One certainly needs an answer for ‘why a potentially strong country like India continues to bear the tag of an emerging economy’. What stops it from acquiring the label of a developed country? If the country has abundance of natural resources, plethora of trained work force and blessings of a great weather, there should be no excuse for inertia. Nevertheless, if things continue to be in a wanting status, should we blame the outdated constitution, the ill-defined federal structure, an unsuitable governing system, the degenerated mindsets of people, the continually increasing population or deep rooted polarisation? Whatever may be the cause, solutions have to be found. In addition, if pleasing numbers are quoted about economic growth, number of people below poverty line, energy generation, or improvement in infrastructure then we must remember that numbers stated in absolute terms do not depict the reality on ground. Is it enough to build four bridges when actually one hundred were required? Unless realistic comparisons are made such as computing the numbers in percentages, or comparing the statistics with similar parameters of neighboring countries like China, Malaysia, and Singapore etc, inferences are unreal.
No matter how significant or insignificant the role of leaders in the past may have been, our present leaders should not be allowed to continue the bamboozlement by their tall and sometime fake claims. Excuses such as population, corruption and diversity are as pointless as the pleas that the opposition parties did all the damage. Sticking to outdated traditions, spaghetti of laws, ill-conceived education system, and the reminiscent mindset of slavery will drag us down from whatever prosperity levels we have painstakingly attained.
In this maze of numbers and crossroads of political statements, the relevant issues are eclipsed into oblivion. Blessed by a large and young workforce (75 % out of 1.25 billion being at age less than 35 years) that is living amidst enviable plethora of natural resources, if India has not done as well as it should have, it is no cause for worry. Only political will is required to turn the situation around. Discretion at various levels, which causes corruption, needs to be curbed down to the barest minimum. This is only possible if systems are well configured and they are adequately lubricated for smooth operations.
We have to search for skeletons in the cupboards and address them with innovative thoughts and methods so that governance in the future becomes relevant, efficient and effective. After all what should be the aim of governance and leadership? Prosperity or happiness is only credit-worthy if it is inclusive and covers the entire population of the country, albeit not necessarily equally. If a new political party decides to follow the paradigms proposed here, it will have to operate on the mindsets of people first.
Elections – Not the only Option
The purist may debate for hours about the merits and demerits of various paradigms such as democracy, communism, socialism, capitalism or any other ideology for governance. Yet this discussion is losing relevance day by day. Systems in various countries have adopted a fusion of these ideologies, sometimes with retention of their core doctrines. While democracy is inherently suited as a methodology for selecting people’s representatives it fails to uphold the three tenets freedom, equality and the rule of law. It also has practically no role to play after the elections are completed.
In addition, the erosion of morals and ethics brings in power seekers who have a criminal orientation of mind. In the countries where democracy is deemed prevailing, instances of anarchy, autocracy, totalitarianism, dictatorship, or centralisation of power are frequently noticed. It is no longer correct to say that democracy is for the people. Citizens are naive when they think of democracy as, power in their hands.
One may then ask a few serious questions:
- Is the process of elections necessary
- What if a well-conceived and convincing system of selecting the leaders could be established without the need for going back to the citizens
- Is the common man competent enough to make the right selection of representatives or for that matter a political party
- Does election result in a sustainable improvement in governance
- Is voting not governed by the emotion or wave of anti-incumbency or anti-establishment, in the hope that things will improve
- Then what is it that we want or aim to achieve by spending enormous time, effort and money for conducting elections from the population of 1.25 billion people
- In the end, can governance be made independent of discretions so that the need for leaders is replaced by the need for managers
Political leaders will certainly discard these questions as nonsensical or unanswerable because these threaten their power and position. They diminish the possibilities of dynasty rules. Yet citizens should not stop asking these questions. They should ponder over the possibility of establishing a political leadership system that is based on a pyramid structure just as we have in all management echelons. Merit governs promotions.
A political leader must progress from the leadership of a few thousand people to lacs or millions, culminating in a position where he governs a full-fledged state; in other words, from village or city to district and then to the state. A leader should possess in his repertoire the experience of handing public level issues varying from civic amenities to security. Inheritance of power should be minimised and confined to those who exhibit competence. If a leader manages to barge in at the top levels, he is most likely to end up in the disaster of a failure. To establish such a merit oriented system, we have to proceed gradually, spanning at least a decade. During this intervening period, implementation of self-governance (Swaraj), remodelled socialism, or both will have to be pursued.
The ground reality in India is that at least three different ideologies (socialism, free economy, and crony-capitalism) were experimented with, for over six decades and a certain environment for governance has been established in the country. We must therefore not bang our heads against the wall trying to replace the system. It is true that this environment is not as stable as it is made out to be. Our option of conducting elections, and trying to incorporate some reforms in them, is also a futile attempt. India, basks in paralysis for five years in the hope of improvement, but it faces new challenges after every general election. The anti-incumbency sentiment only changes guard. It does not foster the framework that can ensure prosperity. State elections create similar mess in the states. Elections in India, as probably in many other countries, are simply events of turmoil. They fail to guarantee the three tenets of democracy ie freedom, equality and rule of law. Irrespective of what we may do, criminals, by virtue of their inherent power, land up as representatives.
We cannot adopt a system that may have been successful in the advanced countries because our mindsets are different and so is the nature of our centre-state relationships. The authority and responsibilities here are overlapping and conflicting. In general, the states are weak. Should we make our states more powerful and independent than what they are at present, is a question that has been debated many times over. The prevailing political viewpoint is that whatever was perceived and formalised by Dr BR Ambedkar and the others is the best; no innovation is necessary.
Not far from here is China, a country where, in 6 decades, poverty has given way to an expanding middle class. Leaders there do not inherit power or position. They come with experience and they possess merit and competence. China does not conduct elections, nor does it suffer the cycle of elect and regret. It depends on a merit based selection process. China does not wait for anti-incumbency sentiment to bring about a change. It has instilled a self-correcting mechanism in the pyramid of its political structure.
India needs radical changes. The enactment of law may continue to lie in the hands of the positioned people representatives. However, the change over from elections to selection should be brought in gradually, probably spanning a decade over.
Unconventional thinking and a non-conformist approach enabled Arvind Kejriwal  to dislodge the decades old strongholds of BJP and Congress parties in Delhi state elections in 2013. Within 48 days, he was forced to resign by the combined might of BJP and congress, who were alarmed by the speed at which he was going. They could not digest his leftist orientation as he was going full blast against crony capitalism. They colluded to defeat the meteoric rise of the AAP – Aam Aadmi Party. It is difficult to predict the future of this party in the context of the country’s general elections, yet it has certainly sent a tsunami to the traditional political parties. For the citizens it has created a hope that those parties, if prudence returns, would field better candidates in elections.
Governance – Is not the best when it is the Least
The leadership alone is not our bugbear; lethargic governance competes with it. How nice it would be if the proverb ‘Governance is the best when it is the least’ was factual. Unlike the political leadership, the government follows a well-structured framework. However, this framework is put under severe stresses due to the conflicting authority and responsibility of the states vis-a-vis the centre. Therefore, if this composite framework fails to deliver, there must be something wrong intrinsically. This is where we need to peek and poke. Probably there is too much of governance that leads to delayed decision-making and execution.
Until the time we can think of a better structuring of the executive branch, we need some interim solutions. In the present state of crony-capitalism operating under the mask of democracy, we might look at the paradigm of Remodelled Socialism. This is a great technique to operate in this risky and demanding environment. It allows crony-capitalism to co-exist with socialism.
Remodelled Socialism is different from socialism, as it is different from self-governance of the Swaraj type. Here, the experts from the society, with proven honesty and performance, are roped in to assist in governance, but they do not interfere in the process of law enactment. In a reversed avatar of Remodelled Socialism, competent but experienced executives of I*S or MBA types, could be selected for political positions.
Indian governance in the last few decades is earmarked by priority inconsistency, policy paralysis, and execution passivity. The prime resource of the country, the work force, has been cold-shouldered. The gift of gods, the land, has been outrageously neglected and left to the whims of profit seekers. The chaotic landscape that has come about by this delusion, both in rural and urban geography, is irreversible. Similar devastation has occurred in our other natural resources like water, energy, metals, radio spectrum and the people. Now, we have no option but to apply our minds seriously to remain sustainable. This is our obligation to our forthcoming generations.
While poverty alleviation may be the prime need of an individual, congeniality of the surrounding environment also is his concern. The present status of our landscape, which is dilapidated beyond doubt, may actually be a blessing in disguise. We do not need the pretext of earthquakes, floods and other calamities to bring down the degenerated infrastructure for replacement. Likewise, streamlining of other resources is also not a rocket science either. Bringing about radical changes is but simply a matter of political will and innovation.
Though the domain of our concern is unlimited, a few items need our attention more than the others do. Building the necessary infrastructure, developing the human resource, harmonising the rural and urban development within the constraints of sustainability and improving our economic situation are some glaring needs. Population should be treated like an opportunity to be exploited and it should be harnessed to carry out productive activities. Natural resources must be preserved and used with prudence. Innovation is required in tackling the issue of education; its relevance is of prime significance. Polarisation is the devil that we must encounter with wisdom and grit.
We must return to analyse the bold acts of governance that the AAP performed during its short tenure in power, probably the shortest in the history of modern India. While it can be said that AAP was demonstrating a sample of what unconventional governance means, to garner support for the general elections, it gives us a hope that the systematic inertia, primarily from the legal framework, can perhaps be obliterated. Success cannot be achieved by the streaks of good governance, as the AAP probably thought. Governance must flow from well-defined framework of priorities, policies, rules and processes. Good governance is possible only with collaborative action of individuals and departments. Two pre-requisites though are minimisation of discretion and maximisation of computerisation.
The Indian endeavour needs innovation and commitment as much as it needs radical changes. Yet, the first question is the visualisation of a prudent vision.
 Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), an Indian jurist, politician, philosopher, anthropologist, historian and economist. A revivalist for Buddhism in India, he inspired the Modern Buddhist movement.
 Arvind Kejriwal (born 1967), the founder of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) dislodged powerful political parties like INC and BJP to grab the seat of Chief Minister, in Delhi in 2013.
 In A Wonderful World – Dreams and Reality, (2014, 325 pages), Vikas Publishing House India, author Mike Rana, introduced the concept of Remodelled Socialism.
 I*S here represents the civil services as opposed to defense services. It includes –Indian Administrative Service, Indian Forest Service, , India Police Service, Indian Revenue Service and others