Why the right kind of people should be put in law-making positions

The Cabinet's act of quickly passing an ordinance that allowed convicted and jailed MPs and MLAs to contest the election is an example of what can happen if we don't elect right breed of leaders.

In a few day’s time the city’s bustle will have a different flavour. The Election Commission will announce the poll dates for the Lok Sabha Elections, parties will announce their candidates, buntings will line the streets of Bengaluru. The cronies will put up photoshopped posters with mug shots of themselves with their favourite candidate.

It is that time when the citizenry become aware of the forthcoming elections and subconsciously make a choice, to vote or not to vote, both groups convincing the other about the merits of their choice. I belong to the former group and have evolved from going to vote just because the whole family did to understanding the need for a citizen to vote and making an informed choice before the button is pressed in the voting booth.

We were taught the importance of elections and voting in school. It is difficult for adults to dig up class 8 Civics form our overworked memory cells, especially chapters on who an MP is or his / her duties to the country and his / her constituents. And considering there is a long list on the role and responsibilities of an MP, let’s pick one responsibility and explore it.

MPs, the elected representatives (of the people), brought into power by our votes (by the people), are also called lawmakers. They discuss and formulate laws that are in sync with the constitution, laws meant to protect the interests of all sections and strata of citizens (for the people). Irrespective of whether an MP belongs to the ruling party or not, the MP’s aye or nay counts in the voice votes when the bills are passed.

The MPs we elected the last time around passed 177 bills out of 326, of these some landmark bills were passed and many crucial ones were left out.

  • The Lokpal Bill to prevent corruption was passed but after more than four decades.

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 was passed two decades after India ratified Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

  • None of the bills on women’s reservation (in the Parliament, Legislative Assembly, Panchayats and Municipalities) were passed.

To truly understand the powers these peoples representatives have, let us take an example of the Supreme Court ruling on the convicted elected representatives. In last July, the Supreme Court passed a ruling that convicted MPs and MLAs could not contest elections for six years and would be disqualified from office. A big step forward for our democracy.

What happend next was a record of sorts. An all party meet was quickly convened, discussions took place. By September 2013, the Cabinet passed an ordinance that allowed convicted and jailed MPs and MLAs to contest the elections reversing the Supreme Court ruling. Eventually in October after public anger and internal party pressures the Cabinet scrapped the ordinance. All this urgency when it was their seat of power which was at stake. 

We have to understand the enormity of this one example, the people we elect (by voting or choosing not to vote) have the power to make and change laws. They take 40 years for some, some may not happen in our lifetime but if they have the will they can change laws in a matter of months. If we trace back the root of all our woes of the “system,” it is pretty clear where the cleansing needs to begin and who the real power lies with. Our protests and rallies on issues we strive to change will be futile if we don’t put the right people in the place it matters. 

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