04 June 2014

An Indian Parliamentarian is despondent*

I should be celebrating my party’s unprecedented electoral victory.  I am not saying I was disappointed, don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that the BJP took the Congress Party to the cleaners.  I am thrilled that Narendra Modi whipped Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi.  I raised a cheer or too.  I welled up watching my leader being sworn in as Prime Minister.  I had my euphoric moment.  But now is now, euphoric moment has passed and the morning after has dawned. 

I would be lying if I said I expected to be made a minister.  There are so many of us and even if we had a bigger cabinet, I would have been surprised if I was one of the chosen few.  Still, there’s a tinge of sadness even if I resolve to be reasonable about it.  For once, my nationalism took a step back and I looked wistfully at non-Indian realities. My gaze, in particular, shifted from Narendraji’s face to that of one of the guests, Mahinda Rajapaksa.  My thoughts left Delhi and landed in Colombo. I closed my eyes and started comparing and contrasting.  That cabinet and this, that constitution and ours.  If only I was a member of the Sri Lankan Parliament!

People might compare our 45 minister with the dozens and dozens of ministers in Sri Lanka, but they should also divide the number of MPs by the number of ministers.  That would show that we have a tiny cabinet which might fit one of the drawers in Sri Lanka’s massive ministerial chest.  If only I was a politician in Sri Lanka, I can’t help thinking.

After the ceremony I went home and did some research.  I figured out why Sri Lanka has so many ministers.  It’s about the constitution, the electoral system and about a landmark decision of the Supreme Court that helped MPs cross from one party to another. I should qualify the last: it’s about one-way traffic – from Opposition ranks to those of the Government. 

The proportional representation system, I found it, made it virtually impossible for any party to get an outright majority on its own at any general election. Coalitions were necessary.  Coalition agreements naturally included pledges of ministerial portfolios.  It gets even better after elections.  Governments that want to consolidate can move from a simple majority to enjoying a decisive advantage in numbers, even to the point of having a two-thirds majority.  All they have to do is to coax some opposition MPs to cross-over.  That’s on the surface.  I found out that the carrots offered are unbelievable, that they are rich in and of themselves and also have the potential to generate many more benefits. 

I found that the President can appoint a minister from any party represented in Parliament. In other words any MP is up for grabs, subject of course to the particular MP being willing.  Well, who would be unwilling if the offer made is tailored to stated requirement?  Heck it doesn’t even matter which party one contests from.  That political heaven, folks.  There’s always a good chance of being offered a place in Ministerial Paradise in Sri Lanka. 

Small is beautiful for many reasons, I’ve concluded.  India is just too big a monster.  Sri Lanka is perfect.  I don’t know the name of the judge but the man who sanctioned a pathway to a destination called ‘Minister’ ought to be called the Patron Saint of Politicians.     

I am in India.  I feel underprivileged, all of a sudden. 

*In a parallel universe of course



sajic said...

Funny! But let us not forget that India is made up of several Federal states and each state has its own very powerful Ministers. SO-altogether many more than 44! I dont think any of them would want to transfer to Sri Lanka.