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  A Home page to achieve Electoral reforms, true democracy & citizens sovereignty in India

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From: "LokSatta" <fonderef@hd1.vsnl.net.in>
To: "Tirumala Srinivas" <corruptioneradication@yahoo.com>
Subject: enlarge our agenda
Date: Sat, 20 Jul 2002 17:03:23 +0530

Enlarge Our Agenda

Dear Friends,

 
Over the past four days, I have been agonizing over the options available to us, and the appropriate response. I have been receiving scores of angry mails about the situation. The feedback even from small towns and villages indicate that there is a lot of disgust at the insensitive attitude of the political class.
 
It is reasonable to assume that the political parties may win this round, but it may yet be a psychic victory. Public opinion is strongly against the political class, and their resistance to disclosures and meaningful electoral reform has captured public attention as few things have in recent times. I believe that the remarkable unity of politicians for the self-serving cause of preventing disclosures actually gives us the tool to mobilize the public for the larger cause of political reforms.
 
Our friends in Delhi have done, and are doing, a marvelous job of mobilizing public opinion. Sri LC Jain's press note is succinct and timely. Gen.Saighal's road map is extremely lucid and valuable. Dr.Bhaskara Rao's tireless energy and generous infrastructure are invaluable. Yogendra Yadav's findings on election expenditure, widely publicized thanks to Sri Promod Chawla's prodding, add to the urgency. In Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu and AP a lot is being done to mobilize public opinion. Given the current situation, the following are some of the issues we may have to consider:
  1. In all likelihood the parties will join hands to pass the Bill as proposed, or with some minor modifications within a few days - possibly by 26th July. The following seem to be some of the realistic options to make it harder for the Bill to be passed in such indecent haste:
    1. We should try and make both the leading parties understand the complete schism between public opinion and legislative action. In particular, the main opposition party, congress should understand that it has an obligation to force a larger debate on the issue, and study various facets it.
    2. If one or two major parties agree, there is a good chance that the Bill will be referred to a joint select committee. That will give us opportunity to cogently express our views, as well as mobilize informed public opinion.
    3. Our minimum goals on this legislation should be:

                                                         i.      Deletion of section 33A, sought to be introduced through section 4 of this Bill. This section seeks to foreclose all possibility of disclosures except those decreed by parliament by law.

                                                       ii.      Enlarge the disqualification under proposed section 8B (section 2 of this Bill), to cover more offences, and to make one charge framed sufficient to disqualify the candidate until he is cleared of it.

                                                      iii.      To make it more acceptable, a provision can be made by law that non-disclosure is a ground for rejection of nomination, but the RO will not have discretion to verify the truth of disclosures, or to reject nomination on grounds of suppression of information, or false disclosure. However, any counter affidavits filed questioning the veracity of information furnished shall also be made public. Any false disclosure or suppression of information will entail disqualification or an election petition, and criminal prosecution.

    1. The idea of a nation-wide sample survey is an appealing one. CMS is best placed to consider its feasibility. Instead of several local polls, if one national survey is undertaken with the sponsorship of the media - both print and electronic - it will have a real impact. Wide publicity to the findings will galvanize people into action, and make parties pause and rethink.
    2. If the Bill is not referred to the Select Committee, we should consider proposing amendments through a private member's bill. Ordinarily private Bills are doomed to failure. But forceful intervention of a few respected members will mobilize public opinion; and help us gain time. Friends in Delhi should consult experts on parliamentary practice like Dr Subash Kashyap, and identify the best means of generating a serious debate in Parliament. Sri Kuldip Nayar showed his willingness to propose amendments or move a private Bill. Members of left parties may be willing to propose a reasonable Bill. We should explore this option. 
  1. If the Bill does pass quickly, then we should petition the President to exercise his power under Art. 111; under this article, "The President may return the Bill to the Houses with a message that they will consider the Bill, or any specified provisions thereof and in particular, will consider the desirability of introducing any such amendments as he may recommend in his message..."

This power has, to the best of my knowledge, never been exercised by the President so far. Nor can this power be exercised lightly. But if the President is convinced that there is an unassailable constitutional case to do so, it will energize the nation. However impressive the political consensus among parties may be, the moral impact of a President's reasoned refusal to approve a Bill is tremendous. If the returned Bill is again passed by Parliament, the President has no option but to assent to it. But chances are, Parliament will be forced to reconsider the whole issue if the President returns the Bill with his message.

But such an act of the President is an extremely weighty, and serious one. It cannot be contemplated casually. Nor is it desirable for a president, to act whimsically. We need to make an impressive case to persuade the President. In my judgment, section 4 of the Bill, through which a new section 33 A is sought to be introduced in the RP Act, 1951, is violative of the fundamental right to information derived from Article 19, and the natural rights of electors flowing from the concept of democracy. We need to get the best legal advice from Constitutional experts, and draft the petition with extraordinary care and caution. Gen.Saighal and Dr Bhaskara Rao may kindly consult  Justice Sachar, Ms Kamini Jaiswal, Sri Sanjay Parikh, Ms Pinky Anand, and decide on a strategy. We need to take advice from renowned lawyers, and enclose their opinions to make it possible for the President to take our petition seriously.

And we need 100 prominent citizens who will endorse the petition. In addition to the 20 or so organizations, which are already partners in the National Campaign, we need to enlist the support and leadership of distinguished Indians from all walks of life. We need to draw up a list immediately and begin contacting them.

3.       If the Bill does become Law, we will then have to approach Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of section 4 (the proposed section 33 A of RP Act, 1951). Friends in Delhi are already in touch with legal experts. Both Sri LC Jain and Dr Bhaskara Rao are also consulting Sri Rajiv Dhawan, in addition to Ms. Kamini Jaiswal and PUCL team. 

4.      If the Bill, does become Law all is not lost. As I said before, the very insensitivity and unseemly haste exhibited by politicians in a self-serving cause may unite the people against the flawed political process. We need to enlarge our agenda, and build a truly national campaign from grassroots.

Such a campaign must have a clear set of well-defined, and broadly acceptable goals. And all of us must have serious, long-term, sustained commitment to the national campaign. It will be a long haul, and if any serious results flow within 2 years, we may consider our campaign extremely successful. 2 years is also a good time, because the Parliament elections are due in 2004. Electoral reforms should be the rallying point for launching a mass movement.

As opposed to the National movement for freedom, we have a difficult task. This is not a fight against the alien white ruler. In fact, this is not against any known enemy. Our struggle is not against any individual or party, but to cleanse the system and enrich democracy. Unity and sustained action for such a cause is far more difficult. Our struggle is more difficult than the 1974-75 movement against corruption. Then people had the naive belief that all it needed to improve things was to change the players. But now we are wiser. Rejection of one set of rulers, and installing another set will not make any real difference. What we need is a change in the rules of the game.

But we have certain advantages:

a.      We have the benefit of past experience.
 
b.      The young people below 34 years of age, who constitute 71 % of our population, are restless and eager for real change.
 
c.      We are all reasonably certain about our goals. But greater clarity and unity of purpose are needed.   
 
d.      We have greater reach than ever before, thanks to the communications revolution.
 
e.      Status quo is clearly unsustainable. Election expenditure is skyrocketing. Politicians are clearly under siege. Their current unity is more an _expression of their insecurity. Fiscal deficits are reducing the government's room for manoeuvre.
 
f.        More and more informed citizens are asking the right questions. As literacy and political awareness are growing, the old-fashioned notions of uninformed, illiterate masses are no longer valid.

In order to build a truly vibrant movement, we need to think honestly and carefully.

The leading participants in this effort must be willing to pay a high price. Movements cannot be built without sustained and credible efforts. We will have to come up with a few genuine, unconventional methods of mass mobilization. Whatever happens on this Bill, it is vital to build such a movement. There are no short cuts to national rejuvenation.

I think it is time we took stock of the situation and evolved a coherent strategy for the National Campaign. As Gen. Saighal pointed out, we need to focus on the short-term, as well as long-term. There should be an effective communication strategy in place too.

In order to discuss these details, we can meet on 24th July, Wednesday at 4 PM at CMS office  (CENTRE FOR MEDIA STUDIES , RESEARCH HOUSE, COMMUNITY CENTRE, SAKET, NEW DELHI - 110 017 ; Tel: 6851660, 6864020, 6522244/55, 6856429;) . We need to have a long, focused meeting. The meeting should grapple with these issues:

a.       Specific reform agenda
b.      Definitive strategies for mass-mobilization
c.       Immediate tasks on hand with reference to the current Bill.

We may require more than one meeting during the next 2-3 days. Once we reach certain conclusions, a core team needs to be constituted for effective follow-up and coordination. May I request friends to participate in the meeting. Those who cannot, may kindly send their endorsement. Please confirm your participation to Dr.Bhaskara Rao at nbraocms@vsnl.com

With warm regards
 
Jayaprakash Narayan
National Cordinator
 
Lok Satta
401/408 Nirmal Towers
Dwarakapuri Colony, Punjagutta
Hyderabad - 500 082
Tel: 040 3350778/3350790
Fax: 040 3350783
E-mail:
loksatta@satyam.net.in
url:
www.loksatta.org

 

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