Chapter 10

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SYSTEM OF ELECTIONS


It will be evident from the foregoing chapters that the system of elections advocated in this Constitution is direct for the village panchayats and indirect for the taluka, district, province and the All-India panchayats. This system will combine the chief advantages of both direct and indirect elections. The election will be direct in the village that would enjoy maximum local autonomy. Since the functions of the higher bodies will be mainly advisory and coordinative, indirect election would be the most suitable method. It will avoid colossal waste of national energy, time and money involved in direct elections especially in a vast country like India. The unhealthy growth of political parties and communal feelings will also be automatically checked to a great extent. Since indirect elections will be confined to a few responsible individuals, there will be hardly any room for bribery and corruption. Besides, the representatives of the upper bodies will not be in a position to Ďforgetí their constituencies because they would owe their delegation to the lower panchayats. According to the proposed Constitution, the president of the lower panchayat shall be the ex officio member of the next higher panchayat. Thus, even the president of the All-India panchayat shall be the president of his own village panchayat as well; he shall, at the same time, be a member or president of the taluka, district and provincial panchayats. He will, therefore, be fully conversant with and alive to the difficulties and requirements of the masses; he cannot be a mere Ďarmchairí politician. If any member of the highest body does not discharge his civil duties towards the people satisfactorily, he would stand no chance at the next elections; he might even be Ďrecalledí by his own village panchayat, thus, compelling him to resign his membership of all the other higher bodies. Since the village constituencies will be small and there will be direct and intimate knowledge of the candidates seeking election, the scope for electioneering frauds would be eliminated root and branch.
 
10.1 Franchise
The question of franchise and electoral qualifications will arise only in the case of elections for the village panchayats. In the villages, elections will be on the basis of adult franchise irrespective of any distinctions relating to caste, creed, sex, religion, socio-economic position or education. Even literacy shall not be compulsory qualification for a voter. Observes Gandhiji:

"I cannot possibly bear the idea that a man who has got wealth should have the vote, but the man who has got character but no wealth or literacy should have no vote. Or that a man who works honestly by the sweat of his brow, day in and day out, should not have the vote for the crime of being a poor man. I am not enamoured of the doctrine of literacy, that voter must at least have knowledge of the three Rís. I want for my people to have knowledge of the three Rís, but I know also that if I have to wait until they have got a knowledge of the three Rís before they can be qualified for voting, I shall have to wait until the Greek Kalends. And I am not prepared to wait all that time."1
 
10.2 Special Qualifications
Although no rigid rules could be framed for the members and office bearers of the panchayats, the following special merits shall weigh with the voters while casting votes in favour of different candidates:

a. Literacy and general education;

b. Mature experience of civic life;

c. Financial independence (to eliminate chances of corruption);
 
d. Record of solid and selfless service to the village community.
 
In this context, any kind of canvassing in elections should be regarded as a disqualification. Membership of the panchayat should be looked upon as a grave responsibility and not as a matter of mere honour and selfish gains.
 
It is thus clear that the Westminster parliamentry system with a mixed up executive and legislature is fundamentally faulty.
It is functioning satisfactorily in a small homogeneous country such a Britain, but created serious problems of stability in many countries including France and Sri Lanka. The German variation in which a vote of no confidence against a government has to be accompanied by a vote of confidence for another government, is a poor compromise. In a large country with multiple interests such as India, it is likely to create serious problems of horsetrading and other types of abuse of power.
 
For India, Gandhi had rightly and strongly proposed separation of executive and legislature along with exclusive juridictions at the local, state and national levels. This will allow full expression of local aspirations at the local level, while the national chief executive will look after the defence of the nation and other national level issues. This would be the only sound system, not only for India, but also for most nations.
 
Election System
The gram sabhas or village parliaments will elect their sarpanchs and panchs through secret ballot for one year, and can remove a sarpanch or panch any time for misconduct and elect another in his or her place. Except when serious malpractice is apprehended, the elections should be conducted under the supervision of the village parliament assisted by village officials. Urban neighbourhoods can similarly elect their chairpersons and members.
 
The sub-district and sub-city governments should have directly elected chief executives as chairpersons and members elected or nominated by the gram sabhas and urban neighbourhoods. Their prime function will be coordination and resolving difficulties of grassroots governments.
 
The district, city, state and national governments should have directly elected chief executives and deputy chief executives elected as a team, and separate watchdog elected bodies consisting of councillors or legislators. A chief executive will appoint his or her team of executives who shall not be councillors or legislators but whose appointment will require the approval of the concerned elected body. An appropriate procedure for impeachment of a chief executive should be provided. Required details can be worked out.
 
It should be mandatory for recognised political parties with reserved symbols to hold intra-party primary elections for all elective positions at the district, city, state and national levels.
 
Since councillors and legislators will perform only watchdog functions, there is no need for complicated practises such as transferable votes or listing system. There should be no reservations for any elective position as it violates the fundamentals of democracy. It should be the responsibility of local governments to ensure that the disadvantaged communities get fully integrated in the society. In this, multi-stakeholder upper houses described below can play a vital role.

Multi-stakeholder Upper Houses
The Rajya Sabha, modelled on the British House of Lords, is a recluse for retired politicians. It is serving little purpose. Based on the recommendations of the Rio Conference on Environment and Development held in 1992, Multi-stakeholder Upper Houses should be instituted at local, state and national levels to resolve conflicts and moderate decision-making for sustainability. They should consist of representatives of various interest groups, such as disadvantaged communities, farmers, labour, industry, women, religions, NGOs and professionals, elected or selected through independent processes as may be decided in each category.
 
Such upper houses at the sub-district or sub-city level will try to resolve social and environmental conflicts at the grassroots level. If they are unable to do so, there can be a second appeal to the upper house at district or city level but no further. The state and national governments should have no jurisdiction in such matters since higher level politics tends to abuse them for creating vote banks.
 
These concepts can be further studied and refined.

 

ó- PEOPLE FIRST

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