Reformist Jairam Moots Limitation of Terms for MPs, Clean Poll Funds

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The Economic Times, May 02, 2014

As he sets off for another round of hectic campaigning in Andhra Pradesh,which goes to polls on May 7,Congress strategist Jairam Ramesh is thinking ahead of a plan for political reforms that the system is in dire need of.From term limits and state funding of elections to ensure that politics isnt the preserve of a few, to regeneration of political parties, to creating a community of wise men, Ramesh has an idea or two that he is not shy to air.

Ramesh,who is on his second term as Rajya Sabha MP, believes that term limits are essential for political parties to regenerate. believe in term limits three consecutive terms for the Lok Sabha and two for Rajya Sabha. The 15th Lok Sabha had about 80-odd MPs in the age group of 31 to 45 years, some on their second, and even third terms, would it be the end of electoral politics for them as well Take a break and then come back. I am saying no more than three consecutive terms, Ramesh stressed.

A political party has to renew itself,and cant have one seat bottled up for generations. We have to get out of the kith and kin politics, Ramesh argued explaining how his idea of term limits could help making this happen. Of course, Ramesh made it clear that the term limit rule wouldnt apply to party leaders like Rahul Gandhi, who is contesting for his third term representing Amethi in the Lok Sabha.

But term limits is not the only idea he has for renewing political parties. Ramesh turns to another hot button issue election campaign finances. We have to clean up election finances. A votary of state funding of elections, Ramesh is of the view that the Rs 4000-odd crore spent on the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) would be better used as corpus to fund elections. The system of MPLADS needs to be abolished, and many states have an MLA version of the scheme,

so that would be another Rs 4000 crore. All this money, the interest from it, can be legitimately used for election funding, he said, adding that there must have a system to recuse the cost of elections. The cost of elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana is Rs 15 crore for a candidate contesting assembly elections, while a candidate for a Parliament seat spends about Rs 50 crore. This basically means that only one of four categories of people can contest elections real estate developers and dealers, industrialists, construction company owners and those with accumulated wealth.

Honest people just cant hope to contest elections. The Congress leader, who represents Andhra Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha argues that state funding of elections would open the door for honest people to contest.Ramesh,who has in the past advocated a retirement age of 70 for politicians, says that the country cant continue on partisan lines. He suggests that it is time to have a community of wise men and women who can think beyond partisan lines, taking a wider perspective.

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