What If We Had the Right to Recall Our Leaders

Will the right to recall politicians work in the Indian electoral system?

Published: Sep 13, 2011
What If We Had the Right to Recall Our Leaders
Image: A Sarthak/ Fotocorp
Team Anna claims that most people in Kapil Sibal's constituency are unhappy with him

Imagine having the power to recall your MLA or MP if he stopped paying attention to his constituency. That is the power of the Right to Recall, the next item on Anna Hazare’s agenda. Recall is a powerful tool to make politicians accountable since it does not require any corruption charges against them. It requires between 25 percent and 50 percent of the electorate to be dissatisfied by the MP/MLA’s performance.

So, instead of an opinion poll that Team Anna carried out in Kapil Sibal’s constituency, they could have campaigned for a recall vote and if, like the survey, 90 percent believed that Sibal had stopped representing them, they could have removed him from Parliament!

Switzerland and the USA pioneered this concept in the late 19th century. But most constitutional experts and political observers have panned the idea of recall in India.

mg_56102_right_to_recall_280x210.jpg“Given the number of people in an Indian constituency as well as our electoral system (first past the post), recall is an impractical idea made fashionable by arm chair critics. It works when the population of the constituency is small,” says Subhash C. Kashyap, former secretary general of Lok Sabha and author of several books on Indian constitution and polity. He says that a parliamentary constituency in India has 20 lakh to 30 lakh voters. If 50 percent of them need to petition for a recall through a signature campaign, it would be impractical to verify all signatures.

In the US, where 18 states have the provision to recall at the state level and 36 at the local level, 75 percent of all recalls happened at the city council or school board level. At the state level, California initiated 32 gubernatorial recall attempts since 1911, but the 2003 recall, when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, was the first ever to lead to a vote.

In India, the winning candidate has just 10 percent to 20 percent of the total votes. “Does that mean you will keep recalling all elected representatives?” asks Kashyap.

M.R. Madhavan of PRS Legislative Research says, “A recall may work against the electorate since the politician will be wary of taking tough decisions that may endanger his position in the short-term even though they may be beneficial for the public in the longer term,” he says.

(This story appears in the 23 September, 2011 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Hemen Parekh

    ROMP - A Panacea ? In past few years , our Lok Sabha has been repeatedly paralyzed by slogan shouting MPs Perhaps , the past two weeks were the worst in the history of Lok Sabha , with no business conducted Someone suggested that MPs be made to lose their salaries for this period , following the universally / legally accepted rule : No Work , No Pay This won't work . Our crore-pati MPs could not care a hoot for loss of pay ! Only thing that might work : A mobile app called , " ROMP / Recall Our MP " ( Idea for a Start-Up ? ) Only voters who qualify as follows , will be permitted to use this App , in order to recall an MP : * He must be on Electoral Roll * He must have actually voted ( even if NOTA ) , in the last general election { This criteria is bound to boost voting percentage to 95 % ! No need to make voting compulsory ! } * He can " Vote to Recall " , only MP who got elected from the constituency from where he cast his vote in last election * He can vote only if there is no Criminal charges filed against him * The App itself will accept his " Rating / Vote " only on two days of the year announced by the Election Commission for each constituency * Any other criteria that readers may wish to suggest ( crowd-sourcing ) ROMP will show following criteria , with " YES " or " NO " buttons against each : ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- LOG-IN : # Suspend MP for next Session................................ YES.......NO # Recall MP.............................................................YES ..... NO Justify your recommendation by " Rating " your MP , below ( Unless rated on each criteria , your vote will be invalid ) Is this MP ( who is being rated by you ) : # Honest.............................................. YES........NO # Of high Integrity................................. YES........ NO # Sincere.............................................. YES........ NO # Hard-working .................................... YES........ NO # Punctual.............................................. YES....... NO # Dignified............................................ YES........ NO # Follows Speaker's Orders..................... YES........ NO # Good Listener....................................... YES......... NO # Awaits his turn to speak.......................... YES........ NO # Asks only relevant questions.................. YES........ NO # Approachable to Voters.......................... YES....... NO # Answers Voters' Emails promptly............... YES...... NO # Provides regular feedback to Voters ............. YES.......NO # Addresses other MPs with respect............... YES..........NO SUBMIT ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Conditions governing use of ROMP : > It can be downloaded from the web site of Election Commission , upon filling up a form, requiring all kinds of proof that you are a genuine voter > Upon being satisfied ( that you are a genuine voter ) , the Server will issue a User ID and Password, to log in before you can use the App. It would be better still , if biometric identification is integrated with the App , since AADHAR cards are already having such identification > ROMP can be downloaded only once > At least 66 % of the Voters who had actually voted in that Constituency during the last General Election , should take part in ROMP event for it to be considered valid > Only in case more than 2/3rd ( > 66 % ) of " Ratings " cast recommend Suspension or Recall , will the Election Commission / Speaker act according to People's Mandate > However , in case where those 66 % are divided between " Recall " and " Suspend " , then " Suspend " will prevail > Rating results will be made public on Election Commission web site on the next day and also published in leading Newspapers I do believe that the present NDA government is keen to introduce / pass , " RIGHT TO RECALL BILL " in Lok Sabha as part of Electoral Reforms Except that the combined opposition may defeat it in Rajya Sabha ! Which MP would want to sign his own death-warrant ? But even without a legal backing , I feel ROMP would have a salutary effect on the behavior of our MPs , who would know that they are being watched, and their conduct is being evaluated ! - and will be made public !

    on Aug 7, 2015
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