As the nation shifts into election mode, here is a list of 10 things I would do - in random order - if I were to become the Prime Minister of India with a clear mandate.
I have deliberately left out economic issues, and things like the crying need for a uniform civil code, because that would require another list.
In other words, here are 10 reasons why I will never become Prime Minister.
One: Scrap article 370
If we truly believe that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, then we must scrap this discriminatory article immediately. If too many people object, as they surely will, I would raise some other issue to divert the nation's attention, and then push this through as an emergency measure. Simultaneously. I would charge all the secessionists - and those who raise Pakistani flags on Indian soil - with treason and sedition. Escort them to the border, and give them 10 minutes to disappear into their avowed homeland. If they are still there after 10 minutes, treat them as intruders and gun them down. Unless you are part of a diplomatic mission, you cannot live on Indian soil while swearing allegiance to another country.
Two: Scrap caste-based quotas
Enough already. Such quotas only perpetuate and widen the caste divide, turning us into a nation of 'Backwards'. Quotas should solely be based on stringent economic criteria, and only for education, never for jobs. The only exception: those who opt for two years of military training while in college.
Three: Retire politicians at 60
Perhaps 65, but no more. Why should a nation of youngsters be run by a bunch of old fogies? How can we expect these ancient 'leaders' to even understand, leave alone address, the aspirations of young India?
Four: Explore a presidential system of government
Or any other system which allows the chief executive to last five years without having to worry about coalition politics, an oft-used excuse for unkept promises and shoddy, inept governance. Hold the President/Prime Minister fully accountable for the acts of the government.
Five: Death sentence for corrupt politicians
And bureaucrats. And any other scumbags who believe it's their holy right to rape and loot the nation with impunity.
Six: Evolve a truly national, transparent, long-term foreign policy
Strengthen the foreign service with powers that transcend domestic tantrums and the compulsions of coalition governance. Tamil Nadu cannot dictate how we deal with Sri Lanka. West Bengal cannot tell us how to deal with Bangladesh. We need to draw very clear, transparent red lines on territorial integrity and sovereignty, and treat any violation as an act of war. And we certainly must stop offering rasgullas to PLA (China's People Liberation Army) troops who intrude into Indian territory.
Seven: Revamp the education system
Forget learning by rote. Focus on imparting skills and abilities which make youngsters employable. At the same time, encourage and fund academicians and entrepreneurs to pursue their passions, with minimal government interference.
Eight: Penalise those who exceed or flout cost or timelines on government contracts
You cannot take 10 years to finish something originally planned for five, and expect to be paid more for it. This also applies to government institutions like the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation). Once agreed upon, timelines and costs should be non-negotiable, and have fixed penalties for every day of delay.
Nine: Limit VVIP protection to the President, Prime Minister, and chief ministers
And perhaps, for the sake of protocol, the chief justice of India. All others must clearly understand that their job is to serve, not rule. Why does a leader need protection from the very people he professes to represent? Our police and military personnel are meant to protect the common man and the country respectively, not some corrupt MP or MLA with a dozen criminal cases pending against him. If such 'leaders' do feel the need for such protection, they should pay market rates to private agencies - from their own pockets. Of course, they should definitely be barred from disrupting traffic with their motorcades.
Ten: Give the military a say in strategic planning
All the guns, tanks, nuclear missiles, fighter planes, submarines and aircraft carriers in the world are useless if we lack the spine to use them when needed. We must understand and accept two things: One, it is not necessary for neighbours to love each other. Two, it is futile to constantly blame Pakistan’s military, the ISI and its pet jihadi dogs for every atrocity on Indian soil, unless we are able and willing to do something about it. What stops us from putting a public bounty on the heads of Hafiz Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim, and promising not just money, but protection - and even Indian citizenship if needed - to anyone who takes them out?
China and Pakistan - and almost every other nation - do what they do to further their own strategic interests. We must clearly define and protect ours, and we cannot do this without the active participation of our forces.
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Ramananda Sengupta is a foreign and strategic affairs analyst.