India needs urgent electoral system reforms

Mr Vishal Singh, President of the Swarna Bharat Party, India’s only liberal party, asserted that for India to attract honest and competent people into politics, the electoral system must to be urgently reformed.

The Westminster system, along with a
First Past The Post voting methodology that we have adopted, is a proven system that has worked well for many countries. In India, Mr Vishal Singh said, we have distorted the underlying incentives of the electoral process, leading to incentives for corruption among politicians.

No Indian is born corrupt. It is badly designed systems that lead to corruption. In our system, politicians stand to lose a lot of money when they contest elections. Those who get elected therefore seek to recover their costs, with compound interest. On top of this, we pay our politicians relatively poorly. This creates a perfect storm of incentives for corruption.

Simplistic solutions like Jan Lokpal do not address these huge incentive pitfalls. While there must be a system to punish the corrupt, it will not act as preventative with the kinds of incentives we have in India.

The first part of the solution is to reduce opportunities for corruption by focusing on core functions and high quality (but minimal) regulation of the market. The second part of the solution involves minimising politicians’ losses in elections and paying them well.

Mr Vishal Singh said that all candidates should be reimbursed Rs.15 per valid vote cast, up to a maximum of Rs. 70 lakhs. Along with this, the security deposit should be significantly increased to ensure that only serious candidates contest elections. Genuine candidates can, if needed, borrow money for their security deposit, assured of reimbursement for the votes they will receive.

Further, the salaries of elected representatives should be raised significantly, while eliminating all perquisites such as free travel, telephones, furnishings, vehicles or loans.

Mr Vishal Singh assured that such reforms will dramatically enhance the proportion of honest representatives who enter India parliaments. The SBP manifesto details the other essential and associated reforms that the party will implement.

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