Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parliamentary System and the cure it needs...

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In India, the largest democracy of the world, there is a very curious development going on. The business is booming like never before, many new entrepreneurs are entering and reaping huge benefits by efficiently managing their firms. At same time, the governance is depreciating in an equal rate. Our government, that is of, by and for the people, is day by day sinking to lower levels. Corruption and mis-governance is deep rooted in the psyche of an average politician. Arun Shourie's book The Parliamentary System, tries to uncover the reasons behind this phenomenon. 

Arun Shourie is one of the leading political commentator India has seen. He had shown his mettle in independent and powerful write ups that rips apart the hypocrisy of politicians and bureaucrats alike.  He had shined as the disinvestment minister in Vajpayee led NDA government and did some good work by selling off non profitable white elephants like Maruti and VSNL. 

Last week I had written a post on the book by Tavleen Singh, Political and incorrect. Many questions are asked in it about the poor state our country finds itself in. This book tries to answer them by analyzing the working of our Parliamentary and electoral system. 

The biggest advantage our system has, as per the makers of it and the leaders who came to forefront through it, is that it gives mandate to those who are favored by the people. Majority of the people decides who has to rule them, and how to rule them. But Shourie shows us this is not the case! By analyzing the election results from several years, it is visible that 99% of our Legislatures are elected by less than 50% of voters, and majority of them commands the favor of just 7-10% of total votes polled. Shourie dissolves the myth of majority representation in our parliament. Precisely this character of our system has given rise to much of the problems surrounding us like increasing corruption (the travelling dacoit concept), minority/regional favoritism and criminalization of politics.    
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When the electorate is splintered, as is the case now, getting the favor of a minority of voters can turn an aspiring politician victorious. This leads to over dependence on minority and regional politics and ultimate weakening of national parties. The final result is collective bargaining, as can be seen from the case of Tamil Nadu, where regional parties are strong enough to have a hand in decision making in center, even leading to the collapse of the Central government in many issues!    

The book also deals with the attempt to make the judiciary powerless by amending the constitution by Legislative to their convenience. Detail description is given about the times of Indira Gandhi, the government considering itself sovereign and curbing the power of judiciary to interfere in its proceedings, when the seat of Indira was threatened by a ruling by Allahabad High court. This sabotaging of the power of Judiciary, showing the paper tiger of people power (the truth of which we already saw)  caused much harm to the system. 

The book is not just complaining or lamenting on the situation we have made ourselves in. Arun Shourie also prescribes a cure, by changing the system, without harming the basic principles of constitution. By ensuring that the candidates in an election has capabilities to perform their real role, governance, and the winning person has the support of majority of voters (>51%), the system can be made efficient to some extent. Increasing the power of Executive and Judiciary and by reducing the bargaining power of minorities and regional political parties, corruption will curb down. 

I would recommend this book to every Indian who always feels, why we are the way we are. It is a tedious read, but worth at the end of the day... 

Happy reading... 


  1. nice review...politics and its tales bore me...harping around won't change when our judiciary is itself getting into a vortex of greed and power

  2. Good review
    but going on tangent here reading such books and whatever , I dont think will make an impact on the way things are run in our country ..

    for a change it will mean the complete opposite ..


  3. Very nice review. I'm a little scared of by the 'tedious' part, but now I think I might try this book.

  4. I don't read much related to politics, and I want to change that!

    "The book is not just complaining or lamenting on the situation we have made ourselves in."

    If that's true, I think I'll like this book!! Great review :)

  5. I have great regard for Shourie and his perspective...the book should make sense coming from him.

  6. Harish, u r quite into reading, that's good! I have to try hard to finish a book!

    A Very nice and balanced review, written in simple words.


  7. Not many would find it interesting to read such heavy books. Appreciate your interest.

    There are some fundamental rules that has to be changed. It was framed more than 60 years ago and it then made sense when there was just one political party. Its high time things change.

    Majority doesnt make sense here - its all these regional minority parties that glue together for money and decide on our country;s fate. We are digging our own grave

  8. Harish... well. i have read the book too.. and for most part.. i felt the book talked of a lot of also.. overwhelmingly utopian...

    Arun Shourie for all the good image that he has, has seldom lived to his expectations... He is the one who divested our PSUs for a penny.. to put a lot of money into the pockets of Bigwigs like the Reliance and Tatas.. The examples of VSNL, Lodi Hotel, etc are there for everyone to see.. having done his bit in the disinvestment ministry, he moved on to the Telecom to start the Telecom revolution which culminated in the 2G Scam... It was Shourie's idea of Unified Access Regime and Unified Licence which benefitted the Reliance a lot.. when ambani started the STD for one Rupee Dream... Licences were thrown to these people at a pittance...

    I dont think walked the talk when it came to whatever he wrote in this book.... he remains a Hypocrite....!!!

  9. ...but as i said.. he tells us why we remain the way we are... is it an admission of his guilt..? a kind of repentance that makes him advice us, as to how to better our governance...?