Prime Minister (PM) Mr. Narendra Modi has set attractive goals for achievement. He has galvanized the public to perform civic duties with zeal. He inspired ordinary people. This is a big achievement. Yet, this writer fears that a serious flaw in the PM’ approach precludes chances of sustained progress. Doubtless there will be improvement over the past. Surely that is not enough. The PM’s and the public expect much more. It is those expectations that might be belied by the way the PM is going about his job.
This writer has long held a minority view that there cannot be effective governance without systemic reform in Indian democracy. To introduce that reform the provisions of our written Constitution must be scrupulously followed. That would imply changed roles for the President, the Governors, the local bodies and our legislators. All changes would adhere strictly to the letter and spirit of the Constitution which at present is brazenly violated. Mr. Modi has spared no thought to correctly interpret our written Constitution but has plunged into projects in an ad hoc manner. One example should suffice.
In his cleanliness and development drive the PM has urged all MPs to adopt one village each to make it a model village. Now here is the rub. If MPs diligently follow the PM’s instructions they would devote a major part of their time to develop the adopted villages. We have already seen how the development fund granted to each MP for his constituency has been misused to achieve poor results. That decision too was flawed and vitiated the system. The current policy for model villages is equally flawed. Contrast how the government is trying to achieve its goal with what it would have been doing if there was systemic reform.
Members of Parliament are not expected to perform executive functions. They are expected to monitor legislation to ensure that public interest is protected through new laws and executive orders. At present they are woefully negligent in discharging this duty. Performance of parliament is universally criticized. Overseeing expenditure for development in the constituency and the development of an adopted village are executive tasks requiring considerable time and attention. These tasks should have been left to the elected executives of local bodies, of assembly constituencies and of parliamentary constituencies. The MP or MLA like the Speaker of a legislature chair periodic meetings of the elected executives answerable to their respective councils to ensure democratic functioning. Execution and policy formulation should be left solely to the citizens directly affected by development plans at each level of governance.
Due to the PM’s ad hoc approach which is in accordance with the prevalent political culture and system, achievement in development will be marred by arbitrary decisions while the legislative performance of MPs will continue to deteriorate. If the PM is serious about achieving his avowed goals it is time he paid attention to the crying need for systemic reform.