UPA’s agenda till 2014

State funding of elections and regulations in the real estate sector can be the big-ticket reforms in governance for the UPA-2

Tehseen Poonawala

With less than two years to go for the general elections, the Congress-led UPA at the Centre is perhaps fighting its toughest battle—changing the perception of being the most corrupt government to have ever governed the country. While charges of wrong-doings may be exaggerated and may perhaps not withstand legal scrutiny, there is no denying that it has, in some measure, taken a toll on the Congress. The urban middle class support that propelled the Congress party to cross the 200-seat mark, the highest figure that any party has managed over the last decade, seems to be the most disillusioned today. However, neither the principal opposition party nor the newly formed civil society-turned-political party, which claims to be a product of the collective soul searching of India on the issue of corruption, has an answer to the systemic changes required to cleanse the system.

There is no doubt that there exists an unholy nexus between politicians, real estate developers and corporate entities, thus leading to an influence on policy formulation and governance. Crony capitalism is a reality, with those close to people in power amassing huge sums of wealth in a short span. The money made by these 'entrepreneurs' is then used in elections to ensure that candidates most suitable to them win. This current, mutually-beneficial system of funding of those candidates, who then make policy and executive interventions in favour of their 'sponsor', is the biggest countervailing factor in the emergence of democratic India as an honest state.

Elections in India are largely fought with 'black money'. One hears of large sums of money being doled out to 'buy votes'. There is almost a rate-card of votes in place—votes from slum-dwellers in a state like Maharashtra may cost as high as R1,000 a vote, and for a place like Bihar the asking rate would be much less. Naturally, a candidate who invests 'so much capital' will look for recovering costs. The rot of corruption in our polity and system not only begins at the electoral stage but is furthered by it. But if we want an honest set of 'managers' running the democratic system in India, we have to revamp the selection process of these managers by undertaking holistic electoral reforms.

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