Note: This is the first part of a multi part series on Nitish Kumar and his efforts to build a New Bihar.
When Mayawati became Chief Minster of U.P. for the first time, she shook up the entire bureaucracy and police by shifting more than 150 officers in one day. When Lalu became CM, he soon landed up at the Patna Medical College Hospital with the media in tow, to inspect whether Doctors were attending duty properly. He publicly rebuked those who were found derelict. He did the same when he became the Central Railway Minister, by ordering the office gates to be locked after the scheduled time so that the habitual late-comers could not get in. Yet, when Nitish Kumar became CM of Bihar in November 2005, after 15 long years of Lalu-Rabri rule, there was hardly a flutter.
Save one or two key bureaucratic changes, there were hardly any changes anywhere. So much so that even the official residence of Chief Minster, 1 Anne Marg, continued to adorn the outgoing Chief Minister, Rabri Devi more than two months after he was sworn in. People started to wonder what, if any, were the changes. Nitish Kumar went to work with practically the same bureaucratic and executive team as his predecessor. Sure there were reshuffles later on but the pace was unremarkable. He started off by conducting long meetings with the senior bureaucrats that routinely went on till late nights. The bureaucracy was rattled a bit but not too much thinking that the initial enthusiasm will soon run out of steam. They were, however, in for a rude shock. Nitish was digging his heels for a long seize, not a guerrilla war. Assiduously he went to work to put the state back on track, bit by bit.
One of the first challenges was to stabilize law and order situation. However here too, those who were looking for some high profile, quick fix solutions, were disappointed. In fact the first full year barely saw any change. High profile kidnappings and murders continued to rattle the state. Nitish came in for criticism for his pre-election claim that he will fix law & order within three months. Change however, started to become visible later after a few cases were cracked by the Police and the accused were charge sheeted promptly. Another significant change appeared in the form of unshackling of several upright senior Police Officers who had been completely sidelined during the Lalu Rabri era.
Another turning point was the gusto with which the state embraced the centrally sponsored Fast Track Court scheme. More and cases were transfered to the FTC especially those belonging to high profile criminal politicians ( even those from his own JDU Party) . Suddenly things started to look up after the conviction rates started to inch up. In the past two years 2006 – 2008, more than 26000 convictions have taken place. Several dreaded political criminals have been awarded capital punishment and lesser sentences. Today, even thogh the law & order situation may not be ideal, but at least it has turned a corner . A clear proof of this is that Bihar has already ceded its monopoly over prime time television news to a lot of other states. No news is indeed good news.
Part: 1 2 3 4 5
Note: This is the concluding part of the three part series on Next Generation Electoral Reforms (other two – Intership for MPs & MLAs , Inner Party Democracy) .
Indian Electoral System today is at a point of inflection. What started in early ’90s as a lone struggle by a maverick (T. N. Seshan) to cleanse the cesspool of Indian Elections, has now transformed into a well oiled election machinery that has won acclaims for the successful conduct of several difficult electoral battles. Indian Elections are unique because of the number of people that vote, the varied geography it covers as well as the specter of violence that hangs around them. The real game changer has been the speedy roll out of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). From trial runs to all EVM Elections, they have even caught the fancy of the world community. The somewhat checkered implementation of the Voter ID Cards, and the mandatory affidavits by candidates have also contributed to the credibility of Indian Elections. But where do we go from here?
To be sure, there are still problems galore. There is the problem of increased Naxalite insurgency and the violence inflicted by them during elections. Beside that the role of money power too has come in for sharp focus. Around 300 present MPs are known to be Crorepatis, giving rise to the feeling that in near future, being a millionaire might become a pre-requisite for the job. However the most serious problem of them all is the twin issue of increasing Criminalisation of Politics and the lack of good people joining politics. Both these are essentially two sides of the same coin.
For our democracy to enter the next level of maturity, we need to usher in a new generation of Electoral Reforms. It is customary in the election season to run campaigns for increased voter turnout. There have been other ideas that have come to fore such as public funding of Elections, option to reject all candidates, provisions for recall of candidates etc. However many of these ideas can only take us thus far. Increased voter turnout will only have an impact if there is a wide choice of good candidates and detailed information about their performance is available. Even though public funding is being touted as a solution to the rising influence of money power, it may end up becoming up another channel for large scale waste of public money.
The problem of the criminalisation of politics needs to be tackled head on. We have for too long, dithered on the premise that any law to debar under trial criminals before they are finally convicted by the highest court, will open the door for falsely implicating innocent persons and will be against the laws of natural justice . However such arguments have become fallacious after more and more MPs & MLAs are being convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape & sedition. We need to bite the bullet now and make the law applicable to criminals convicted of serious crimes by any court of law. Once convicted they should not be allowed to contest even if their appeal is pending in a higher court, till the time their conviction is annulled by a competent court. Besides this ‘Fast Courts’ should be mandatory in case of MPs & MLAs being accused.
The problems facing our nation are serious and the rapid degeneration in the quality of our MPs and MLAs will reverse whatever progress we have made in the past decades. An intense debate on Next Generation Electoral Reforms is the need of the hour and the denizens of Social Media Network should take a lead in this direction. These discussions will hopefully throw up some ideas that will help shape a new dawn.