July 12, 2020
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Alternate Agenda

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Alternate Agenda
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AS the prospect of a hung Parliament looms large, there are initiatives f rom many quarters, political and non-political, to prevent the instability that will ensue in such an event. On March 15, Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan, an apolitical body, invited about 50 eminent citizens to a workshop to shape a national agenda. At the end, it decided to approach political parties with some consensus demands— electoral reforms, denial of tickets to criminals, decentralisation of power to municipalities and panchayats.

The idea behind these moves, say the votaries, is that even if there is a hung Parliament, there would be issues uniting the parties— a common, national agenda.

The workshop follows the release of a 15-page Minimum Programme for National Regeneration by another group of politicians, journalists and economists— including R.K. Hegde, B.G. Verghese and A.M. Khusro. The paper seeks 30 per cent representation for women in all legisla-tures, autonomy to states and local bodies, reorganisation of larger states, institu-tions to deal with corruption at all levels, and autonomy to the police as well as the stat e 's investigating apparatus.

"Competitive populism for electoral gains could threaten the national economy and spell the disintegration of the social fabric," the document says.

The participants decided to act as a catalyst group for political, social and moral reforms without contesting elections. In an interesting counter to Biju Patnaik's recently expressed desire for a brief spell of army rule, the workshop got Gen. K. Sundarji (Retd) to rebuff him. "It will be total disaster if the military rules this country. It's possible only in a democracy that neither the executive nor the legislature can muzzle the Supreme Court. And who knows what lies still undisclosed in the hawala case?" he asked.

The idea is to "corner the political parties into acting according to the programme." That, precisely, is the catch. The fate of this well-meaning initiative hinges on how, if at all, politicians respond to it.

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