Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog header image 2

Panelist at 5th National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms

January 30th, 2009 · 16 Comments

I am on a panel discussing “Role of Business and Government” in the event tomorrow (Saturday) at Nehru Centre, Mumbai. Here are the details of the 2-day conference, hosted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW). The context of the event: “Since 2002, the major impacts of these campaigns have been on criminalization of politics, and transparency in candidate and political party assets. Leaders of both the BJP and the Indian National Congress have made public statements that they would not field candidates with criminal records even if they were likely to win in the coming Lok Sabha elections. As a result of these campaigns, the percentage of candidates with criminal records has come down from over 20% to about 12% recently. However, a lot still remains to be done. In particular, the exponential growth in the use of money power is a major area of concern since it vitiates democracy.”

The focus of the conference is as follows:

  1. A set of demands for improving elections and democracy. These include the option of “None of the Above” on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), barring candidates against whom serious charges have been framed in a Court, disqualifying candidates who indulge in electoral malpractices, and striking off names of people with non bailable warrants from voter rolls. These have emerged from consultations around the country, and have also been endorsed by the Election Commission.
  2. The need for a comprehensive Bill to regulate Political Parties. All leading democracies have such a Bill, we have none. The issues of inner party democracy in political parties, and greater transparency and regulation of political party funding is required.
  3. Specific action plans for the coming general elections under the banner of National Election Watch (NEW), a campaign that is already under way.

I would love to get inputs on what topics to discuss in the panel. Some initial thoughts:

  • the need for creating an information infrastructure (“infostructure”) on candidates, work done by elected representatives in constituencies. The RTI (Right to Information) Act has helped, but more needs to be done, and information needs to be made  more easily accessible to people.
  • laying the foundation for two-way governance, where citizens can play a participatory role in decision-making.
  • the need for businesses to be more proactively involved in good governance — how can this be done? For one, there is still a complete lack of transparency in how many decisions are made. Case in point: the complete mess with the telecom policy and 2G spectrum doleout, and the3G auction process.
  • bringing in measurement metrics at every level of elected government – perhaps, this is easier said than done.

I strongly believe that the interactive tools now available with us (Internet, mobile) can bring about dramatic bottom-up change in the quality of people we elect, and the people-centricity of the government that we elect. This is the foundation for solving some of the big problems that we face in India – and driving smart, well-thought out development-friendly policies in disciplines like education, energy, urbanisation, transportation, and technology which cannot be reversed.

Any suggestions?

Tags: Uncategorized

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Saurabh Garg // Jan 30, 2009 at 8:34 am

    Hi Rajesh,

    I think “infostructure” is required. Please push for it.

    Also can something be done to make politicians accountable for their words and actions (or inaction)?
    Thanks,
    SG

  • 2 TheTwoHornedOne // Jan 30, 2009 at 9:59 am

    My only input for the panel is about educating people on “HOW TO CHOOSE A CANDIDATE/PARTY”. Today the main problem of Indian democracy is that the voters can be easily wooed(if that’s the right word) using Money(one-time payment), Religion, case, language etc, things which do not uplift any onees living conditions. The real issues of governance, job creation, health care, retirement etc does not come in to picture at all.
    People need to know what all governments “CAN” do to really i mprove their standard of living. I guess there needs to be a campaign to educate the voters regarding this. And this education can NOT happen on the internet. It has to happen on the TV. That too on as many language channels as possible.

  • 3 Suhit Anantula // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:18 am

    We need to massive information exchange to understand all the electorates and the candidates.

    One best way is a wiki style system where anybody can contribute but we need some editors.

    The Friends of BJP or other group can invest in the infrastructure and people.

    We need to combine politician’s information with the local data on economic development, education, child mortality, facilities, infrastructure etc.

    Past parties/people who were the leaders. A way to compare the various locations etc.

    Suhit

  • 4 Kumar // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Rajesh,

    1.Infostructure and Metrics – can we think of a points system for all sitting MLAs/MPs, so that their performance can be rated on objective criteria such as: % attendance, points for participation in debates, extra points for introducing private bills and so on? We could also include criteria based on utilisation of MPLADS funds, accessibility to constituents, fulfilment of poll promises etc.

    For new candidates, their CVs could be analyzed and points could be given for social activism, leadership roles, recommendations by thought leaders etc.

    Candidates could be asked to briefly state their position on various issues facing their constituency, the State and the Nation.

    2.Participatory governance – We can use the power of new media extensively here; take SMS for example.We could have the manifesto of various parties voted upon by people; we could provide the agenda for debates between candidates; we could have the public voice their opinion on important bills in the Parliament, influencing the vote of their MP/stance of a Party; we could have alerts being sent to all Party offices and media cells and registered MPs about any case of corruption, nepotism, inefficiency..people can become citizen activists..

    More later..I want to respond to your Vote BJP post :-)

  • 5 BG Mahesh // Jan 30, 2009 at 10:56 am

    SEBI has made it mandatory for all listed companies to publish their results on the internet.

    Similarly EC should make it mandatory for every candidate to publish their details on the internet, to begin with they can make this mandatory for the constituencies in urban areas.

    The site must list all past and present criminal cases of the candidate.

  • 6 Neelakantan // Jan 30, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Continuing on what others have proposed, I think the each elected MP/MLA should have their own website where data is uploaded on a regular basis.

    Starting from election affidavits, funds received, funds used, projects started, completed, sessions attended in Parliament, questions asked. That itself is a good “scorecard” system to begin with.

    Taking that further…this will be a major change, but let me suggest. But midway, if any Parliamentarian doe s not meet his or her score, he has to be given one warning and then, his or her seat will go the person who finished second be up for reelection….

  • 7 Neelakantan // Jan 30, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Sorry many grammatical errors above, but hopefully the points are conveyed…

  • 8 Kumar // Jan 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Forgot to add this earlier: There are many Indian citizens not living in India.Even in India, there could be many voters who may not be able to visit a polling booth.

    So, why not go for internet voting (SSL3 and stuff) on EC website, and charge Rs.100 for each authenticated vote (from the voter!)..

  • 9 Thejo // Jan 30, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    @Mahesh – The Election Commissions already scan and put up the affidavits filed by candidates. So, the details are already available online. The problem is in converting it to an easy to understand format. That’s what the various election watches do.

    What is also very important is –
    1. A way to track candidates across elections – Unless we have a way to do that, it won’t be easy to notice trends of wealth increases and look at a “political bio” of a candidate to make an informed decision. As of now, it is not possible to do that.
    2. Mandatory declaration of information – Many candidates don’t even declare a lot of the information that is asked for in the affidavits. The election commission should have the right to prevent candidates from contesting till some base amount of verifiable information is made available.
    3. An effort towards capturing structured information – Successful information dissemination and sharing can happen if the available data is in a structured format. The election watches do this partly, but paying attention to this when the information is being collected can help in spreading the information in a big way.

  • 10 ML // Jan 30, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Few thoughts..

    Transparency on how political parties select their candidates. What is the criteria used? Over the years I have felt that this selection process used by the parties is not very democratic and what we the people end up choosing is among the available grey shades. If people are only allowed to choose from a basket of rotten fruits, not matter what they choose , it is going to be a rotten fruit (perhaps the least rotten of the available lot).

    Maybe something on the lines of internal party elections that Lok Satta party holds to select its candidate for the real elections (http://www.loksatta.org/elec_loksatta.php).

    The Loksatta party’s website gives a lot of information about it. I hope someday we get to see similar kind of information about all the parties (at least the major ones) so that we can make informed decision and devise either our own ways (or a collective way) to measure their performance (and hold them accountable).

    I feel, what our country perhaps needs is a two- (or at most three-) party system like the two-party system in the US, so that once a party gets majority and wins, it can concentrate on implementing its promises and agenda and not waste lot of time managing a coalition. What we need is an “agile” democracy in today’s flat and fast world. With so many parties, the last few times we have got coalition governments which are, due to their very nature, nothing but agile.

    Regards,
    ML

  • 11 ML // Jan 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    An afterthought.

    The absence of suitable candidates may be one of the main reasons that the vast middle class of this great country has stayed away from voting in recent years.

    To motivate this large section of the society to vote will be the key, I feel. Right now, what we have is coalitions of parties that are ultimately the result of on only 40 to 50% of the voting population that actually votes. If the majority of the voting population votes then only, the party that wins will be a true reflection of the people choice.

    This seems to be the strategy of another new party Professionals Party of India
    (http://www.ppi.net.in/index.aspx?Id=1).

  • 12 Vishal // Jan 30, 2009 at 11:09 pm

    I echo the points mentioned in other comments

    1. We need Infostructure where information about the candidates are available and also a way to rank candidates.

    2. The information needs to be pushed to the people by using various media like mobile and internet. The incremental updates need to come to the end user.

    The Infostructure should be run as a profitable business. It could be ad driven model of web and mobile. Profits are important so that the quality of the information never suffers.

    Vishal

  • 13 Atanu Dey on India’s Development » Blog Archive » Electoral Reforms // Jan 30, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    [...] for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It’s happening in Mumbai, and I alas, am in Pune. My colleague Rajesh Jain is going there to be on a panel on “The role of business and Government.” Rajesh mentions on his [...]

  • 14 Vishal // Jan 31, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Expanding on my last post there needs to be a business model to drive these initiatives of having a Infostructure or Jankari. If these initiatives are done in the spirit of a non profit , NGOish model then they will quickly die or will become useless in the content they provide.
    It is important that these initiatives continue after the elections also. I think one can marry a corporate advertising and Infostructure(Janakari) to come up with a business model.
    For e.g. if Netcore provides services to its brands for invertising . It could also start sending the SMS on Infostructure(Janakari). It could be that the brand image gets enhanced because of these information.
    On a separate note I think that many of NGO which are doing great work need to really work on broadcasting their work. I have subscribed to many blogs of many NGO’s and I hardly see any updates on many of them.
    Probably some one can provide paid service of broadcasting their work on all the possible mediums.
    To give an example I have seen only one newsletter from ADR in last few months.

    NGO’s and similar organizations who want to harness the good will of people need to have a strategy of regular communication with people.
    A regular communication will lead to new ideas.

    Vishal

  • 15 Presentation at Electoral and Political Reforms Conference // Feb 2, 2009 at 5:00 am

    [...] Panelist at 5th National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms [...]

  • 16 Mallikarjuna // Feb 2, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    1) How our taxes are spent; I wish, if that is discussed
    Plz take time to see
    http://www.indiauncut.com/iublog/categories/category/Taxes/

Leave a Comment