Among the prominent voices, which favour change in the way our elections are conducted, is Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, former IAS, ex-MLA and the founder of Loksatta Party. In his 16 years of distinguished public service in various capacities, he has actively pitched for clean elections, electoral reforms and has been an influential voice, which affected the passing of the RTI Act. Organiser Bengaluru Bureau Chief Prashanth Vaidyaraj spoke to him on various issues surrounding the issue of One Nation One Election. Excerpts:
What is your opinion on the issue of one-nation one poll?
Ordinary people are not really concerned with simultaneous elections. They are more concerned about and vote as per the situation in the state. For example while rest of the country voted the Congress out after Emergency, Karnataka overwhelmingly voted for Congress. But later when Indira Gandhi returned to power at the centre, Karnataka voted the Janata Party and Ramakrishna Hegde to a resounding victory. People distinguish between state and nation in elections. The middle class does not enthusiastically participate in elections as we have seen. So if simultaneous elections have to be conducted, they must be done.
Since any discourse on simultaneous polls is politicised, how to bring about the required changes without getting it politicised?
Truthfully, I think we cannot avoid the politicisation. It’s very hard as these days discourse is extremely polarised. Irrespective of what anyone says, we need to do whatever need to be done in the interest of the nation. YV Reddy, Former Governor of RBI has opposed simultaneous elections saying it could alter the structure of the constitution. But I don’t agree with him. If the move requires major constitutional re-engineering, it has to be done as it will transform the country. Today, the real problem lies in the vulnerability of the states to instability. If you want to address this issue, the Chief Minister or Head of State Government should be directly elected by the people. If the leader of the State is elected directly, he/she will depend less on vote buying and more on his/her record, reputation, vision and campaign. They will not rely on vote-buying. This would change the way a state is governed.
It will be difficult to have simultaneous elections at both state and national levels. But unless we come out of the current model which is not working, things won’t change. I am a firm nationalist and the interest of the nation is paramount.
There is also a view that more elections strengthen federalism and help people stay connected to their governments. What do you feel?
I am not wedded to this idea. This discourse is based on creating fear of a person or an idea. Today, there is fear of Modi and all discourse revolves around this fear. But we need to get out of our fixation for an individual or a single idea. This has been our collective failure and we have to correct it.
What is your stance on by-elections? Do they help the democratic cause of aiding people hop parties?
By-elections disrupt governance as much as general elections. We can work over by-elections by a simple change in law. In US, most states don’t allow elections midway. If for any reason, the seat falls vacant, the elections will be held only at the end of the scheduled term. Regular elections constrain not just our administration apparatus, it constrains our politicians too. Not all politicians are bad and most are genuinely concerned about the nation. When asked privately, they agree to the changes required. Massive constitutional re-engineering is required to bring about the changes in the electoral practices. We need to do it for the sake of the country and it should be guided by the Citizen First approach.