Electoral reforms for a corruption-free India

FTI demands that the Indian Government implement the electoral reforms detailed below to enable good people to contest elections

Please join FTI in demanding the following electoral reforms for dramatically better governance in India.

1. What is the Freedom Team of India?
The Freedom Team of India(FTI) is a team of leaders who will, after due preparation, contest elections to defend the life and liberty of Indian citizens, and to lead them to prosperity. FTI is a classical liberal group (being fundamentally opposed to socialism). Classical liberalism insists on equal liberty for all, with accountability.We encourage you to consider FTI’s policy principles at: http://fti.sabhlokcity.com/draft-policies and policy framework: http://fti.sabhlokcity.com/content/ftis-policy-framework-analytical-structure-to-design-policies.FTI’s members are required to maintain the highest standards of integrity in public life. Through its Code of Conduct and disciplinary processes FTI guarantees the quality and integrity of its members. India can confidently entrust its future to members of the Freedom Team, who are always ready to be held to account by the people of India. FTI membership is seal of quality in public life – the only seal of quality that India needs.2. The purpose of Electoral reforms for a corruption-free India
When India became independent and declared itself a democratic republic, there was hope that India would make unprecedented progress in every field. It was the time of a Tryst with Destiny. No one anticipated that India’s democracy would decay to the level it has today, where corrupt and criminals are elected to Parliament, and good people shun politics as if it were worse than leprosy. The people of India are rapidly losing confidence in democracy.



But the Freedom Team of India believes that India’s Westminster system of democracy (along with First Past The Post election mechanism) is a responsive and effective system to provide representative democracy. That it has not worked well in India is not due to any inherent shortcomings in the Westminster model but due to the way Indian socialists (starting with Nehru) have totally distorted its functioning.

Once these distortions are set right, India's Westminster system can (and will) perform as well as it has in the UK for more than 500 years. A very similar system works quite well in Australia, as well. Where it works well, parliamentarians are well paid. In addition, state funding of elections (as with Australia) enhances the quality of candidates.

The purpose of democracy will be defeated if we fail to design a system in which good candidates are willing to come forward as candidates. The first task before us is to cleanse the Westminster system of the socialist dross that has destroyed its vitality and prevents good people from contesting elections.

3. High priority electoral Reforms
Three simple electoral reforms can fix most of the defects in India’s democracy:

a) State funding of elections
b) Audit of electoral expenses
c) Fast Track courts against elected MP's with corruption or criminal charges
3a) State funding of elections
India’s electoral laws should – instead of favouring the corrupt (who bring crores of rupees of black money into play during elections – give good honest people a fair chance to get elected. FTI acknowledges that electoral expenditures are not the only determinant of electoral success. However, it is true that without being able to spend sufficient money, it is not possible to communicate one’s message to the voter.Good people who – by definition – do not have access to black money, are therefore defeated even before they start, being out-spent by candidates who use black money. We should not handicap our honest candidates in this way, thus allowing only corrupt ones to contest.FTI therefore proposes that all candidates be reimbursed Rs.15 per valid vote cast up to a ceiling of Rs. 40 lakhs (being the electoral expense limit). With about 16 lakh voters per constituency, of which about 60 per cent generally vote, this would mean that a candidate who secures half the valid votes would get the maximum entitlement (Rs. 40 lakhs).



This reimbursement system would allow good candidates to borrow funds to contest, in the hope of recovering at least part of their expense through reimbursement. Even though corrupt candidates will outspend them, at least good candidates won't end up losing huge amounts of money if they lose the election. Over time, the proportion of good candidates elected will increase, thereby setting up a positive cycle, compared with the current vicious cycle.

Such a system is very successfully followed in Australia and allows competent candidates to contest, thereby significantly improving the quality and integrity of leadership in parliament. This system will also be easy to implement in India, and although the cost to the taxpayer of organising elections will increase, the value of getting good, honest leaders in parliament will significantly outweigh this cost.

3b) Stringent audit of electoral expenses
Although it is not desirable, in principle, to limit electoral expenses, it is important that if the country imposes such limits, that these are strictly monitored. FTI recommends stringent audit of electoral funding and vigorous punishment of those who break electoral funding limits. If corrupt politicians can't gain an electoral advantage through use of huge amounts of black money (which is what the established, big political parties use), then barriers against good candidates will further reduce.

3c) Fast track courts to deal with corruption or criminal charges against MPs
While criminals and the corrupt should be punished, FTI believes that someone not yet convicted of a major crime should not be prevented from entering parliament. India must abide by the principles of natural justice.

In any event, if we try to block entry to Parliament of those with criminal cases against them, it is quite likely that such people will set up dummy candidates (spouse, child) instead. It is not possible to solve complex problems through simplistic solutions.

Therefore, FTI believes that the Election Commission should be charged with fast-tracking criminal cases. Cases against elected MPs should be be given top priority and heard without break until completed. While the Commission has no power to prosecute anyone for non-election related criminal offences, it has a responsibility to ensure that India does not get heinous criminals as its MPs. The Commission has enormous constitutional powers, and in collaboration with the Supreme Court can overcome all obstacles to early delivery of justice for MPs with criminal cases.

The Commission should liaise with the Supreme Court and report monthly to Parliament on such matters. It should should be empowered to apply extra resources where needed (through the court system), enforce tight timelines, and punish those officials (e.g. police officials) who deliberately delay the justice process. A small budget of Rs. 20 crores for the Election Commission could go a long way to rid criminals from India’s Parliament.

4. Additional reforms
In addition, the following reforms will further improve India’s governance.

4a) Political Representative Incentives Commission
FTI believes that “if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys”. Chanakya, who helped unite India over 2000 years ago into the largest empire it has seen (Mauryan) knew this very well. Arthashastra specifies that the highest salary paid by a king should be 800 times that given to the lowest functionary. This was done so as to attract the best talent of the country to the higher positions, which require greater knowledge and judgement.

Socialist Nehru, innocent of the basics of economics, started paying MPs low salaries (which the MPs have circumvented through perquisites and corruption). The immediate result was that good people refused to join politics, preferring to earn a respectable living through other affairs. This has contributed to the inexorable decline in quality of India’s political leaders. Either we get the corrupt or we get demagogues. Honest talented Indians have fled politics. This socialist approach to our leaders, which is completely contrary to basic common sense and also directly violates the wisdom of India’s greatest economist: Chanakya, has to be overturned immediately.

To address this serious problem of inappropriate compensation to our leaders, FTI recommends the creation of an independent Political Representative Incentives Commission. The commission should be charged with research on, and making recommendations on a compensation mechanism for peoples’ representatives that will eliminate all reasonably foreseeable incentives for corruption, or will otherwise promote the freedom of citizens.

In doing so a suitable law could be enacted that creates a system of performance bonuses for all MPs and MLAs, such that (for instance):

  • For every 1 per cent increase in per capita GDP growth beyond 5 per cent per annum, all our representatives will get a one-off 5 per cent bonus.
  • For every 1 per cent permanent reduction – defined as a reduction sustained for two years – in the number of people below the poverty line, MPs and MLAs will get a permanent 1 per cent increase in their base salary. Once the negative income tax system (to eliminate poverty) is established, the entire reduction in poverty can be incorporated permanently into the base salary.
  • For every ten ranks that India rises on a sustained basis of two years in Transparency International rankings, there will be a 5 per cent one-off bonus.
  • There will be a permanent 20 per cent increase on base salary upon India’s becoming the world’s least corrupt country for two years in a row.

The sum of these bonuses will be limited to a total of 50 per cent of the base salary in any given year. This will allow performance orientation to flow into the compensation of elected representatives.

4b) Performance reporting against Election Manifestos by Election Commission
FTI recommends that the Election Commission should also be charged with reporting on the performance of elected political parties against their election manifesto commitments.Almost all political parties make promises about things like poverty, infrastructure, etc. in their manifestos. However, India doesn’t have any system to report on the performance of parties against their promises. While the press, the opposition, and citizens in general do monitor some of these promises, there is no done systematic process.

FTI recommends that the Election Commission produce such performance reports on an annual basis. It should require all parties to lodge their manifestos with it, and require manifestos to specify performance measures for each commitment. The Election Commission would not suggest what should be included in the manifesto, but whatever is included should have key performance indicators. Such a mechanism will significantly enhance the performance of India’s democracy.

It is quite possible that the Election Commission won't need parliamentary authorisation to implement such reporting process. It could perhaps undertake such reporting right now. At a minimum – given possible resource constraints – the Commission could direct political parties to report on such performance on their own websites as part of their annual financial reports.

5. Join FTI in demanding these reforms
Eliminating corruption from India and improving its governance requires fixing the top of the system. All corruption in India starts at the top: through its Parliament. The laws of India are designed today to preclude the possibility of good people joining politics. Only the corrupt are allowed to contest elections.

We need a system where honest and capable people are able to contest for seats in the Parliament. We also need to make it difficult for people with criminal and corrupt background to reach Parliament.

Please join FTI in demanding these key electoral reforms which will pave the way for cleansing the corrupt people from India’s Parliament, and allow other crucial governance reforms to be implemented.

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2 thoughts on “Electoral reforms for a corruption-free India

  1. Fully agree with all the proposed reforms, but  feel that EC should have even moresay to assure that none of the candidates get undue advantage of being able to spend black money as a direct cash (in return for votes) or even using it towards resources to fight elections. I agree that strict auditing would help, but in reality I suspect how much of this hidden expense will see the light of the day in such audits.
    I personally feel that each and every expense towards the election campaign be counted in accounting (unless its already supposed happen as per current regulations) even if its a donation e.g. of pendal/chairs for a gathering and it is claimed that money hasnt changed hands. It should not be too difficult to find market rates for such donation of resources. only then one could say that the elections are fair and non discreminatory. if it is not possible for any reason , EC should ask for prospective approval of all expenses planned towards election campaign by a candidate before a certain date prior to actual polling and also then cross check it post election to include any last minute expenses. if any discrepancies are found, that candidate should be declared ineligible.
    i know this is huge gray area and to police this kind of situation might prove to be very difficult if not impossible. How can one check/prove or disprove that the truckloads of audience for a rally have not come because they were given some money/other freebies etc. how can one disprove if someone says that their party volunteer organized these willing audience to come in lorries to listen to their prospective leader. At least in the current situation I feel this is impossible to check by means of usual accounting methods . I know ppl will say let any candidate spend money/give freebies people are clever enough to decide whom to vote. I disagree, Even if voters would like to take the money and freebies and vote for whoever they want, they get intimated and fear for their life to vote for somebody else after receiving such freebies and money. In any case even if we unwillingly allow such expense as it can not be policed, it is grossly unfair on honest people contesting the elections, who cant afford or do not have influence to arrange all the resources.  most of the so called big party candidates organize ( in reality get the business houses or even gov servants) big gatherings, using black money, illegal donations etc which a genuine honest candidate won't be able to and won't do. Even if they say that volunteers have arranged the gathering and hence can't be counted as expense from candidates pocket, it must have been an expense from someone's pocket, which an honest and genuine candidate won't be able to do. I feel this creates completely unfair system for newcomers and genuine candidates. I think it's only fair that in democracy we should be able to provide equal opportunities to all candidates and avoid at any cost letting someone have unfair advantage of being able to raise crores of illegal funds from black money, illegal undisclosed non taxed donations from business houses etc.
    one radical but potentially controversial option;e.g. these so called mega gatherings (definition would need to be carefully prepared) should be banned( or at least allowed only prospectively if they meet expenses rules) before an election, I would even say that EC should take responsibility to arrange relatively smaller (or whichever size practical) gatherings at various places to cover most of the constituency and at these gatherings every eligible contestant candidate should get equal time and opportunity to put forward their views,agendas,policies etc and let the ppl decide whom to vote. Similar analogy could be proposed for misuse of power and money (mostly black and never accounted) towards banners, even adverts on media etc. I think if there should be equality of opportunity in this most imp exercise in democracy. Even though it might sound as if EC will be too much powerful, so be it. These are just basic principles I am talking about, exact details would need to be fine tuned. We can't let one candidates freedom to use illegal money/resources , create nefarious disadvantage for others
    i am aware that this would sound like something against the liberty/freedom of the candidates, but how can someone's freedom be allowed to trump others. 
    Sorry for long comment and some repeatation
    thanks for reading..

  2. EC should limit the terms of highest government functionaries like cheif minister,Prime minister terms to two,so that the craze for family dynasty,enjoying the position untill death,though the person physically is not fit but still continuing his position can be wiped off.

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