Future of the Republic
At a time when populism is on the rise and the people growing ever more dependent on the Government, the idea of Indian Republic must be revitalised
Majority of Indians, particularly the youth, are unlikely to know the kind of institution-building or of the foundational efforts made for a modern democratic state. They would be concerned more with proof of pudding aspects of democracy, constitution and the Republic. The affairs in the country have not remained constant or uniform over the decades. In the first 25 years, the Republic witnessed hegemony of a single party. After another 25 years of coalition politics at the helm, the country had returned to 'one leader–one party' syndrome".
"Whether this phase lasts the next 25 years appears to be anyone's guess. Populism has been on rising and citizens are becoming eternally dependent on the Government more and more. And yet every time a new leader emerges a 'New India' becomes a promise or a claim. Such populistic rhetoric is taking roots in political culture. It is against such trends rejuvenation of the trajectory and the Republic is relevant" writes Dr N Bhaskara Rao, a pioneer of social research in India in his forthcoming publication 'Rejuvenating the Republic', the first of its kind political fiction. Dr Rao, popularly known to the media as CMS Rao, is a mass communication expert and founder Chairman of Centre for Media Studies (CMS).
The book throws light on various facets of Indian Republic, its cherished goals, expectations and aspirations of Constitution, the great strides India has made etc.
Dr Rao answering the question as to why yet another book on India as a Republic matter, confesses that the Republic as an idea, as a framework to become a better country is fading. It remains a formality and part of the public rhetoric of politicians. He feels that the Republic is not an important concern for the young and with political parties becoming all-pervasive and dominating, this trend should be a concern in the country. This was the backdrop of the author for his taking to this idea of 'Rejuvenating the Republic'. His anxiety is that when the Republic turns a hundred in 2050, India should catch up and stand out as a country of opportunities for everyone.
The chapter on transformational interventions is the heart, quintessence and epicentre of the theme of the book. The rejuvenation of the Republic should be viewed as an opportunity. In 2050 when the Indian Republic completes a hundred years, it is going to be a new record and India will become a model for the world. Transformational initiatives will have far-reaching consequences with a ripple effect and are based on the experience of 70 years of Republic. The 'Republic at Hundred' should have an agenda wherein a national committee headed by someone no less than the Vice-President of India will look into three tasks, namely e-voting, the relevance of continuation of symbols system and elections on a non-party basis in an experimental way.
Upholding the Constitution's federal character and its basic principles, 'We the people of India' is of utmost importance. However, thought should be given whether we change to the 'Union' concept instead of continuing with the 'Centre' concept, thus doing away with the policy of centralisation. It would be better to shed responsibilities to states. The idea of checks and balances should be promoted, pursued and upheld. If there would be broad-based support for Presidential form of the Government, it may be pursued formally.
The ultimate goal of the Republic is to have good governance. Good governance comes from a trajectory view of the Republic. That is democracy, development and governance. It is, however, not three or four pillars or estate view that matters but the civil society should be viewed and considered as the fifth pillar of the state and the political parties who are not legally framed otherwise should be as the sixth pillar of the state. Republic is more than a three-legged race. Governance is the sum total of activities of the six pillars of the state.
Free, fairness, and transparency in the process having a representative form of governance are essential features. The real root of democracy is effective local governance at village, block and district levels. The least that a development model is expected to be is corruption-free delivery of basic public services like health, education, food, etc. The kind of role and responsibility to be played by civil society and the political parties will be of paramount importance. The media also needs to play its role with equal responsibility.
'We the people' is the basic premise of the Republic only to the extent this fundamental principle is honoured and kept up, the Republic sustains in its true spirit. Political parties will have to be people-centric which requires internal democracy of holding party elections periodically as per their own constitution. This should be the prerequisite to nominate candidates. Dramatic rejig in the outlook and priorities of political parties is necessary for the Indian Republic to become a lasting one. Party manifesto should form the basis for poll campaigns. Elections schedule, duration of campaign as well as the polling process to be the shortest. The flow of funds from corporates which is beyond limits now needs to be curbed so that contestants do not become obligatory for funds taken.
Public confidence in the Republic and the Government gets reflected the way the legislature functions. The functioning in future could be apolitical. The business should be the seriousness of issues beyond parties' interests. It is a compulsion for rejuvenating the Republic. The way the Government is referred to as an individual by members of different affiliations and ministers should be restrained so that it is referred every time as the 'Government of India'. The leader of the House could be someone who is elected by the entire legislature but from the majority party. Parliamentary committees need to be strengthened by including subject experts.
Rigid party line should not be so obvious in every discussion, at least in the Upper House. Reiterating the independence of the judiciary is highly desirable. The emerging new political leadership should be exposed to key features of the Constitution so that the tendency of defying judges, courts and court judgments by political functionaries is avoided. Election Commission which reflects the stature and responsibility should set example not only for other independent institutes in the country but constantly assert to do better every time.
Promoting relations between Union and states; holding on to their independence and the professional standard by public institutes; prior sharing of information about the appointment of Governor with the concerned state government; citizen-led initiatives as the ultimate safety value in democratic functioning, etc., are some more transformational initiatives to rejuvenate the Republic according to Dr N Bhaskara Rao. He suggests that, right now, at a time when we have a Prime Minister who is in a better position to take initiatives, it is the best time to put forth these transformation initiatives for New India. The book is a highly recommended read for every political and social scientist.
The writer is the Chief Public Relations Officer to the Chief Minister of Telangana. Views expressed are personal