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Improving Legislators

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Many MPs and MLAs get elected repeatedly from constituencies that remain mired in backwardness. In fact, it is suspected that these ‘pocket-boroughs’ are deliberately kept in such conditions to maintain the leader’s hold over them. This is because with education and economic empowerment, people begin to think for themselves and attempt to become leaders themselves. Amethi and Rae Bareli are prime examples of such constituencies, which have remained utterly backward, despite having continued to send members of India’s most powerful political family to Parliament.
On the other hand, there are some constituencies that have elected leaders because they have managed to do a good job, but the numbers are small. These parliamentarians and legislators need to be identified and their best practices studied so that elected representatives can learn how much power actually resides with them, even if they do not enjoy ministerial posts. Sadly, this all important culture has not developed in any of India’s political parties, and the successes are limited to individual effort.
The sad truth is that, from the very start, aspiring politicians learn how to use power largely for personal benefit. The rise of Lalu Yadav’s family, for instance, is an example of how much wealth can accrue to such politicians in the space of a single generation. All the effort, from student union days, is focused on learning the skills required to monetise whatever clout one has. This is why, in the present day, there is this great rush to obtain what are known as ‘lal batti’ posts, if spots are not available in the Council of Ministers.
Owing to this skewed sense of priorities, the enormous power potentially available to legislators goes waste. It is not just about getting government to undertake development tasks in one’s constituency, it is also about providing social leadership and making essential services available. Theoretically, given the structure of political parties as well as of government, the MLA or MP is well-placed to know the exact needs of the electorate. So many problems only exist because of failure in last mile delivery due to inefficiency, corruption or, simply, laziness. An active and sensitive political structure, led by the elected representative, can eliminate such deficiencies. Unfortunately, much too often, it actively collaborates in denying these services for a share in the loot. Awakened civil society, armed with what is now readily available information, can not only check such practices, but also throw up new leadership. What it needs to ensure is the new lot is immune to temptation. Otherwise the disappointment that came with Kejriwal would be repeated.