If you see any political discussion, you will hear supporters (including myself) argue for or against some CM or PM candidate. This is understandable given how much importance we, as a country, give to personalities. But this is precisely one of the biggest reasons why our polity and governments have consistently failed us over the years.
The US Presidential System (you can skip this para, if you want):
This personality cult works in a Presidential System, like in USA, where people directly vote (through electors) for individuals standing for Presidency and the President heads the Executive. The winning candidate (the President) has an almost free hand to choose whoever he wants as a cabinet member in his Executive team, and there are no coalition politics at play. I said ‘almost free hand’ because whoever President nominates as a cabinet member, should get a majority nod from the Legislative, but once that nod is approved, the President can dismiss or change portfolios at will. The President himself cant pass laws and only members of the Legislative can do that. The President can only ask any a member of the legislative to propose a bill, and then lobby with other members to support it and get it passed. If the President’s party is a minority in the legislative, bills are stuck! So, its not like a President can do whatever he wants. But then, elections to every 1/3rd of the seats in House of Representatives are held once in 2yrs, and so the situation keeps on changing. This Presidential System exists at state level too (with Governors and State Legislature).
Indian Parliamentary System:
In India, we have a Parliamentary System where people do not elect the PM directly but only elect members (MP) of the Legislative (the Parliament). The head of the Executive (PM) is proposed by a majority in the Legislative (the Parliament). So, the PM draws his legitimacy/strength from the majority that he commands in the Legislative, which means, he is subjected to the whims and fancies of several members (and several parties in case of a coalition). The same system exists at states too – with CM drawing strength from MLA and other parties in the State Assembly.
As we have been seeing over the decades, the two national parties – BJP and Congress – have been consistently losing out to regional parties and regional satraps (DMK, ADMK, SP, BSP, JDU, Jagan Reddy etc etc). Even within these two national parties (more so in BJP, since Congress is quite centrally commanded), regional leaders like Modi, Raman Singh, YSR, Yeddyurappa etc are/were running fairly regional parties for all practical purposes. Coalition politics caught up big in mid 1990s and has become a permanent and unavoidable feature of our system – both at center and in states (where it is catching up).
Why Kejriwal or Modi dont matter?
The strength of the leader comes not from within himself, but from the strength of the mandate that he commands. In Indian parliamentary system, that strength of the mandate translates into number of MP (MLA) or parties supporting the leader’s (PM/CM) government.
Take the case of the personally incorruptible but weak PM, Manmohan Singh. Because of his government’s dependence on his coalition partner DMK, he literally gave a free hand to A.Raja to loot the telecom ministry in 2G spectrum scam.
Consider the case of Gujarat, where Modi’s BJP has been in absolute majority and he has been reported to be a strong person. And yet, Modi twice denied sanction to prosecute his corrupt cabinet minister, Purushotam Solanki, until the High Court stepped in and granted sanction. His other cabinet minister, Anandiben Patel, who had been involved in land-scams, continues in his government (for details on these scams and more, please see my other blog entry). The reason: Caste votebank of the Koli community for Purushotam and the Patel community for Anandiben. So, Modi’s strength as a leader comes through MLAs like these whose strengths, in turn, come from voters in their constituencies. Modi’s BJP in Gujarat currently has 24 MLAs who have criminal charges against them.
Take the case of the parliament debate on Lokpal bill: The Congress didnt want an independent CBI, the BJP didnt want Lokayukta in states and other regional parties had some lame excuse to oppose the bill. In the end, nothing got passed.
So, it does not matter whether we have a strong or weak PM (or CM) – unless we give that leader clean and honest MPs (or MLAs) to work with, he cant clean up the system. And given that coalition politics is an undeniable reality that is here to stay, a PM is even more badly dependent on MPs who owe their loyalty to their own parties’ leaders (like how Mamta was stalling all of Congress’ policies through her party’s MPs). No amount of “leadership” of the PM (CM) can surpass the whims and fancies of such regional parties (and even regional satraps within their own party, like Yeddyurappa of BJP or YSR of Congress) who know they cant be wished away because they draw their own strengths from a different set of constituencies from a different part of the country.
This is why the idea of AAP is more important:
The constitution of AAP provides strict internal mechanisms (total transparency of party funds, independent internal Lokpal etc) to check corruption. This will not only weed out any party member found indulging in corruption, but will also serve as a deterrent for corrupt people to even think of joining the party. The party also promises that, if elected to power, it will bring in a strict Lokpal/Lokayukta, right to reject and recall candidates in election reforms and many others. These will in-turn make sure that even those honest elected MPs continue to behave that way when in power. With such a good set of MPs, the PM (from AAP party) will have a much easier job of cleaning up the system and formulating honest policies.
The constitution of AAP also mandates that the candidates, that AAP will put up for elections in each constituency, will be selected by people of that constituency. How? There are two kinds of memberships in the party – Ordinary Member (OM) and Active Member (AM). Those OMs who have been active in party work can become an AM of the party and will get voting rights in their constituency. All pre-screened (for background info, criminal records etc) potential candidates’ list will be put to vote, and the candidate with highest vote will be selected as the party’s candidate for that constituency. So, this way, there will be no high command that will decide on the candidate list. In fact, there is no head of the party at all (Kejriwal is only the convener of the party, and party constitution does not give him any extra power). There will be a National Executive body of 30 people who will decide party issues by majority vote. All this shows that the party will not only be transparent but also have a perfect internal democracy.
Why is internal party democracy so important? Consider hysterical Mamta’s blackmail of Congress’ policies. That was because she thought she had a veto power. But if there had been a culture of internal party democracy, Mamta would have gotten a say proportional to the number of MP her party contributes to the coalition. In fact, if Mamta’s TMC itself had internal democracy, then each of her MPs would have gotten an independent say in UPA’s issue (and not work on the whips issued by party high command). This is how our founding-fathers envisioned that parliamentary system should work – not just democratic at electorate level but within party and among MPs too.
This is why the idea of AAP is more important than Arvind himself. So, take ownership & get involved with AAP activities, have your say in the candidate selection. During your AAP campaigns, whenever you come across those who want to vote for Rahul Gandhi or Narendra Modi (or even Arvind Kejriwal), in addition to telling them about congress scams and Modi’s corruption & riots, also tell them why it is important to vote for good, clean and knowledgeable local candidates than voting on the faith of a PM/CM candidate. I am sure this is what Arvind also wants us to do – and we all are confident that the quality of AAP candidates will be far higher than those corrupt criminals from Congress, BJP, DMK, SP, AIADMK, JDU, BSP, RJD etc etc.
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