The Candid Eye

May 29, 2009

India’s Successful Elections don’t mean good governance

Filed under: Elections '09,Indian Politics — thecandideye @ 3:00 AM
Tags: , ,

This article by Appu Soman in ‘The Daily Star’ reveals many things about recent elections and our current system and its impact on India’s growth.Excerpts of the same with my emphasis below.

But the fact remains that, like previous governments, the new administration will consist mostly of politicians unfit to hold ministerial office. While several provincial satraps have been cut down to size, new, aspiring ones have garnered significant support. Despite the manifest success of Indian democracy, its parliamentary system is not succeeding in giving India good governance.

The new government will be far more stable than many of its predecessors, so the election results have elicited profound relief.

But the fact remains that, like previous governments, the new administration will consist mostly of politicians unfit to hold ministerial office. While several provincial satraps have been cut down to size, new, aspiring ones have garnered significant support. Despite the manifest success of Indian democracy, its parliamentary system is not succeeding in giving India good governance.Very true.Though it seems that India has got a stable government for another 5 years,still the present UPA has to go thru lot of ugly,dirty deals with its coalition partners.

India is hardly a failed state. Lant Pritchett of the Harvard Kennedy School has coined a new name for India: a “flailing state” – a state where the government’s extremely competent upper echelons are unable to control its inefficient lower levels, resulting in poor performance.

But this analysis gives credit where none is due: India’s problem is its top political leadership’s lack of competence. The inability of India’s current political system to provide effective government places the country in a different category: a non-performing state.This is right.We cannot say that the present UPA goverment’s top people are competent enough to handle the problems, India is facing today.India has to offer so many bright,extremely competent people than these average folks.

The idealism of India’s freedom movement quickly evaporated after independence in the face of the opportunities for patronage that came with power. The way India’s political system evolved has made politics the surest path to wealth. The money spent to win elections (often including the purchase of a party’s nomination) is recouped many times over once the winner is in office. Half of India’s legislators who stood for re-election this time around had tripled their assets in the last five years.Our babus now will be more happier and much relieved than ever as Swiss banks and black money issue has been thrown into ocean and efforts to bring back it would be a futile exercise.

Increasing corruption within governments run by the Congress party, which led India to independence and monopolized political power for decades, showed what a lucrative career politics had become. Given India’s religious, caste, and linguistic divides, politicians saw how easily they could leverage even a small following into votes.I can say that India has been monopolised after seeing the results.

Soon, Indian political parties began to break up, giving rise to a large number of regional and caste-based parties. Most of these parties are led by political dynasties that prize loyalty over merit.

The opportunity for personal gains through public office has made electoral politics an automatic career choice for Indian politicians’ progeny. Record numbers of sons and daughters of political leaders and millionaires (and people with criminal backgrounds) contested this election. We are seeing the formation of a new Indian caste – a caste of rulers different from India’s traditional Kshatriya caste – before our very eyes.

Like existing castes, the new caste specializes in one occupation: political office. Just as someone became a carpenter or a trader in an earlier era merely through birth, members of India’s ruling caste now become leaders of parties, members of legislatures, and cabinet ministers solely because of their parentage.

And, as with the older castes, there is no need for any qualification for the vocation; birth alone is sufficient. Lack of vocational competence never barred Indians from remaining in their caste, and how well one performs in political office is, likewise, not a criterion for politicians to continue in positions of power.

India’s parliamentary system requires ministers to be members of the legislature. Party leaders select family members and other loyal followers as candidates for elections, with absolutely no consideration of their abilities to fulfill ministerial responsibilities, resulting in cabinets that are simply not capable of managing the problems confronting the country’s national and state governments.Much touted Rahul Gandhi has said recently that terrorism can be won in 15 minutes.Check here. May be he can clarify when this 15 mins will come?It’s been more than 10k mins since your Lion,Manmohan Singh was sworn-in as primeminister. As per your statement you have missed more than 600 chances to win over the terrorism.

Even with the best political leadership, governing India is no easy task. Successive governments staffed with unqualified politicians have failed dismally to carry out the core governmental functions of maintaining law and order, providing the basic services expected of modern societies, and promoting economic growth. India’s high-performing private sector has so far masked the failure of the Indian state.

In its current form, India’s parliamentary system can produce only non-performing, corrupt governments. It rewards ambition, promotes office-at-any-cost politics, and devalues merit.

Taking away the prize of ministerial office from elected representatives might discourage wealth-maximizing politicians from entering politics. It is time, therefore, for India to consider introducing a presidential system of government, which would reduce the scope for “horse trading” and allow the country’s leader to select competent people for cabinet positions.



  1. what is the difference between current and presidential government? We do have a president, don’t we. Who is more powerful in our country, LokSabha or Rajya Sabha?

    What is the parliament system in London and US? Don’t they also have two government boards?

    Is it that the parties are not formed in foreign governments? like ,ruling and opposition. I see that this party business has also give rise to dynasty politics. Had it been that each one drives only personal agenda, individual contestant, then Individuals will get more priority, than a party. President can then choose an able candidate among those elected, whichever party he may be from.Thus we can have a quality selection instead of party selection.

    Comment by ak — May 29, 2009 @ 9:27 AM | Reply

  2. Presidential system entrusts greater executive powers to the President,the head of the state,whereas in westminster style systems,the primeminister, the head of goverment is entrusted with those powers.We don’t have to follow the presidential rule but we can learn good things from that system.England,Australia following parliamentary systems have progressed remarkably.

    Loksabha is more powerful than Rajyasabha even though Rajyasabha has the power to veto any bill which they consider, will affect a certain set of people.However, in conflicting bills, both houses sit together seeking majority.In that case, Loksabha will simply have defacto veto power over Rajyasabha just because of the sheer numbers.

    Both US and UK are having two government boards.US having House of reperesentatives and Senate and UK having House Commons and House of Lords.Normally in Presidential system, there would be fewer political parties than in the Parliamentary system.It is upto a political party to attract best leaders from the country without dynasty poltics and seeking people’s mandate to form the government.But that is not happening in India atleast in present times.

    Comment by thecandideye — May 30, 2009 @ 6:20 PM | Reply

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