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Time to look at Proportional representation?

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Governance

For as long as I can remember, I have opposed proportional representation on the usual grounds: stability, the rights of constituencies to elect their own candidates, etc. But watching the drama surrounding the British elections, I have begun to reconsider my position.

It is clear that in India, first past the post does not produce overall majorities. It is also clear that the relationship the framers of our Constitution envisaged between an MP and his constituents has remained a fantasy.

Moreover, the electoral system is being tampered with all the time. If the major political parties have their way, we will now reserve seats for women, creating sexually segregated ghettoes within our constituency map. This may or may not be a valid amendment but it has not been accompanied by any national debate. Those who support it do so on goody-goody grounds: “Let’s give women a chance, yaar”. Those who oppose it in Parliament do so because they are bigots.

If our system is going to be amended in this fashion, with no thought of reason or debate and only repeated sacrifices at the altar of reservation, then why not consider more far-reaching change? Why not adopt some form or proportional representation? At the very least, that will reduce the number of crooks and blackmailers from regional parties in Parliament. Not only would it be fairer, it would also give us Parliaments that are more stable.

We inherited our democracy from Britain. There are many things we do better than the British: hold elections and construct coalitions, for example. But even the British now accept that the one factor that was used to justify the first past the post system — that it throws up a government with a majority — no longer applies.

So let’s go the whole hog. Let’s not waste time in battles over reservation. Let’s overhaul the entire electoral system.

For the full text of the essay by Vir Sanghvi in the New Indian Express, click here.

This is also more or less what the Lok Satta President, Dr JP, has been saying. Perhaps its time has come.

Muralidhar Rao

 

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