Manifesto For A Hypothetical New Political Party

Why a new political party? Because the existing political parties have remained totally ineffective in responding to people’s aspirations. Over the years, one has seen how voting one party out and bringing another one in has not brought about any change in the political culture of the nation. A cynical status quo mentality prevails. If any party talks of  changes, they are superficial and totally irrelevant to people’s desire and need for change. Only a new political party with radical and yet pragmatic thinking can make any difference. This new party’s thinking will be reflected in its manifesto.

The manifesto should start with the objective of meeting the goals outlined in our constitution, which was authored by a group of very wise people of unquestionable integrity.

The constitution aims to deliver to all citizens of India, JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all, FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

To start with, let me list out five e biggest challenges that come in the way of these objectives being fulfilled.

  1. The total failure of the judicial process. Court cases drag on for twenty years or more. This makes a mockery of the process and removes any respect for rule of law. An adjunct to this is the fact that we have far too many laws and none of them are followed.
  2. A vast majority of our citizens lack the basics: food, healthcare, primary education.
  3. Corruption at all levels affecting the government’s efficiency in delivering services to citizens and enforcing rule of law.
  4. We are riven by divisions in society along caste and religion, making true unity and social harmony difficult to attain.
  5. Over the years the election process have become both cumbersome with proliferation of parties and expensive. This comes in the way of the most talented and committed people getting elected and making the government function at the best possible level.

While drafting the manifesto, I thought it prudent to keep a few ‘philosophical’ injunctions in mind.

  1. The government cannot do everything. And it should not try to. There are some imperfections which the society as a whole has to try and address, until that happens we have to live with those imperfections. India is a really a sub-continent, with amazing diversity. We have to treat it more like Europe than Russia or China. It might be counter-productive to impose too much uniformity.
  2. Justice must not only be done, justice must appear to be done. This is important for inculcating respect for rule of law.
  3. We should not take the Directive Principles of the Constitution too seriously. Things that were contentious and could find no resolution, were put there since they were not binding and therefore harmless. We have to judge each clause there in its own merit.
  4. Any organized society imposes certain restrictions on personal freedom for the common good. But the aim is always to maximize freedom and minimize restrictions. If allowing of a freedom imposes restrictions on a greater freedom, only then should we think of imposing a restriction.
  5. No society can guarantee absolute equality. It may not even be desirable. What the state can offer is equal opportunity for all and equal status before the law for all. There will be people with different abilities. And the state must create an environment where everyone’s potential can be harnessed to the maximum for common benefit of the society.

NOW TO THE MANIFSTO PROPER

  1. ECONOMY

1.1   The dictum to follow here is one enunciated by Deng Xiao Ping: It does not matter if the cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.

1.2   One way of ensuring high and sustainable growth is to empower the largest section of the populace. So the state should endeavour  to provide school education and healthcare to all. Create infrastructure. Where is the money for this going to come from? By taxing the rich. Why should the rich be willing to high tax? Why should they toil hard to create wealth if a lot of it is going away as taxes? Because a healthy  and happy society around them will be good for their business and their happiness. Because the creative entrepreneurs do not work for amassing personal wealth. Azim Premji, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet…have enough money for many generations of luxurious living. Yet they strive to create wealth. Because for them it is like a musician trying to play a good tune, or Lionel Messi trying to take the ball to goal the best way he can. All they want is the freedom to operate the way want, and the assurance that the tax they pay is being spent in the right direction. The government has to ensure that.

1.3   So the government would try to make entering and operating a business easy with simplified rules and adequate safeguards for consumer protection. But breach of law should be severely dealt with.

1.4   The government has to be directly involved in providing education, healthcare and infrastructure, in partnership with private payers as required. Defense, foreign policy and maintenance of law and order also will be government responsibility even though some aspects of education, healthcare and law and order would be shared with the states.

1.5   Government would get out of non-core sectors like hospitality, leisure, manufacturing, consumer goods, international air travel, etc. It can be present in road transport, banking and insurance  along with private players to retain some stability  in the sectors and to serve sections of the society that may not be adequately served by the private sector.

2.0 EDUCATION

2.1 There should be a central education policy, even though states might be required to execute them. To simplify things, there should be a two-language policy across the country. School education should be offered in the language of the state and English.  Where the medium of instruction is the state language, English would be a compulsory subject throughout the school period; and where the medium of instruction is English, the state language should be a compulsory subject throughout the school period. The government will encourage creation of textbooks and other knowledge resources in all Indian languages. Government will actively promote the use of Indian languages in the cyber world.

2.2   Government-funded college education should be available only for the meritorious. For those not interested in higher education or without any aptitude for it, avenues for vocational education will be created.

2.3   Multiple entrance tests should be replaced by nation-wide tests like SAT, GRE and GMAT. Individual universities and colleges can use these scores plus their own criteria to admit students

2.4   To improve standards in government schools and colleges, appointment of teachers and professors should be depoliticized. (Details to be worked out.)

3.0 RELIGION, CASATE, SOCIAL HARMONY

3.1 The state should be neutral towards all religions and faiths.

3.2. People would have the freedom to preach their faith and accept any faith they want to as long as no force or fraudulence is involved.

3.3 Religion and faith should be confined to the personal sphere. But in India, the religious and social are so intertwined that there are going to be many problems. Festivals like Durga Puja or Ganesh Puja are social occasions too. But we have to delink politics from religions. So the guidelines would be something like this: If a minister, for example, wants to take part in a Ganesh Puja, he should do so in his personal capacity. That applies to the installation of an idol in a temple, or offering a prayer at a mosque or attending a Christmas mass. He can of course take part in the cultural part of the function as a minister as long as there is no bar for people from any religions at such a function.

3.4 Government should ideally remain out of management of places of worship and religion establishments like temples, mosques, gurudwaras, mutts. But government will strictly monitor their management and finances; and no leeway will be given. Any irregularity will invite swift punishment.

3.5 Caste-based reservation can be there, but with periodic re-evaluation and exclusion of people who have availed of reservation and now enjoy a family income above certain level. (Logic: Caste inequities still may exist for such people. But with higher income, they are better equipped to deal with it. Also the principle of ‘Justice must appear to be done’ applies.

3.6: The dangerous trend of caste divides increasing instead of withering away must be reversed. One step could be to disallow parties with allusion to any caste, religion or specific community.  Any party must be for the people of entire India, though they can espouse any political philosophy. So, no ‘ Bahujan Samaj Party”, no ‘ Muslim League”, no “ Dravid Munnetra Kazgam” , no ‘ Telegu Desam’. No ‘ Akali Dal”.

3.7 It would still be worthwhile to find ways of doing away with reservation and find other ways of affirmative action which helps in withering away of the caste antagonism, if not the caste system.

4.0 JUDICIARY, LAW AND ORDER

4.1 Laws must be simplified. Obsolete laws of the colonial era and laws that do not make sense in today’s times must be repealed. This includes laws that criminalize homosexuality and laws against cow slaughter and eating of beef and personal laws applicable only for a particular community. ( Logic: Maximum freedom. Minimum constraints. For example decriminalizing homosexuality does not impinge on the freedom of the heterosexuals, but making it a crime affects the freedom of the homosexuals. Similarly though Hindu religion allows n number of wives and Islam allows four, making monogamy the law does not go against any of the religions. Similarly outlawing triple talaq and insisting on going through a more stringent divorce procedure does  not go against the injunctions of Islam, but not insisting on such a law comes in the way of delivering gender justice. )

4.2 The entire judiciary process must be overhauled. More judges must be appointed. Trivial law suits will be discouraged. Justice delayed is justice denied. Even if it leads to some imperfection in the judgement, a strict time limit for delivering judgement will be set, which will be no more than a few years. A vigorous witness protection plan will be introduced.

4.3 Training for judges and the police has to be modernized, sensitizing them to current thoughts on caste, gender and other societal changes.

5. CORRUPTION

5.1 In many developed societies, corruption at high places exists. But what distinguishes ALL developed societies is the near absence of corruption in the machinery of governance. That is what the party will focus on more, because that is what affects the lives of common people. While there is a cultural aspect to it that the government can’t do much about, changes can be brought at the operational level.

5.2 Quick trial and punishment for bribe-takers will be one step.

5.3. Bringing technology into most transactions will reduce the scope for corruption a great deal, like it has happened in the case of income tax returns. Schemes like Aadhar and move towards most payments through cheques or credit cards will be implemented for achieving the same goal.

The manifesto can be further refined and fleshed out based on the inputs from all you concerned citizens.

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