Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Some thoughts on electoral reforms in India

Below is a piece mailed to us by a citizen - Mr Chudamani Ratnam. These are good, debatable points. We put it here for the open discussions, knowing that you would have lots to contribute. Take a look and do respond.

Electoral Reforms in India
It appears that there are some 700+ Mayors of towns in the USA. Some time ago, around 2006-7, at their annual conclave, under the Chairmanship of the Mayor of Seattle, they adopted a resolution to implement certain far reaching environmental protection measures. This was at a time when the US Federal Administration had a somewhat negative attitude towards such green policies. I e-mailed the Mayor of Seattle congratulating the mayors on their wisdom and went on to suggest that democracy in the USA would be better served if the Houses of Congress were abolished and the country governed by a President elected by the Mayors. Unfortunately I didn’t get a reply.

Leading on from such ideas it seems to me that elections in their present form in India should be abolished. People would only vote to elect their Panchayats, redefined to include municipal corporations, etc. These bodies would form an electoral college to elect the state assemblies. Candidates for the state assemblies need not be members of the Panchayat, but should be voters in that state. At the next higher level, the state assemblies would form another electoral college to elect the national assembly, i.e. Lok Sabha, not unlike the way the present Rajya Sabha is elected. The Lok Sabha would elect the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who need not be members of the Lok Sabha, again bearing some similarities to the US system.

It may be wishful thinking on my part but I can see some advantages over the present Indian system. To start with this proposal would be administratively much simpler and the deployment of thousands of paramilitary forces may not be needed. The criminal element would be hopefully eliminated beyond the panchayat stage and politics would be accessible to a better class of citizen. More sophisticated electoral processes such as the second transferable vote can be implemented at the electoral college stages. Lastly money may no longer be a factor in politics.
~ By Chudamani Ratnam


  1. Anonymous12:54

    Fully agree with you. Recall of any member at any level also becomes easy should such situations arise. The present FPTP system can be replaced by the STV system.

  2. With half the members elected in 2004 to the 14th Lok Sabha being first time MPs, and with re-election rate for sitting MPs or MLAs, typically hovering at 1/3, do we really need a recall vote? Contrast this with the situation in the US Congress, in both the houses the sitting members get re-elected over 90% of the time.

    As for other the other proposal regarding layered democracy, with each level electing representatives for the next higher level, I wonder if such system would be susceptible to capture by the party hierarchy, and people might get left behind without any voice at all?