Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Domicile requirement

The Supreme Court has yesterday ruled on the PIL filed by Kuldip Nayyar et al, that Rajya Sabha MPs don't have to be domiciled in the states they represent. I disagree. It's a terrible injustice to the Federal nature of our parliament, if some states are under represented in the upper house simply b'cos parties have to satisfy politicians who are otherwise unelectable from their own states.

Lets take the most visible example, Manmohan Singh who is a RS member from Assam. Will it not be good for Assam (forever struggling to get a voice for itself) to be represented by its own resident than by an outsider even if he were a Prime Minister? It hardly has a few seats in RS and even that is being denied to its residents. Besides it would make sense if Manmohan Singh wants to represent Delhi having lived there for long. But if Congress cannot get him elected from the Delhi Assembly, he has no business sitting in Parliament. Incidentally the only occassion he ever contested an election, South Delhi residents found him unfit to represent them! Besides why did this "self righteous, educated..." god of the media/middleclass fail to turn up to vote last May in Assam?

Ofcourse Manmohan Singh is far better than the scores of other hopeless politicians who represent states about which they know very little and only have a namesake residence/voter registration. Thirunavukarasar represents Madhya Pradesh simply b'cos Jayalalitha disallowed BJP from fielding him in Pudhukottai! For heaven's sake, does he atleast know Hindi? Thanks to the Dravidian parties, Tamilnadu doesn't get these psuedo MPs but other states aren't that lucky.

On the otherhand, we cannot deny any Indian the right to contest from anywhere. So an acceptable middle ground would be to allow a person to contest from a state where he is currently a resident and has voted before (the latest occassion he did so).

Arguing on the same lines, it should be mandatory for a candidate in the Lok Sabha or Assembly election, to be a registered voter in that constituency. This is not going to prevent politicians from changing constituencies whenever they become unpopular in their current ones! But since voter registration closes a few months before the election, we can minimize last minute haggling for party tickets. Obviously the voters don't deserve rank outsiders who come out of the blue weeks before the polling date. Besides political parties owe it to their workers who would prefer local party leaders.

I once voted against the respected Tamil singer Nagoor Haneefa b'cos he was an outsider even though a musician as MLA would have been nice and several Tamil scholars including Kavikko Abdul Rahman campaigned for him. Unfortunatly this domicile requirement would mean that we can no longer enjoy comedies like Sonia Gandhi being chased by Sushma Swaraj and Vijayasanthi on the last day of nominations, to contest against her, wherever Sonia stealthly files her own. Sushma did catch up with her in Bellary, alright! So much for the self declared goddess of sacrifice!!

I have argued before in this column against the reserved constituencies for SC/STs and more importantly against the mother of all stupid reservations - the one for women! What do you call some 3/4th of the residents in scheduled constituencies being denied the right to contest elections? Reverse Untouchability?! And blime, why should males be treated as second class citizens in 33% of the constituencies? Obviously such reservation is good for the marginalized people. But it would make a lot more sense if poltical parties address this by fielding candidates based on these considerations. If I were to contest an election as an independent, I have every damn right to contest from anywhere I live and vote from.

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