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Can India achieve good governance without intra-party democracy?

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As we observe the Good Governance Day, it is imperative we analyzed intra-party democracy in India’s political parties as they are the prime instruments for the execution of democracy in the country. It is them who conduct the selection of candidates, the mobilization of the electorate, the formulation of agendas and the passing of legislations. In other words, it is the political parties whose governments deliver ‘good governance’ through bureaucracy and legislative mechanisms.

First of all, let us understand what internal or intra-party democracy is. It basically means the democracy inside the party and refers to the level and methods of including party members in the decision making and deliberation within the party structure.

Alas, despite being the world’s largest democracy there seems to be no intra-party democracy in India.

“It is paradoxical that the world’s largest democracy prefers to run its party system in a feudal manner. We have the world’s best election administration, but we have the world’s worst system of administering intra-party democracy. All out parties are autocracies or oligarchies,” writes senior journalist R Jagannathan.

Who gets nominated for the post of Prime Minister or Chief Minister is decided not through voting by party members – as done through primaries in the United States – but through a questionable consensus among the party’s so-called elders.

The need of the hour is intra-party democracy i.e. a publicly-mandated system of intra-party elections at all levels in all parties sans which good-governance would remain a distant dream.

In fact, the United States is one of a few countries to select candidates through popular vote in a primary election system; most countries like India rely on party leaders to vet candidates. The US has come a long way since first enacting laws that required the use of secret ballots in intraparty elections. Close on its heels came laws laying down the qualifications for party membership and by statutes specifying the administrative structure of parties. Eventually, the direct primary was instituted.

It is difficult to fathom such systematic transparency in Indian political parties where only a chosen few rule the roost. How can parties that themselves lack democracy protect it while ruling the country?

Aam Aadmi Party

When the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was launched, it was seen a ray of hope and harbinger of change amidst all the filth surrounding us. The fledgling party promised to be different and visibly distinct from the existing ones and thus usher in a new era of true democracy and Swaraj or good governance.

In fact, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in his book ‘Swaraj’ presents a model of governance based on Gandhi’s concept of Swaraj or ‘Home-Rule.’ In a nutshell, he along with his supporters believe that the power, which is concentrated in the hands of a few individuals in New Delhi and state capitals, must be vested to gram sabhas and mohalla sabhas (not to be confused with gram or khap panchayats) so that the people may be empowered to take decisions affecting their lives.

Kejriwal promised his voters in Delhi that they would be a part of all decisions the elected government would take, vowing to build a party that would not be run on the whims and fancies of a chosen few but the workers i.e. the rank and file. First time in the history of India, a political party vowed to give the people an opportunity to elect rather than select their candidates and then apparently did a volte-face. In Punjab, the Delhi CM refused to empower the locals to choose their own leaders, following in the footsteps of the BJP and the Congress. In Delhi, AAP founder members like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav were literally thrown out of the party on dubious grounds of indulging in ‘anti-party activities’, showing how little intra-party democracy was there in the newbie outfit, failing to practice what it preached to others.

Today, AAP looks like a mirror image of other political parties whose condition remains pathetic to say the least.

Bharatiya Janata Party

Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP claims to be a party with a difference, but there seems to be nothing that sets it apart from others. When it comes to intra-party democracy, the party is no different from the Congress ruled by political dynasties. The concentration of power remains in the hands of a few individuals. Top party leadership that comprises Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah – both from Gujarat – continue to take orders from Nagpur.

Leaders like Kirti Azad who try to expose corruption in the DDCA through facts and evidence are shown the door on ‘disciplinary grounds.’ Criminals or those with muscle power continue to represent the leading party in the parliament. In fact, it is widely believed that the Prime Minister and his coterie are running the whole country, excluding their own party men from the decision-making process.

Congress

The mere mention of Congress reminds us of dynastic politics. It is bad for a vibrant democracy like ours, for it is simply wrong and unjustified for a person to believe that he or she is destined to rule over others just because they happen to belong to a particular family. The Congress – India’s Grand Old Party – continues to impose the Gandhi family members on the masses and its own party men, undermining merit and causing unrest in the minds of deserving people which is not good for a society.

However, this is a malaise affecting almost all political parties here. Patrick French in his book ‘India: A Portrait’ wrote that all MPs below the age of 30 in the 15th Lok Sabha were from political families. Additionally, all 11 Congress MPs below the age of 35 years were hereditary MPs. All MPs below the age of 30 in the 15th Lok Sabha were from political families

After being ruled for decades by the likes of Gandhis, Sindhias, Naidus, Abdullahs, a young India today asks how we can get rid of this ‘curse.’ That’s a good question.

Finding an answer to this question, however, is no duck soup. For dynastic politics has been an integral part of our country since the days of kings and queens. In ancient India, the son, daughter or nearest heir of an incumbent monarch would automatically succeed the latter following his death without giving an opportunity to other far more deserving candidates. It is a pity that in the 21st century, we seem to be still living in the past and have not been able to find a lasting solution to our social issues.

Rahul Gandhi has been trying to introduce intra-party democracy in his party or so he claims. But the change must begin from the top.

Criminals in Parliament

In the absence of intra-party democracy and a well-defined process for the distribution of tickets to candidates before polls, political parties shamelessly hand over tickets to ‘winnable’ candidates, leading to the presence of criminals in the Parliament.

The table below prepared by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) shows how all major parties gave tickets to candidates with criminal backgrounds in elections to the Lok Sabha held in 2004 and 2009.

Criminalized Indian Politics

Internal elections in Indian political parties

In a letter sent to all political parties in April 2011, the Election Commission directed them to send details of the internal organizational elections held in the parties. In reply, the parties provided only the number of delegates who attended the session, the office bearers elected (name and posts) and the date for the next elections. Notably, there was no mention in their reply about the detailed information on the nature of elections such as close ballot or unanimous nomination and election, how many delegates voted for which positions and who these delegates were.

See the table below:

Internal election in Indian parties

The way forward

“We know political parties have skeletons in the closet. They would rather turn democratic institutions into a corpse to protect those skeletons than think of reform,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta.

Apart from the reason mentioned by Mehta, it is difficult to fathom why Indian parties should not nominate their candidates through a system of primaries as in America. It is a pity that our political parties never elect, but always select people, making a mockery of democracy. This ought to change. The need of the hour is intra-party democracy i.e. a publicly-mandated system of intra-party elections at all levels in all parties sans which good governance would remain a distant dream.

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Yogakshema: The ancient Indian concept of Good Governance

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Yogakshema

[socialpoll id=”2319242″]
India is observing ‘Good Governance Day’ today. The concept of good governance is qualitative in nature, and is intimately connected with the concept of the welfare state.

‘Governance’ basically refers to the process of framing rules, decision making, and implementation of those decisions, such that a society, a country, or an organization is sustained and taken forward towards progress. A UN document defines ‘Good Governance’ as being participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law.

Yogakshema– the goal of good governance

In India, the concept of the welfare state and good governance is very old and an exposition of them can be found even in their oldest scriptures of the Vedas. Thus, Shukla Yajurveda (6.31) includes a prayer wherein a ruler prays thus: “let my subjects be satisfied, my herds be satisfied, my people be satisfied, let not my people be needy.

Similarly, Manu Smriti (7.3) says that without a proper ruler (i.e. government), the anarchy will result in citizens living in fear and thus, Kingship (i.e. government) was instituted for the protection of the subjects. This is further attested in the Mahabharata (Shanti parva ch.58) which declares the protection of subjects as the ‘cheese of kingly duties’ and then includes the various factors of good governance, ranging from punishing the criminals to supporting meritocracy, from ensuring security to enabling financial transactions, as the means for ensuring this ‘protection of the subjects.’

In other words, ‘Yogakshema or the welfare of the people was the ultimate goal of any ruler or government and good governance was the means to achieve it. But, this exposition of Yogakshema and thus of good governance was not limited to the material (social, political, and economic) welfare of the people, but included spiritual and moral well-being as well.

Thus, writing about the Indian conception of Yogakshema as expounded by Kautilya, M M Sankhdher notes: “Kautilya over-reached the modern concept in that his Yogakshema aims at an all-round development, material as well as spiritual, of the society as well as of the individual. It involves the well-being of the poorest of the poor. The Kaultiyan state, we are told, ensured freedom, happiness, prosperity, and full-fledged development of human personality. Yogakshema demanded a higher moral consciousness both at the elites’ and at the common people’s levels.

Dharma – the basis of good governance

The concept of ‘Yogakshema cannot be perceived in isolation. Welfare is driven by human actions. But, all human actions do not by default lead to happiness and welfare. Thus, Gita (16.24) says, one should learn to differentiate between the actions that ought to be performed and those actions that ought to be avoided. And this division of actions into obligated and prohibited is in turn rooted in the concept of ‘Dharma.’

Dharma which literally means ‘that which upholds’ refers to all those actions which will cause material welfare, happiness, and spiritual upliftment of an individual in the human context. And these Dharmic actions have been enjoined as duties upon each person so that by their performance an entire society or a country achieves overall welfare and development. Thus, Yogakshema of a nation is directly dependent upon the performance of Dharma (i.e. Dharmic duties) by each individual starting with the head of the state.

Governance being the prerogative of the government, and the head of the government being the most important person who drives the whole governance mechanism, his performance of his duties, and his adherence to Dharma becomes the most vital element for achieving Yogakshema of all citizens. Thus, the popular saying stated ‘yatha raja, tatha praja’ (As is the king, so are the subjects). An able administrator who strictly adheres to Dharma will implement proper measures to ensure the welfare and progress of the people, whereas an incompetent Adharmic ruler will push the nation into chaos and suffering.

Also Read: Why duty-based rights narrative is essential

The head of the government cannot and should not act according to his whims and fancies. His sole purpose and duty is to implement good governance by adhering to the principles of Dharma so that the overall development of his citizens is achieved. Atri Smriti (verse 28) says that punishing the wicked, honoring the good, enriching the exchequer by just methods, being impartial towards the litigants, and protecting the kingdom are the five yajnas i.e. selfless duties to be performed by the ruler. Mahabharata (Shanti Parva Ch.90) says that a person becomes a King for protecting Dharma and not for acting capriciously. Similarly, Manu Smriti (7.27) says, a ruler who uses his power of ruling in a proper way, i.e. for the welfare of his citizens, will achieve all desires, wealth, and spiritual merit. On the other hand, a ruler who misuses his power for his selfish reasons will end up in destruction.

In other words, an incompetent and Adharmic person should never occupy the seat of the government. For this reason, the Hindu scriptures stress again and again regarding the required competencies of the kings. Kaultiya’s Arthashastra (1.19.39), for example, states that a ruler’s happiness lies in the happiness of his subjects, in their welfare his welfare, whatever pleases him (personally) he shall not consider as good. Whatever makes his subjects happy, he shall consider as good. He also lists receptive mind, firmness of purpose, and training in all activities of the government as some of the qualities of a King. Similarly, Mahabharata (Shanti Parva Ch.90) says that a king should never abandon righteousness and should always be rooted in it. On the other hand, Manu Smriti (7.30), declares a person who is weak, ignorant, greedy, without discrimination of right and wrong and attached to sensual desires as being unfit to govern.

Hence, Dharma in its twin roles of duties and righteousness is the very basis of ensuring good governance and welfare of everyone. The government and the people involved in the governance are mere enablers who implement principles of Yogakshema. Thus, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.14) calls Dharma as the king of the kings and states there is nothing superior to Dharma.

Elements of Good governance

Though, good governance is a qualitative term, it can be analyzed using certain parameters which can give definite information regarding the state of governance. The World Bank determinates of good governance include factors like political accountability, transparency, democracy, legal framework, an independent judiciary, importance to the rule of law, effective administration, and cooperation between the government and civil society.

Most of these factors could also be observed in the ancient Indian concept of good governance and Yogakshema. Arthashastra, for example, deals extensively with law and order, political and bureaucratic accountability, the establishment of the rule of law and elaborate legal framework, prevention of corruption, human resource management and meritocracy. Similar issues of law and order, the judicial system and the delivery of justice, punishments for the offenders, etc. have been elaborated in Manu and other Smritis as well.

Summarizing the elements of good administration based upon ancient Indian scriptures, Aruna Goel lists following elements:

  1. Openness in the sense of having wide contact with the people administered.
  2. A sense of justice, fair play, and impartiality in dealing with men and matters.
  3. Sensitivity and responsiveness to the urges, feelings, and the aspirations of the common people.
  4. Securing the honor and dignity of the human being, however humble he or she might be.
  5. Humility and simplicity in the persons manning the administrative machinery and their easy accessibility.
  6. Creating and sustaining an atmosphere conductive to development, growth, and social change.
  7. Honesty and integrity in thought and action.

In addition to these, the Hindu scriptures stipulate the rulers to carry out actions that cause spiritual upliftment of the society and create a social condition wherein people can freely practice their social and spiritual duties. The heads of the governments are obliged to serve its citizens, both materially and spiritually. Thus, the kings of the old supported various Brahmanas who dedicated their entire life to performing religious and spiritual duties and the rulers themselves indulged in charity, rituals, and other spiritual works. Manu Smriti (7.43) says that the ruler himself should be well learned in Vedas and other spiritual scriptures apart from learning about governance, etc. that are necessary to rule. Thus, the ancient concept of Good governance did not create a separation of secular and spiritual aspects of life. Dharma, which upholds life, was the guiding beacon of good governance and it catered to the welfare of all aspects of society – sacred and secular.

Comparison between Dharmic and modern Western models of good governance

The ancient Indian model of good governance, which can be more properly called as a Dharmic model of Yogakshema, contained within itself most of the elements that are present in the western models prevalent today. But, the glaring difference is in the fact that Yogakshema model perceives welfare in a wholesome integral manner, whereas the modern models perceive development as a secular activity that involves the accumulation of wealth without any reference to ecological, ethical, and sacred aspects of an individual and the society.

Thus, elements of ethics and spirituality play no role in Western models, whereas they are very central to Yogakshema model. The western models further create a distinction between religion and secular affairs which is largely rooted in the fact that European nations where secularism had developed had severely suffered from the regressive and anti-science temperament of Semitic religions. India, which has always existed on the foundation of Dharma, never faced any necessity of creating artificial exclusive categories of sacred and secular. Thus, the Yogakshema model perceives governance in a more integral manner catering to all aspects of society.

The Yogakshema model not only enables the society to raise its overall quality of life on the mundane level but also assists to raise the level of consciousness on a universal level. It aims to provide full freedom for every citizen to carry out his Dharmic duties without hindrances so that everyone can attain overall welfare and happiness in their lives. This it does by positioning the entire process of good governance and welfare state on the firm foundation of ‘Duties.’ This duty based narrative ensures that welfare state is not a privilege, not an entitlement that could be misused the way it is being misused in the modern rights-based narrative.

Instead, the welfare state and good governance are made the prerogative of every citizen and the ruler’s sole purpose is to serve his citizens, and he is bound by same obligations, same duties as his citizens. The only difference between a ruler and a citizen is that the magnitude and scope of those duties in case of the ruler is many times greater than in the case of citizens.

This stress on personal duties in the Yogakshema model naturally translates into the emphasization on ethics. In fact, ethics like truth, honesty, non-injury, etc. have been enumerated as Samanya Dharma– universal duties in Hindu scriptures. On the other hand, though professional ethics is stressed in the modern models of governance, ethics as an obligation or duty are still missing.

M M Sankhdher, who examines this difference between Yogakshema and modern welfare state models comments: “There are conceptual differences between the modern welfare state and Yogakshema…the distinctive features of Yogakshema, such as, Dharma, versus religion, selectivity versus universality, duties versus rights, self versus ego, self-employment versus state-employment, above all the role of family in welfare.”

Thus, Yogakshema model of Good governance has better vision and definite advantages over the model models of governance. It is high time that India government realizes the effectiveness of Yogakshema model and bring them into practice.

(Photo: www.rcc.int)

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Five schemes that show NDA’s good governance

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“Mere good governance is not enough; it has to be pro-people and pro-active. Good governance is putting people at the centre of the development process.”

~Narendra Modi

The Modi wave across the country is to be credited for inciting the long forgotten concept of good governance in people’s voice. 2015 election majorly focused on bringing developmental change in the country, which also became people’s choice as BJP-led NDA government came in power.

Governance has now again become the topic of discussion from college campuses to village gatherings and newsroom debates to household discussions.

This kind of awareness on governance issues prevailing in the society can, and is, leading to great change and reforms to achieve the same. The government, over the past one year, has taken several steps to achieve their development aim as mentioned during their campaigns and good governance topped their list.

Several steps have been taken over the period of time by several governments to work online developing governance. Steps taken by the BJP led-NDA government has its own share which signify their intentions to achieve the same. A list of good governance steps by the present centre power are:

Jan Dhan Yojana: Over 14 crore bank accounts were opened, nearly 10 crore RuPay debit cards were allotted along with providing the common people with life coverage and accidental insurance for as low as Rs 12. The yojna was revolutionary in the sense that banks have existed in this country for long yet several crores of people were (and still are) without bank accounts.

Swachch Bharat Abhiyan: This campaign, very close to the heart of our prime minister, is a nationwide drive aimed to achieve cleanliness of the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country, covering 4,041 statutory cities and towns. This is to make people aware of the habit where they do not litter or dirty the walls and streets when they can easily choose not to.

Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) and Infrastructure Investment Trust (InvIT): The REIT owns and manages income generating developed properties and offers its unit to public investors. On the other hand, InvIT provides an additional framework for investment in infrastructure in the country and would own and manage income generating infrastructure projects.

Warehouse Infrastructure Fund: NABARD was allocated a fund of Rs 5000 crores for the creation of an infrastructure relating to the storage of agricultural commodities. Consequent to the allocation, the fund was named Warehouse Infrastructure Fund (WIF 2014-15).

Installation of Skill Development Ministry: The ministry is formulated to enhance the employability of the youth to whom we are committed to providing jobs through initiatives like ‘Make in India.’ It becomes necessary as in the past, the country had been led into an economy of jobless growth.

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Week long vigilance awareness campaign commences in BHEL

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By- NewsGram News Desk

The Central Vigilance Commission celebrated ‘Vigilance Awareness Week’ from 26th October to 31st October, to promote their theme this year “Preventive Vigilance as a tool of Good Governance”.

The Commission laid stress on ‘preventive vigilance’ and said that vigilance should not be seen in isolation but as a tool to achieve good governance and better operational results.

Several organisation and educational centres took proactive part in the campaign which was inaugurated at a function by Indian Railways with a pledge taking ceremony of their officers and staff. A film was also commissioned by the Ministry of Railways that focuses upon preventive vigilance in mass contact areas like ticketing, recruitment and contracts.

Pledges were taken to strengthen the commitment of officials and staff to bringing integrity and transparency in all spheres of their activities and to fight corruption.

Vigilance is not the sole duty of a vigilance department, instead it is the duty of every individual to be vigilant. Transparency, integrity and accountability are basic features of good governance which lead to a profitable, efficient and effective organization.

The Vigilance Awareness promotion 2015 concluded on Saturday at Interactive Financial Exchange (IFX) conference hall at Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Bhopal. AMV Yugandhar, Executive Director BHEL, Bhopal was the Chief Guest and B Maria Kumar, Special Director General of Police was the Guest of honour for the concluding programme of awareness week.

To conclude the awareness week, B Maria Kumar and AMV Yugandhar gave away prizes to the winners of the competitions held during the week.