If you have the power to elect your representative to the assemblies or Parliament, you should also have the power to remove them if they fail in their duties. This is the crux of the bill moved by BJP MP Varun Gandhi with the provision that if 75% of those who voted are not satisfied with the performance of the elected representative, he or she should be recalled.
To implement the right to recall, Mr Gandhi has proposed an amendment in the Representation of the People Act 1951 through his Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2016 by which the process can be initiated by any voter of the constituency by filing a petition before the Speaker and which is signed by at least one fourth of the total number of electors. This bill merits serious consideration.
We have seen instances of elected representatives not even visiting their constituencies once after the polls, returning only to ask for votes the next time around. The people elect them based on their promises, which invariably revolve around basics like drinking water, sanitation, health, education and jobs. Often these are forgotten once the seat is secured. But people have no recourse but to wait till the next election to make their displeasure felt.
The right to recall has been implemented in several European countries with good effect. The move would make the elected representatives accountable and also usher in transparency. The caveat is that this should not be misused by vested interests motivated by political vendetta.
No law can be considered to be cast in stone. The Constitution has been amended numerous times, so there is no argument against taking another look at this Act. With social media, the growth of the electronic media and the Right to Information Act, people are far more aware today of what they are entitled to, and with this they are demanding accountability from those they vote to power. There are cases of sitting MPs and MLAs being charged with crimes, some of them heinous. In this event, they should be recalled and a fresh election held for their seat.
This bill would put power back into the hands of the people which is the cornerstone of our democracy. People are also increasingly fed up of the manner in which assembly and parliamentary proceedings are often conducted with no real business being transacted.
The right to recall would be welcomed by the public, though it may not go down too well with many in the political establishment. This is an idea that should be debated and discussed both in Parliament and civil society forums. Taking into account the various strands of opinion, Parliament should consider this proposal.