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Monday, December 2, 2013

Voters must have the right to remove incompetent MPs & MLAs

Voters must have the right to remove incompetent MPs & MLAs
The move will instil accountability in the political class.
In simple words right to recall is a kind of mechanism designed to enable voters not satisfied with an elected representative to remove one before completion of fixed period of office initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition.
The electorate is quite helpless when it finds elected representatives do not rise to expectations, and that is why there is this demand for the right to recall such representatives.
It is in the interest of the nation to remove the incompetent, inefficient and dishonest legislators, who once elected by hook or by crook, continue to bleed the state exchequer for the fixed term.
The experience of the last couple of decades, particularly since the advent of coalition governments, has clearly demonstrated that the elected representatives’ urge to stick to their positions for five years seems to overpower everything else. The opposition’s main objective seems to be to embarrass the government and not to topple it in case a fresh election is held. The thought of toppling is entertained only when the opposition has a reasonably strong belief that it can cobble up an alternative government. This actually is avoidance of accountability.
It has also become clear that the period of five years between elections, with no real check on the performance, is too long. The disdain for public opinion and even overlooking the national interest, in the interest of maintaining their seats in the legislature, along with the fractured polity and confrontationist politics have brought governance to a grinding halt. The arrogance of the elected seems to have reached dysfunctional levels.
The right to recall is an antidote to this arrogance. The major objections to the right to recall are of two types. One is the fierce opposition by the political class. The other arises from the concerns about its practicability and what some people assume to be insurmountable complications. Let us look at the latter.
What should be this “significant proportion” of the electorate that can demand a recall election? To confound public opinion, the figure of six per cent specified in Switzerland is being bandied about. There is nothing on earth that says the figure should be the same in India. Given our specific situation, we can and should make our own determination. Whether we fix it at 50 or even 60 per cent, we will also take into consideration whether it will be the percentage of the votes polled or the registered votes.
Once a recall proposal passes the acceptance tests, a recall election will be held on the single issue whether the legislator should be recalled or not. The percentage of votes required for the recall to go through is also a matter of determination. Only when the votes polled in favour of recall cross that threshold will the recall become effective. If the recall election rejects the motion of recall, no recall motion is permitted for a specified period.
The right to recall is only one mechanism for instilling accountability. There are several other issues that require urgent attention for reforming the election system, the critical ones being internal democracy and financial transparency in political parties. Because it might take us time to implement those is no reason to reject the right to recall..
It is neither viable nor a solution to the problem of non-performance, incompetence or misuse of office
If you want a right to recall you would first have to fix a threshold as to how many people should be enough to decide that a particular representative should be recalled. Besides, how do you decide whether someone should be subjected to a right to recall process? How many should be enough to decide that the MLA should be recalled?
Should it be 20,000 or should it be 75,000? As is evident, it is an absurd exercise. It is much better to say that a person to be elected should have 50 per cent plus one vote out of the total votes polled.
It is not for nothing that countries around the world have steered clear of the right to recall.
Plus it is an extremely messy affair. Allegations would be raised about someone doing campaigns against a candidate and so on. It is especially messy in huge electorates like ours. You will then need another election each time a candidate is recalled. That would mean more expenses without a guarantee of the new winner being any better.
The right to recall is a total non-starter and it would create more chaos than it seeks to remove.
It is futile to look for success stories in the right to recall for there aren’t any that can fit in Indian conditions. It is equally futile and counter productive to push fancy ideas when simpler solutions are available to solve our electoral problems.
One must realize that in India, civil society, which is a vocal advocate of radical measures like ‘Right to Recall’ forms a limited part of the population. Most of the voters are still not adequately educated and can hence be easily influenced. False promises, powerful speeches and muscle power can be used as tools against them to force them recall elected representatives. A Right to Recall may be used to strengthen a democracy only when every citizen is a politically aware citizen and the society works in coordination with the government. This has yet to happen and hence the idea of ‘Right to Recall’ should be postponed for the time being.
‘Right to Recall’ will also hamper leaders to take unpopular decisions that may not be liked by the electorate but are essential for the future of the country. Sometimes, good leaders must take certain unpopular decisions, policies and measures. There can be certain immediate perils of the new policies. However, they benefit the society and the state in future. For example, the introduction of certain tax laws. They may disappoint the middle class initially. But, in the long run, they shall only help the society at large. Leaders have to be given a minimum time to prove their calibre.
The right to recall enforces a trust deficit between the state and the society. It is important to realize that a state cannot function without the faith of the people in it. Hence, every second day, the representatives would be recalled and continuous elections would hamper governance.


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