Sunday, January 25, 2009
Currently we are faced with a situation where all parties practise vote bank politics. Parties try to get votes by either supporting or opposing specific caste or religion based vote-banks. In addition, our elections are getting increasing multi-polar so a cleverly cobbled together coalition of vote banks totalling 30-35% can result in a party or front achieving an absolute majority. The "letter" below represents a hypothetical but plausible realpolitik scenario. The radical centrist admires Mayawati's chutzpah, but would not neccesarily support the strategy suggested below for he is sympathetic to the Mandal report.
P.S. S.C. Mishra is a Brahmin BSP leader from UP considered the architect of Mayawati's Dalit, Brahmin, Muslim coalition which won an absolute majority with less than 30% of the popular vote in 2007.
We have achieved a great victory under you wise leadership when we won an absolute majority in the UP Vidhan Sabha by creating "new" coalition of Dalits, Brahmins & Muslims. We have taken the traditional Congress coalition and turned it upside down achieving a great victory for the Dalit cause.
We know your destiny is to become the Prime Minister of India by winning the national elections. However, as results in a number of other state elections have shown, the BSP can be a spoiler (mainly for the Congress) on many occasions may be difficult for the BSP to make a major mark on the national stage. I humbly submit that we can achieve our goal and transform national politics forever, if you can take a single bold step.
The BSP should take a stand AGAINST the recommendations of the Mandal commission !
It appears shocking at the outset that a party inspired by Ambedkar would take a stance against caste based reservation. In fact, every major party across the political spectrum whether it is the BJP, Congress or the left supports the recommendation of the Mandal commission because no party can ignore the fact that 40%-50% of the population of India are OBCs (The main beneficiaries of Mandal). No party can expect to survive ignoring this vote bank.
However, there exists an estimated 20% Anti-Mandal vote bank, consisting of the upper castes. Currently, no political party represents this "merit" vote bank because everyone supports Mandal. If a political party promised to roll back Mandal it would get the en-bloc support of this vote bank. In addition, you will achieve "instant" credibility among the intelligentsia who dominate the media. I am sure there will be many people hailing you as India's "Barack Obama". Of course we will lose some OBC support, but we don't get that much OBC support anyway. We just need to change our slogan Jai Bhim, Jai Parasuram to Jai Bhim, Jai Shri Ram.
By taking an anti-Mandal stance, and retaining the BSP's 20% dalit vote bank, we can cross the 40% threshold in a national election which should be sufficient for an absolute majority in a three way race. Of course, BSP would need to carefully select candidates using caste and "merit" considerations but this is something which we are already doing.
I am sure you will lead the BSP to a great victory in the next Lok Sabha elections, and fulfill your destiny by becoming the Prime Minister of India.
Forever you servant,
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Let us begin with three observations regarding government employees.
It is clear that the salaries received by government employees in spite of the pay increases specified in the sixth pay commission have not kept track with the salary increases in the private sector. In fact, salary discrepancies have reached dangerous proportions with serious impact on corruption and stability of the social and moral fabric of the nation.
On the other hand a significant portion of government expenditure is spent on salaries of government of government employees. It is estimated that the recommendations of the sixth pay commission alone will cause a 0.5% impact on the GDP of the nation. [Need to find a good number as to the percentage of Central/State Budget spent on employee salaries]. This number is sure to go up with continued pressure from every interest group which feels shortchanged. The trend of salaries taking up ever larger percentages of total expenditure is a recipe for fiscal disaster.
A third observation, is that most of us are frustrated with the corruption, slow pace and lack of flexibility exhibited in our interactions with government employees for the simplest of tasks. Most of us would not tolerate such service in the private sector, but when it comes to government we use a combination of bribes, influence and complaining acceptance to deal with the situation.
Is there a common sense way to solve these three issues with a single stroke, i.e. increase the compensation the government employees can earn, reduce the impact on the government expenditure and improve the quality of government services received by the common man. The answer is, yes.
If every government employee was able to earn up to four times their gross salary by providing "value added services" to the public then we could increase the potential compensation of every government employee by four times. These services could include anything that they could "legitimately" provide to the public. This will have an impact on both "dishonest" and "honest" government employees who would see a legitimate way to augment their income. For simple straightforward services one could create an efficient online market where there could actually be bidding for the lowest quote to allow market forces to rationalize the amount required for a particular service.
In addition, if the government employee had to pay a 12.5% service tax on this compensation then the government expenditure on these employees would actually go down by 50%. The transparency of the system could also be ensure by requiring any service for which the charge was more than a threshold amount (say Rs. 10,000) needed to be available online on the public record.
This system will not eliminate corruption (especially large scale corruption) but it will provide a serious disincentive for small scale corruption and improve the user experience of the private citizen with government, while improving compensation of government employees and reducing government expenditure.