POLITY / GOVERNANCE
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers
- Pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
2009 Anti-Corruption Movement and Challenges to Indian Polity
Context: Nine years ago, Anna Hazare ended his historic fast when the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, informed him that Parliament had expressed support for proposed changes to anti-corruption legislation.
What was the movement all about?
- Anti-Corruption & Accountability: The single point demand of the Anna movement was the institution of the Jan Lokpal to try all government functionaries when accused of corruption; even the Prime Minister.
- Substantive Democracy: It was a remarkable movement of citizens — rich, middle class, and poor — coming together to take politics back from politicians and to demand Parliament’s accountability to citizens
- Decentralisation: Anna Hazare who was leading the movement said Lokpals and Lokayuktas would not eliminate the root causes of corruption in politics and government. Electoral reforms and decentralisation of power were essential
What is the present situation vis-à-vis the ideas raised in movement?
- The movement for fundamental reforms of governance lost its steam.
- The nation’s attention has moved on, from weaknesses in institutions of governance, to threats from China on the nation’s borders and to global problems caused by COVID-19.
What are the issues still plaguing our Political System?
- Money dominates Electoral Process which leads to Systemic Corruption
- Around the world, electoral democracies have become infected by the disease of funding political parties and elections. Money is required to win elections legitimately, even when people are not bribed to vote
- Communications with citizens, essential for democracy has become expensive.
- The race to raise more money for legitimate electioneering purposes can corrupt the process of funding parties and elections.
- Challenges with Democratic Process and deliberations
- The problem in electoral democracies is not only with the process by which representatives are elected, but also in the conduct of their deliberations when they come together.
- Representatives fight for the largest share of the pie for their constituency rather than the growth of the whole pie.
- Elected representatives must shed their local hats and put on a national hat to consider what will be best for the whole country, which seldom happens
- Multi-Party Democracy is a double edged sword
- Emergence of multiple Political parties has enabled even the weakest person to make his voice heard. It has democratised the electoral process.
- However, when there are too many parties and too many contradictory points of view to be accommodated within a coalition, governance can break down.
- Alternative of Direct Democracy has its own pitfalls
- It is tempting to abandon political parties and parliaments and revert to direct forms of democracy where every decision can be put directly to all citizens to vote on. New Internet technologies make this possible.
- But, if all voters have not understood what is at stake, they cannot decide well as the U.K. has understood with its hasty Brexit referendum.
- Complex issues, where many interests collide, must be resolved by reason, not settled by the numbers
- Electoral funding must be cleaned up
- Democracy within political parties improved to make representative democracy work better.
- Strong local governance remains the unfinished agenda to make India’s democracy strong and deep
Connecting the dots:
- 73rd & 74th Constitutional Amendment Act