Republic in dire need of reform

Team Anna announced a discussion titled “Save the Republic” to be held on Republic Day. I can almost imagine Team Anna’s critics going, “They first wanted their own version of a bill passed. Now they have problems with our democracy and want to Save the Republic.” Let’s start by setting aside the emotion and the ideological differences and objectively evaluate the state of the Republic after 65 years.


Today, India is run by a coalition government at the center and several regional parties at the state-level. This has been the norm for the last couple of decades and seems likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.  Parties come together to form governments driven by opportunism and political expediency rather than shared ideology. Almost every party is dominated and run by rich, affluent, families like a true fiefdom. The concept of intra-party democracy is non-existent and sycophancy is the order of the day. Control over parties is handed down from fathers and mothers to sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. To add another level of control, all parties are run by their respective party high commands. The party whip decides the party’s stance on every issue and all members of the party fall in line at the time of voting on these issues. This is a result of the anti-defection bill introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1980s. The intent at that point was to prevent MPs from cross-voting in return for money and other favors. But now, after a couple decades the pendulum has swung to the other extreme. Instead of preventing MPs from cross-voting, the MPs today are crippled by the party whip and the high command. The elected representative is now a pawn of the party. Once elected, he or she can’t pay any heed to the wishes of the electorate in their respective constituencies even if they want to.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

A Case for a strong Sports Bill

Team India’s recent dismal failure in Test cricket has resulted in a mad frenzy to find scapegoats. Leading the pack of scapegoats currently is VVS Laxman, followed by the captain, MS Dhoni himself. Many experts profess that the veterans should be phased out, beginning with VVS Laxman. Others believe that Dhoni’s stint as captain of the Test team needs to come under scrutiny. There are others who feel that the Coach Duncan Fletcher should be fired. Finally, there are those who blame IPL for India’s Test debacle.


The situation with Team India today is akin to a public company that has delivered consistently under its current leadership, but has seen a dramatic and embarrassing reversal of fortunes over the last couple of financial quarters. The stock market has run out of patience and shareholders are demanding a complete overhaul of the organization. Unfortunately, therein ends any similarity with a professionally run public organization – one that is ultimately accountable to its shareholders.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

India’s Mission Impossible

There budget session of parliament is fast approaching. Hanging in balance is the UPA government’s commitment to pass its Lokpal bill – a ridiculously weak bill that no one but the Congress is in favor of Getting the “Jan Lokpal” bill passed is India’s Mission Impossible (MI). Each MI has a different feel to it. This one, in particular, is clearly an all-desi version packed with the rustic oratory of our MPs, juxtaposed with the evasive, smiling, smooth-talk of the Harvard educated types, the spirited social activists led by an intermittently fasting Gandhian, and, last but not the least, our silent babu-like PM.

Team Anna rallied the masses and raised hopes of a utopian tomorrow – one with a clean and independent CBI under an incorruptible Lokpal. But after an entire year of wrangling with the government, the UPA summarily “checkmated” the social activists and drove them into existential crisis while simultaneously reducing the Lokpal bill to a “Ghost Protocol.” At the moment, the activists will be happier with the “no bill at all” than the current version of the bill tabled by the government. None of the political parties wants the Lokpal bill. Even if individual politicians want it, they can’t do a thing about it because their “High Command” does not want it. But the country’s future is at stake. The politicians are out to maintain the status-quo in order to protect their corrupt practices and ill-gotten wealth. But Team Anna has accepted this mission and is not going to relent until their goals are met.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times

An independent CBI is a must

The crux of the Lokpal battle has finally boiled down to the issue of independence for the CBI. The fundamental problem today is that the CBI is under the clutches of the party in power. Further, every party is firmly under the control of its “high command”. What this means is that the CBI is completely under the control of a few powerful people from the ruling party. History is replete with examples of political parties using this control over the CBI to harass and target their opponents. The current UPA government for example initiated CBI investigations against Jagan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh after he had a fallout with the ruling UPA following his father’s untimely death. Other present favorite targets include Ms. Mayavati of the BSP, the Reddy brothers of the BJP, among others. Similarly, when the BJP was in power, Ms. Jayalalitha was believed to have been targeted. Not surprisingly, there are no CBI investigations against those in power from the current ruling party. Also, historically, Prime Ministers have tended to appoint only their most trusted men as CBI directors. In fact, appointments and exits of CBI chiefs have usually been in sync with prime ministerial tenures. Thus, the manipulation of the CBI by the party in power to suit their needs and help achieve their political goals cuts across party lines. This mode of operation has become part and parcel of our national politics.

Let me give you an example from cricket, India’s most popular sport. Today, in cricket neutral umpires (umpires from countries other than the two playing teams) are taken for granted. Before the introduction of neutral umpires there were frequent cries of bias by visiting cricket teams. For example, it was widely believed that its next to impossible to get a favorable LBW decision against Javed Miandad when touring Pakistan. There was once a serious altercation between English captain Mike Gatting and a Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana, over a bad umpiring decision. Likewise, umpires from New Zealand were under constant attack for their bias. Similar accusations have also been made against Indian umpires by visiting teams. But since the advent of neutral umpires, the accusations of bias have completely stopped. Today, the focus is mostly on the quality of decisions made by umpires. Further, metrics are available to analyze the performance of individual umpires and an international panel of umpires exists with a formal process for selection. Also, advancements in technology have made possible the introduction of the third umpire who has the luxury of watching television replays before deciding on an umpiring decision.

Click here to read the rest of the article in The Economic Times