An open letter to Mallikarjun Kharge jee and Rahul Gandhi jee:
This process can be started with states, particularly from Karnataka, as they and you are mulling over naming the CM and other ministers. You can declare the whole Assembly to be the collective ruler of Karnataka, passing any and all bills with the majority. The same majority that passed a bill would be responsible for the implementation of the bill via the bureaucrats. Those who opposed the bill would serve the purpose of watchdogs against any mismanagement or overenthusiastic implementation of the bill, without making a single person the czar/minister of implementation and oversight.
As for how hundreds of MLAs would come to an agreement on a bill, various methods can be thought of and tried. One that comes to my mind is by letting the MLAs form ad hoc Affinity Groups (AGs) on their own volition, on the basis of similarities in their thinking. Their thinking may be guided by factors such as their ideologies, language, religion, gender, caste, interests, aspirations, etc. Of course, for different individuals different factors would be of different importance/significance, it would be their own choice.
On account of similarities in various factors of significance, the AGs may reach their own conclusions regarding proposals for various departments without too much of debate. Knowing that any proposal would need majority support in the assembly, the AGs would be in constant communication with other like-minded AGs and try to come up with a compromise resolution/bill that would, hopefully, be able to muster the support of the majority of members in the Assembly. I believe this kind of process would prevent hundreds of MLAs from getting bogged down, shouting at each other, without making much progress in shaping a bill.
Having seen how an Assembly can come up with various kinds of bills without too much problem, let us try to analyze the advantages of a government without ministers.
- Drastic reduction in corruption: By not concentrating power in the hands of the CM and a few ministers, we would be increasing transparency, consistent with Lord Acton’s ever-green adage: “Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
- No heartburns: It (GWM) would also avoid jealousy among the majority of MLAs who would not have gotten the ministerial position and associated perks that their compatriots would get to enjoy.
- No question of the fall of a government: Since there are no ministers, there would be no question of the falling of the government and consequent reversal of the policies adopted by the assembly.
- No sycophancy and obeisance in political circles: Since there would be no CM, nor would there be any ministers, nobody would try to be a sycophant of another MLA or CM for the sake of getting a ministerial post with associated perks.
- Due respect for cogent arguments: The only thing that is likely to distinguish one from others would be her/his eloquence, logical, analytical, and rational way of presentations, congeniality, and respect for their comrades at arms.
- Less chance for a demagog to capture power hate propagation and false mirage: If someone captures the attention and reverence of people with his/her demagogic abilities, his/her compatriots would be able to see what is happening, and possibly be able to curb the lust for an undue share of power by the demagog, and pull the rug from under him/her.
- Less chance of briberies: If someone is amassing wealth via bribes, what will s/he do with it? S/he can’t have a fancy bungalow, or fancy car, as these kinds of things would not be allocated to a normal ordinary MLA. And there are not going to be extraordinary MLAs in the form of ministers, not to talk of CM.
- Less chance of money stashed away in offshore banks: I believe the accumulation of bribe money in offshore banks too can be prevented if there is a will in the government. If and when that happens, hiding ill-gotten money too can be prevented.
- Less chance of overall bribery at the top would reduce bribery at lower levels of the government: Acceptance of bribes by the whole assembly would not be possible because some are bound to raise hell against the same. Acceptance of bribes by one or just a few is going to be unlikely because some of their compatriots are going to be suspicious and put a stop to it. Such a lack of bribery at the top would reduce the chances of bribery at lower levels.
- The transparency of the GWM would be obvious to people: All of this transparency will be transparent to the people and they would vote en masse for the party that would implement such a revolutionary change in the format of a government – a government without ministers and ministerial perks, without laal batti, without mansions to live in, without a phalanx of gun-toting security personnel surrounding the ministers like age-old days of a feudal lord, zamindars, princes and kings.
- It would be a revolutionary change in a substance: It would be a revolutionary change in the form of government not only in appearance but in substance as well because in the assemblies, there truly won’t be any difference in the power of various MLAs.
- It will be a revolution without bloodshed.
- Even in Sweden PM has much more power than an ordinary MP: I have heard of ministers as well as the Prime Minister of Sweden riding bicycles to reach the office from their residences. But in their parliament, the PM and other ministers do have more power than other MPs. So, in spite of the lack of difference in appearance, there is a good bit of difference in substance/power.
- We would be trailblazers: We would be creating history by giving a new format of government for the world to follow. We would be the trailblazers of a new transparent form of democracy.
- I urge the Congress Party to take the lead in creating a new form of government, instead of following the old beaten path, full of the dangers of defection and the chance for the government to go into the hands of those who have stashed enormous sums of money in the offshore banks, control the media, and control a lot of people via their control over CBI, ED, and IT, and if need be, they would not hesitate in unleashing the military too over the people. These are not ordinary times.
- With a comfortable majority in Karnataka Assembly, Congress can do this experiment: If BJP tries to lure some of the MLAs with ministerial positions and others with lots of money, I believe, people will see what is happening, and they will revolt. And if EVM is not allowed, they would surely vote against BJP in the future elections. They would demand governments without ministers.
- A government without ministers would not be in violation of the constitution: With a comfortable majority in Karnataka Assembly, the Congress party would be able to pass and implement any and all kinds of bills it wants, with or without ministers. So what can be the hesitation? Is it the constitution that requires some ministers to take the oath of secrecy or whatever? If so, they can get a few people to stand up and take the oath as ministers without portfolios, along with one of Siddaramaiah jee as the CM. But after taking the oath, they will function just like any other MLA without any ministry.
National (All-party) Governments have been seen from time to time in Canada, Newfoundland, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe, National parties, etc., in times of crisis and wars. But after a while, they have fallen apart. I believe this had happened because they tried to form the traditional form of government with a PM and other ministers (with unequal power vested in the ministries – home, finance, industries, etc., being more important than others); and of course, many of the MPs left without any ministerial power. They could not distribute various ministries in a manner satisfactory to all parties and their members. Hence those ministries fell apart after a while.
I believe, if they had tried to run the government without ministers along the lines suggested above, they probably would have had a better chance of survival. Possibly, it might have been in vogue all over the world, and the world might have been different. Well, they lost their chance, but let us not lose our chance to make the world a better place to live.
-Dr. Satinath Choudhary is a retired professor, physically living in New York, but at heart, living in India as a full-time activist. Please feel free to send your comments to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org