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The recall recourse

Bihar introduces the right to recall corporators. Has it thought through the consequences?

Written by The Indian Express |
March 30, 2011 12:54:23 am

The Nitish Kumar government has decided to give citizens the right to recall elected corporators,if they are dissatisfied with their work. This right is set to make its way into the amended Bihar Municipal Act — if two-thirds of the voters decide that their Nagar Parishad and Nagar Panchayat representatives have let them down,then they can take away their jobs.

Recall laws have been introduced in varying forms across the world. Those who desire an elected representative be removed have to garner enough support on a petition,with representation from those who elected the official in the first place. Then a recall election is held to decide whether the incumbent should be removed,and to decide on a replacement. Across the world,many countries have the tool,but deploy it very rarely,and apply very rigorous criteria to check against arbitrariness. A couple of years back,Chhattisgarh experimented with the recall option,and many suggest extending it to the state and national level. Wresting accountability from those you voted for is a fine aim,but the right to punish and sack officials should be used sparingly. This direct democracy may seem empowering,but it can easily be twisted for partisan ends,it doubles the cost of filling the post,and can lead to endless electioneering.

Has the Bihar government mulled the obvious underside of the right to recall,as it claims credit for the move? This comes close on the heels of another fine-sounding lightbulb idea by Nitish Kumar,the doing away of the MLA local development fund,which left too much to the discretion of legislators. Though the scrapping was announced with great aplomb,the policy lingers on in a different form as a “chief minister’s fund”. Recently,he objected to the Seeds Bill,opposing Bt maize trials in Bihar in a hasty,reflexive manner. After his electoral triumph,Nitish Kumar has been on a roll,unveiling policy innovations almost on a daily basis. While much of this is to be applauded,there’s also a case for caution and clear-headedness. Instead of looking for whiz-bang changes that could possibly be subverted,like the right to recall,Bihar needs sustained,sensible administration.

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