Category Archives: Featured

White Money in Indian politics: When shall We see that?

Only 10 % of the total donations for all the major political parties in India are from known sources. In other words, 90 % donations are from unaccounted sources which means it is a  black money for the recipient. As you may know,a political party can choose NOT to disclose the name of the donor for a donation value of less than Rupees 20, 000. The political parties have been misusing this loophole to their advantage. A major exception is Aam Aadmi Party which documents a donation of even Rs one. This way, AAP voluntarily reveals 100 percent of its monetary donations and the names of donors.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) – an NGO- while analyzing the funding of political parties for the year 2012-13, noted that one of the most common source of income for the political parties is by selling “coupons”.  Well,  selling coupon is an easier way: Sell as many as you can under the value of Rupees 20,000 and no need to take pains to identify the buyer!! You may read further details in the news item by clicking here.

For the sake of records, Indian National Congress raised a bounty of Rupees 425 Crores during the fiscal year 2012, while BJP netted 324 Cr Rupees. I was surprised to see that Communist Party Marxist (CPM) was able to garner monetary donations to the tune of Rupees 126 Crores. Who would  donate for an outdated left ideology which Churchill rightly said “is a  philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery”. 

 

Discoms playing flirt

The Government companies make/generate electricity. In Delhi, the distribution or supply of electricity (power) was privatized long back. Such companies are called Discoms (Distributing Companies) and they distribute electricity to consumers and charge tariff for that. Ambanis-owned company BSES is one such example operating in Delhi.

Right in the beginning of its coming, Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party raised the issue of high price of electricity in Delhi.  For Assembly elections (held in December of 2013), AAP made it an electoral plank and promised that if voted to power, it would reduce the electricity prices by 50 %. One of the ways to reduce the prices, said AAP, would be to audit the Discoms because in AAP’s view, the latter were a den of corruption and crony-capitalism. So if that leakage is contained, it would automatically help reduce prices, argued AAP.

AAP came into power , Arvid Kejriwal became the Chief Minister of Delhi in December 2013. Kejriwal ordered auditing of Discoms in a matter of days after becoming Chief Minister. Unfortunately, AAP decided to quit the government on the moral issue of Jan Lokpal Bill after a mere 49 days duration.

The auditing of Discoms however continued but the latest reports show that the move is not taking us anywhere. As this news indicates,  the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) Mr Shashi Kant Sharma in a scathing attack on Discoms said that the companies were not cooperating with the CAG to hand over the data and information.  He has written to LG Mr. Najeeb Jung (Delhi is under President’s Rule and LG runs the administration in such a situation) informing him that the 3 Discoms in Delhi were hampering the progress of auditing by not providing complete data and has requested the LG to intervene.

This is a sorry state of affairs. The Discoms are not above government, yet are less than willing to cooperate because of the nexus between politicians and corporate houses where they complement each others, often ignoring the interests of the public. In other words, crony-capitalism often benefits those sitting in the power-corridors and the private corporations. The LG must intervene at the earliest and direct the Discoms to fully cooperate with the powerful constitutional body of CAG. CAG must also exert pressure to bring the defaulting companies to the task. The people in Delhi deserve the quality supply of electricity at reduced prices.

 

 

Aam Aadmi Party:The shaker and Mover?

The results of Delhi Legislative Assembly elections held on December 4, 2013 are out. A total of 1.19 crore voters casted their ballots to decide the future of 810 candidates, 224 out of them being independent candidates. Congress party and BJP + SAD combine contested all the 70 seats, whereas the new entrant Aaam Aadmi Party, and BSP contested 69 seats each. The results were declared on December 8, with BJP alliance getting 32 seats, Aam Aadmi Party 28, Congress 8 and others claiming 2. The Sheila Dixit-led Congress party was rooted out, with its seats going down from 43 to 8. In terms of vote share, BJP received 34 % votes, AAP 30 % and Congress 25 %. By the time of submission of the article, the verdict is still not out as to who is going to form the government. BJP has emerged the single largest party, but is woefully farther from the magic number of 36 to be able to form the government.

AAP with a tally of 28 legislators has already declared that it would sit in the opposition and would neither seek support nor extend to any other party. With the entry of Aam Aadmi Party, the contest had become triangular. The media had predicted that the outcome would be a hung assembly, with BJP emerging as the single largest party. Whereas the prediction turned out to be largely true, what many experts did not realize the anger of the voters against the ruling party, decimating it to mere single digit number (8).

Whatever be the outcome of the results in terms of government formation, Delhi assembly elections are a watershed in the history of Indian politics. The emergence of Aam Aadmi Party has demonstrated a few defining characteristics in Indian politics.

Aam Aadmi Party has amply proved that elections can be fought with white money donated by public. It also has exemplified that if there is a will, money influence can be decreased in politics. The political pundits and cynics would never have thought that a newbie would be able to generate required money purely through public donations in a transparent manner. The party fought the whole elections with 20 Crores in coffers which included election expenses and organizational expenses.

AAP also set a new paradigm in Indian politics by deciding to implement what we call the phenomenon of primaries or caucuses as practiced in several parts of the world. The candidature of the aspirants for the assembly elections were decided at the primary level (constituency level), rather than the high ups in the party as is the tradition of several major parties in India.

AAP also stirred the Indian politics by rejecting the caste and community equation in fielding the candidates. In Delhi elections, caste and religion were not the primary basis of selecting a candidate and the election results have shown that it went well with the electorate.

These elections have demonstrated another interesting phenomenon of what we call “Citizen Politics”. Aam Aaadmi deciding to take a plunge in politics, aam aadmi deciding to contest elections and successfully winning several seats gave a jolt to the usual stereotypes that politics was a domain of the wealthy and the privileged few. Also, the methods adopted by AAP like door to door campaigning, engaging people in nukkad meetings, music walks, metro train campaigns not only gave them time to connect to the electorate, they also proved to be very economical models of election campaigning. In fact, topi (cap) and jhadoo (broom) were good eye catchers for the public.

The spirit of volunteerism in politics is another fascinating aspect that AAP was able to successfully demonstrate and sustain. The overwhelming response of people coming from out of Delhi and India to volunteer their time and skills took many by surprise. Whereas other parties have established a culture of paid workers, AAP was able to mobilize public participation for the political action.

With the emergence of what Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party terms as “Clean Politics”, the other political parties would be forced to adopt the agenda! AAP has come in clear support of measures like political parties coming under RTI scanner, a stronger Lokpal Bill, electoral reforms like Right to Reject and Right to Recall. Thus, other political parties have been forced to re-look at their stands. And as we know, sometimes the political parties take up the agenda of the challenger to keep the latter at bay. It remains to be seen how much AAP would be able to shake up the existing political establishment, but undoubtedly the era of new politics demanding more accountability and transparency has arrived!

Culture of Politics needs to change in India

Having returned to Chicago  after spending 6 weeks in Delhi, yesterday I called a young friend of mine who lives in Delhi. I was narrating my experiences of volunteering for Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi that I did in last several weeks. Even though he works and stays in Delhi, he asked me when are the elections in Delhi. I explained that the Delhi assembly elections are due in next 90 days, hardly 3 months away.

This young man is professionally educated, a socially spirited guy, wants to make a career in non-profit sector and in general well-informed. But he also represents the one catch that is typical of Indian youth: total indifference to political action! I was surprised that he does not know that Delhi- the Capital of India- is facing state assembly elections in next 3 months and that the current Chief Minister Sheila Dixit has already started doling out freebies at the expense of state exchequer to cling to power. He does not know that last 15 years have witnessed the governance of Congress Party in Delhi and the living conditions in Delhi have gone from bad to worse. A few years back, he decided to come to Delhi from a small town because he rightly felt that Delhi would provide better opportunities, but clearly never tried to see why Delhi as a city was so sick. Is not the poor governance responsible for the poor health of Delhi?

This dichotomy is a bit perplexing!

The youth today knows and understands the poor infra structure that the country has: poor roads, poor public utility services (educational institutes, hospitals, and so on).

The youth today knows and understands that there is a massive corruption and un-accountability in the government.

The youth today knows and understands that the politicians are not up to par. They are in general corrupt, incompetent and self-centered.

The youth today knows and understands that despite India having a massive pool of talent and wealth, as a country we are poor and not developing at the expected pace.

The youth today knows and understands that many other parts of world provide better quality of life to their citizens.

Yet, the callousness of the youth to politics is appalling. Their hesitation to be politically conscious is a matter of concern. The youth of today knows the ills, knows the diagnosis, yet is unwilling to align for a political engagement to seek solutions.

He/she thinks that the first job is to make a professional career for himself or herself and somehow the ills of country will be taken care by some other guys! (s)he fulfills his societal role by volunteering for an NGO or at religious places, but somehow wishes that some other well-intentioned guys will go to politics and give the citizens a better life. The Indian youth is very find of saying: “I hate politics”!

The youth understands and demands a better India, but shys away from the arena of political engagement and civic engagement. I always feel that unless we align with political action, the  less brilliant minds will continue to occupy the political arena and we shall continue to get sub-standard quality of life in India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anna: Please do not miss a chance

Well known social and political crusader Mr. Anna Hazare has re-launched his campaign against corruption today on January 30, 2013. The campaign named Gantantra Abhiyaan has been launched form the famous Gandhi  maidan in Patna. Bihar is the birrthplace of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan.
AnnaAs the readers might re-collect, Anna Hazare had started the campaign under the title “India Aganst Corruption” (IAC) with Arvind Kejriwal in 2010. The whole movement was focused on a one-point agenda: to secure the passage of Janlokpal Bill. The movement caught up to the fancy of the whole nation and singularly brought corruption into focus. It was no less than a revolution, it seemed as if each and every Indian was rallying behind Team Anna. But there was a miniscule class of Indians who was not impressed. Miniscule but powerful! Yes, I am referring to our Parliamentarians. These “brown sahebs” did everything to diffuse and dilute the situation. Thus, even today the Janlokpal Bill is waiting to see the light of the day in Parliament.

However, the IAC movement -frustrated by the unwilingness of the Parliamentarians to focus on the the reforms- got split, with Arvind Kejriwal esposing a direct political route. Even with the huge surge in the momentum of IAC movement, the whole phenomenon would be best labelled as fence-sitting! To grab the bull by horn, you have to get into the ring and that was what Kejriwal advocated: He and some of the core members walked away to form a political party now called Aam AAdmi Party.

Thus, Anna was left with IAC in September 2012. After a few weeks of debating the issues, Anna too relinquished the bannerof IAC (now IAC is a separate movement, headed by one gentleman Sarbajit Roy and his team) and decided to re-launch his agitation under his own NGO’s name.

Loksabha elections are hardly 14 months away (will take place sometime in April of 2014). Mr Anna Hazare might have experiences that such huge movements launched by civilc society organizations can serve only ONE purpose: they can create awareness and educate. But anti-corruption movements can not CHANGE the law (unless, we have a feature called INITIATIVE, where a bill can be initiated by the public and legislation has to take it up and pass it into a law, depending upon the provisons specified). Howver, Indian public does not have this privilege (by the way, Aam Aadmi Party supports this reform).

Thus, what the re-ignited movemnet of Shri Anna Hazare can do at the best:  Keep educating the public about enormous corruption that exists in our system. Nothing more! Mercifully, even an illitrate person understands that corruption is a deep-rooted virus in our system.

Whatever, Anna’s reservation might be about the direct politcial plunge. Here is a golden chance for Anna and for the nation. Since he started his movement from Patna, taking inspiration for LNJP, he should go for a direct political plunge. He should oversee the formation of a politcal front, of which AAP and like minded parties -whose key focus is on reforming the system- get together and defeat the suckers!

It will be a tactical move that has the potential to liberate India from fedudal political parties and usher a new era of politics. The new conglomerate can then go for reforms that would give our system   a new lease of life.

Afterall,  it is the poor policies that promotes corruption and inefficieny and malgovernacne.

Anna ji, the nation looks upto you for this transformational role! Please consider!