
There is only one way to definitively kill Nirav Modi’s passport: the MEA must get one of its agents in London to steal it, and on the next available Amavasya, at the stroke of midnight, soak it in a vat of organic urine sourced from a cow bred on a pure Panchatattva diet containing the correct proportions of Prithvi, Jal, Vayu, Agni and Aakash. Then it must persuade one of the Avengers, preferably either the Hulk or Thor, to perform a yajna where each page of the passport is torn one by one, coated thickly with clarified Gowardhan ghee, and dropped into the sacrificial fire while three MEA officials with the rank of Joint Secretary and above chant shlokas from the Niravathiruttupaya Samhita . Only then will the passport stay dead. I know this is a tough and complicated challenge. But then, so is getting people to voluntarily starve to death unless their fingerprints match the preferred rangoli pattern of an artificial intelligence. And we’re managing that quite well, aren’t we?
The one big bang reform we need
Coming back to the NITI Aayog chief, all he said was that India should hand over its schools, colleges and jails to the private sector — something long overdue. If at all he must be criticised, it should be for stopping short of advocating the one truly big bang reform that can transform India’s fortunes forever: privatisation of all political parties.
Frankly, I am surprised that I am the first private intellectual to publicly propose this idea, given that it has been staring us in the face, neck and shoulders for quite some time. Thanks to electoral bonds and last year’s amendments to the Finance Act, today any money bag anywhere in the world can anonymously invest any amount in the Indian political market through the BOOT model — Build up a politician, Own him, Operate him, and Transfer black money abroad.
What the whole world knows but few Indians recognise is that India is the fastest growing political market in the world. Political parties spent a total of Rs. 10,000 crore in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls — more than double the Rs. 4,500 crore that was spent in the 2004 elections. If you thought that was a lot, they spent in the 2014 parliamentary elections three times what they did in 2009, burning up an estimated Rs. 30,000 crore.
Clearly, electoral politics, along with the allied industries of tax evasion, black money generation, and money laundering, is one of the best performing sectors in the Indian economy. Since elections these days take place round the year, our much maligned political parties are actually the country’s biggest job creators, with millions of people finding year-round employment as social media trolls, fake video producers, WhatsApp admins, lynch mob coordinators, offence-takers, rally audiences, cash dispensers, alcohol distributors, etc.
If we want to preserve these jobs and create millions more, in addition to encouraging FDI in Indian political parties, we must also allow foreign political parties, such as Trump’s Republicans, for instance, to contest in Indian elections. Just as a company’s biggest shareholder becomes its chairman and managing director, similarly the biggest investor in a winning party, regardless of his nationality, should be allowed to become the Prime Minister of India. Imagine an election where the prime ministerial candidates are Modiji, Trumpji, Zuckerbergji and Sequoiaji! It would be worth its weight in Nirav Modi (I mean the branded diamonds, not Nirav bhai) just for the TRPs it would generate.
All said and done, privatising political parties, though a major reform, is still only the first step. The ultimate goal must be to privatise the state itself. Our passports should start saying ‘India Inc.’ instead of Republic of India. But in order to make it happen, the Indian government should first hire a top consulting firm, say, a McKinsey or a PwC, and ask them to review the Constitution from the perspective of ease of doing business. Their recommendations can then be converted into amendments that will suitably update the Constitution into a more market-compatible version. In the unlikely event of there being too much opposition to these constitutional amendments, they can always be passed as money bills — after all, politics is all about the money.