Civil Society and Political Accountability in India

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The erstwhile President of United States, Bill Clinton once famously remarked that, “Politics is a Contact Sport” and in my view he was quite precise in his definition of modern-day politics. Having closely watched the movers and shakers in the corridors of power for the last four decades, I can emphatically say that politics is all about creating influence, power and developing relationships with those in power. Those who succeed in mastering these relationships and establishing a rapport with the masses often rise to the top of the pyramid in this sphere. However once they are there i.e in the government that they are faced with the challenge of governance i.e managing institutions that operate on a pre-defined policies. With no prior experience in managing public institutions they end up applying the same skills to manage institutions which they used to manage their political outfits. Nepotism, favoritism and prejudices are often the consequence resulting in destruction and dilution of established institutions.

The real losers in this bargain are citizens as there is no mechanism by which they can hold the political executive accountable for their action and more importantly ‘inaction’ on key issues facing the electorate. We may have the RTI Act in place but that only provides for a framework to obtain information in the public domain. At the end of the day, the RTI Act only provides information and does not empower the common man by offering him a tool to hold the political executive responsible.

The need of the hour is to offer the common man a statutory framework wherein he can approach relevant statutory body regarding the inaction of his elected representative on key issues affecting his constituency.

There is however a flip side to the debate itself. Most political parties when they are elected to power become part of the government and as long as they are in government they are supposed to lay their entire attention on managing the affairs of the government and not the party. The affairs of the party suffer on this count and even if the political leaders try to do something for the betterment of the party they are seen in public light as self-serving and are accused of using the state machinery to further their personal gains. So, the idea is that we need to create a system that not only mandates accountability of the executive but is also receptive to political needs of the elected representatives.

The issues I have highlighted in this column require deep thought and analysis but we need to address such significant issues at the earliest on such enlightened forums so as to develop an iterative process for the next generation to follow.

About Author:
Sudhanshu Mittal is an Indian politician living in Delhi and is from the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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