The Chief Election Commissioner, Mr.Gopalaswamy truly stirred the hornet’s nest by his open demand to remove Election Commissioner Navin Chawla from his post. In a detailed letter to the President of India, he cited several instances to prove that the EC’s conduct was partisan, suggesting that he has a soft corner for the Congress Party. On the other hand, the Congress Party subtly insinuated that Mr.Gopalaswamy who was handpicked by the BJP was leaning towards that party.
Mr.Gopalaswamy perhaps scored a point or two, but diminished the respect and aura of the institution of the Election Commission in the eyes of the entire nation.
Countless are the instances of state Governors and secretaries of various central and state ministries flouting established norms and procedures to satisfy their political masters or the parties that appointed them.
When politicians and criminals of the lowest order become our ministers and rulers because of the compulsions of electoral politics, we hang our heads in shame, instead of holding them high as poet Rabindranath Tagore envisioned.
The Americans have an efficient system to make sure that they have the best people at the helm. In the grueling primaries the best and the brightest in the Republican and Democratic parties jostle among one another ,weeding out many hopeful presidential aspirants till only two candidates are left standing to slug it out in the last round. The media gives the Americans all the information they need about the two Republican and Democratic candidates through a system of debates and extensive analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. And on the day of reckoning, the Americans can take a very informed decision about the person who will guide their destiny.
This is only the beginning of their very fascinating system of deciding who is going to fill more than 2000 other high posts in the American government. The newly elected President nominates those whom he considers the best for various jobs, sifting through the background of each of them. In the case of Obama, he gave them all a 63 item questionnaire covering dark and gr ey areas. The questions were very uncomfortable, such as “Ever taken a puff of marijuana? Overlooked a work permit for your household help? Grazed with a lobbyist at Washington’s top tables? Slung a “friendly” arm around an intern? Or been a bit too relaxed with your taxes?”
Once the president nominates a candidate, the FBI conducts an investigation on behalf of the executive branch. On top of the vetting by the President, aided by an FBI investigation, the US Senate has to confirm all of these appointments. More than 2,000 appointments by the President – mainly those of Cabinet positions, Supreme Court justices, ambassadors, U.S. attorneys, federal judges and the heads of some government agencies and commissions require Senate confirmation. The Senate has various committees set up to address specific subject areas, to go through the background of the nominated persons. The senators go about their job very professionally, grilling the high-profile appointees like school children and at times shredding their reputation to pieces in full public glare.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s confirmation was delayed a few days after revelations that he had failed to pay $34,000 in Social Security and Medicare taxes. Daschle, the former Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, and Obama’s choice as health and human services secretary withdrew from the race as news that he failed to pay some taxes in the past created quite a stir.
“I think I screwed up,” Obama said of Daschle’s appointment fiasco in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And I take responsibility for it and we’re going to make sure we fix it so it doesn’t happen again.”
“Ultimately, I campaigned on changing Washington and bottom-up politics,” Obama said. “And I don’t want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards — one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.”
As Obama’s head went down in contrition for his inadvertent mistake, I am sure the heads of the Americans were held high, proud of their President and their country. The Americans seem to have discovered the values of the India of old.
Perhaps we should ape the Americans here. We deserve a better system – to bring to the fore the honest, the best and the truly meritorious people – to preside over our destinies.
Can we create a wave and push for this change?
Image Credit: Jurvetson