India Intelligence Report
 

No Consensus on "Office of Profit"

 

The Government finally buried its misgivings on the developments leading to the resignation of Sonia Gandhi and led conversations with political parties to seek amendments to relevant laws so it can avoid nasty jolts to the democracy. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi is actively working on collating suggestions by political parties to draft an amendment to the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act of 1959. The Government is in a hurry to engage all senior leaders of all parties because of impending elections over the summer and also the number of heavyweights in the Congress and communist allies who are accused of holding an "office of profit.

The questions that need serious debate are as follows:

1) Should policy-makers be treated as employees or as senior managers of the Government? In the business world, most companies in the world will not allow an employee to hold other positions while working on its business. However, senior management of companies sits on multiple boards while ensuring their primary responsibility is not affected. There are strong checks in businesses on individual performance, contribution, participation, etc. Do we have such strict performance-based parameters for policy-makers in India?

 

2) Can policy-makers can seriously conceptualize, study, frame, negotiate, and implement policy when he/she is busy with other responsibilities? Is there a direct conflict of interest where a policy-maker can introduce, make, and influence policies when he or she can directly gain from such policy?

3) Should there be sufficient disclosure of investments, holdings, or interests (family, social, and friendship) in companies, institutions, or businesses? What should be the penalty for failure to disclose such conflicting interests? Who should monitor, manage, arbitrate, and adjudicate such conflicts? Should there be a bar on positions that will automatically generate such conflict?

4) What is the role of a policy-maker in an "office of profit?" What is the expected gain, profit, or benefits? Does the policy maker disclose those details? Is the policy-maker the only person who can do the job or is it possible for others to do as good if not better job as the policy-maker?

Any amendments to the law will have to answer these questions. However, many feel that given the stakes involved where "office of profit" are actively sought to gain power, influence, bribes, access, etc. This is precisely why the law was frame as it was and it was political greed to aggrandize power, wealth, and influence that compromised the law and governance.

While political consultations are on, the communists are cautioning the Congress not to be tempted to call for snap polls believing that the "Sonia sacrifice" will win them the vote. Except in New Delhi, the Congress has not political standing in most states and it is impossible that they will gain any more than what they already have.

Meanwhile, many cabinet members are reportedly happy that Sonia Gandhi resigned her position as Chairperson of the National Advisory Council as she was seen more as a "Super Prime Minister." Some allies are even questioning the so-called sacrifice of Prime Ministerial position wondering what the logic in turning down the top job only to lobby and accept another position that was considered very powerful. Some Cabinet Ministers privately say that influence peddlers close to Gandhi were pushing for unreasonable and impractical policies.

A deluge of petitions are coming to The Election Commission where parties in opposition are petitioning it to throw out the party in power and those in power unseating an inconvenient opponent. Hence, Congressmen in Jharkhand are seeing the dismissal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Government; the BJP in Uttaranchal is looking for the dismissal of 13 ministers in the Congress-led Government; the Tripura Governor D.N. Sahay has forwarded several petitions seeking the expulsion of communists.

Since most of the parties are affected at various levels and the communists pressing the Government for change, an amended is expected to be circulated, accepted, and implemented within the few days.