The message conveyed by voters in the recent assembly elections is loud and clear. Will political leaders understand and heed it? Except in Manipur, the national parties have triumphed only against each other. In whichever state there are regional parties, as in Uttar Pradesh, they have either been trounced or, as in Punjab, played a secondary role in the victory. This needs to be viewed in the context of the demands for federalism voiced by several chief ministers after the union government tried recently to enforce a National Counter Terrorism Centre without consulting the state governments even though law and order is a state subject.
|If the crisis in our system of governance is as serious as one believes it to be, should not the regional parties draw the right lesson from the recent assembly polls and act with courage and vision?
The time to create a federal party could not be more propitious. Four chief ministers representing regional parties are already indicating support for the move. Now two more chief ministers representing Uttar Pradesh and Punjab can join them. Formidable regional parties out of government can be roped in. Karnataka, Andhra, Assam and Maharashtra all boast of regional parties with the potential to seize power.
The nation is sick of unprincipled alliances immersed in squabbling, mutual blackmail and fighting for greater share in power. People want stability and governance. That is why if a new alternative has to address the needs expressed by voters it must not be a coalition but a single federation at the centre. As pointed out earlier in these columns for creating a credible federation three steps would be required to ensure lasting success. There must be an appropriate policy agenda, the appropriate organizational structure, and the necessary systemic change.
First. the policy agenda should avoid empty slogans such as ending corruption and bringing down prices but specify structural changes required in the administrative setup that would deliver genuine federalism and effective governance.
Secondly, the federation must agree to contest parliamentary elections under a single common symbol. That would reduce blackmail and squabbling. It must be a single federal party in parliament. For that it must formulate a party constitution that provides a parliamentary board and a candidate-selection process acceptable to all the federal allies.
Finally, the proposed federation must reappraise the letter and spirit of our written Constitution and support the pro-active role of the President as enshrined in it. Only an executive President will provide the cohesion to ensure that decentralized governance implicit in genuine federalism will not threaten national unity.
How can the plan for creating such a federation be implemented? In order to create a Presidential system in keeping with our written Constitution there is a simple device to realize it in the natural course. The term of the current President ends in the middle of this year. The regional parties could field a candidate who pledges to honour the President’s oath of office to ensure that all the laws of the land are observed. This could be largely accomplished if the President invokes all the powers assigned to the office provided in the Constitution. By fulfilling this single responsibility the President could introduce a sea change in the working of our democratic system. All the spurious remedies such as creating a Lokpal could be conveniently ignored. The President would be the super Lokpal having a democratic mandate obtained from all the MPs and MLAs in the nation. If the crisis in our system of governance is as serious as one believes it to be, should not the regional parties draw the right lesson from the recent assembly polls and act with courage and vision? India sorely needs a pro-active President and a genuine federal alternative.