17th-20th April !!

On 17th, Karnataka and some other states would be going to the polls; it is a holiday

18th is Good Friday, a declared holiday or an optional holiday

19th and 20th are Saturday and Sunday, the usual weekly holidays.

Wow!…Four continuous holidays !!

No, please.

Let us keep this otherwise long weekend restricted between 18th-20th only…and make all sincere efforts to cast our votes in great interest of the nation ! There cannot be a more peaceful opportunity than an aware and spirited democracy to affect such a destiny.

Percentage figures of polling from the far-flung north-east and insurgency-hit regions are inspiring !!!

Elsewhere, we just need to take care of the heat and dust…by carrying umbrellas, sufficient water and arriving a little early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Jai Hind and Happy Voting…

Voting Dilemma- Reinforced Not Resolved !!

The world is about to witness one of the most decisive events of this decade- the curious game of numbers played at by the electorate in the largest democratic system in its upcoming General Elections between April-May, 2014. Regarding various scenarios, I had written an article early this year, titled Aamjunta’s Dilemma – whom to Vote in 2014 ?

Let’s quickly take a look at how things have changed since then behind the curtains…At the moment this is what an aamjunta in India still largely perceives of the stage being thus set for the big play.

Congress – Its status remains quite unchanged. The party now and then harps on various vote-bank tactics and has started fielding hugely tainted candidates just to retain constituencies based on caste-based votes or the like. So the aamjunta and their concerns are all still ignored !

BJP – There is no remarkable improvement in its lack-of-leadership /vision status. Moreover, of late it has started absorbing back big corrupt ex-members despite ‘stiff’ opposition from its senior leaders and this may awfully erode its image !

Another word of caution for BJP- the mesmerizing ‘Modi chant’ may not work everywhere as is also evident from some opinion poll trends after the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate’s recent visit to Odisha. The state’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who has performed enormously, still continues to reign supremacy. Hearing some lines of Mr. Modi’s speeches during this visit, I personally was rather de-motivated let alone being impressed !!

AAP– It entered the scene with lot of promises and hopes but unfortunately, lost a golden chance at performing in Delhi alone. After forming government there, it started indulging in unweighed decision-making and administratively erroneous methods which are definitely not to be sympathized with lack of time in gaining political maturity. With a good intention, at the beginning it rightly raised several issues against corruption but failed to duly pursue or act upon them and impressively conclude a single big task in that regard. Then recorded in public memory are its usual fruitless efforts of conducting dharnas, andolans, etc. and throwing brickbats at the Delhi Police. As a consequence of its inabilities in governance, now it seems to completely lack any definite set of ideologies for the benefit of the nation as a whole and the temperament to accomplish the expectations of the ‘aam aadmi’. It now merely keeps visiting different states to only criticize respective state governments and generate some easy vote-bank tactics for its ‘aam aadmi’ like riding an auto-rickshaw or a local train.

Wish it got back to its original form and then acted thoroughly on core issues !!

Others – Busy calculating or forming alliances and contemplating creation of a Third-Front which can prove more ruinous !

So for many, the dilemma- ‘whom to vote in 2014 ?’ continues…

Aamjunta – what do you say?

Aamjunta’s Dilemma – whom to Vote in 2014 ?

We do acknowledge and understand that for ‘aam aadmi‘ folks to suddenly work on so many responsibilities (simultaneous or not) centred on the capital of India, there is tremendous pressure and hindrances around. But how can any ‘good’ party forget the usual law and order scenario, or even its very own principles ?!? Citizens should remember that nothing can change over-night; so also should any party holding the reigns of power, especially if it has no experience !

There is no point in comparing the present political parties in terms of ideology, political will, presence, discipline, transparency and leadership quality. None reflect any sincere ideology at the level of national consciousness. As an ‘aamjunta‘, I see no party having a true national agenda or any leader having the shades of a statesman. Almost all of them are interested to serve the nation – getting into power or remaining in power is the main motto. And the bad-taste remarks mutually hurled at each other by the political leaders are awfully making the puzzle dirty !!

Aamjunta is really in a dilemma…

Congress (UPA) – mired in multiple and mega scams /scandals and despite having enough time, absolutely nothing was done by it to redress those matters. With their able foreign policy, all our neighbours including Maldives and Bhutan are in ‘tu-tu main-main’ (squabbles) with us. Their idea of Swaraj and Social Empowerment is only limited to Rahul Gandhi’s speeches and their leaders are either busy in the coronation drama or with making derogatory remarks against Narendra Modi.

BJP (NDA) – still inducting back corrupt /indisciplined ‘netas‘ or being completely callous about rooting out corruption. It looks like the definition of India is still limited to some states in the north or central part of the country; with no or diminishing presence in the North-East region, Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, etc. ; even grass-root level politics is yet to evolve in many such states. Moreover, they cannot rely only on the charishma of Narendra Modi; fetching the magic number 272+ is still a huge task for them ! Major changes or re-structuring their vision should be their prime agenda while preparing for summer of 2014.

AAP – during its initial activism, very boldly raised several issues against corruption but never pursued any single matter to its solution; now the party’s daily stand on administration has made it synonymous with the term ‘U-turn’ !! And the jugalbandi with Congress is somewhat fishy ! Their leaders are still in dharanas, and/or verbal duel mode and their induction process is also not convincing. But the rise of AAP has definitely changed the political equations at the centre.

Third Front – for God’s shake this experiment should NOT be repeated; most disastrous governance in Indian history !! Their rise is definitely a danger to India’s democracy and growth.

If we want to standardize a yardstick in this regard, then (apart from tackling corruption, inflation, etc.) here are some more potential weights for us to assess:

(i) Is anyone really thinking of the nation or the society as a whole ? Has any national party or one aspiring to become so yet campaigned in or adequately spoken about the far-flung North-East region of India ?

(ii) How many have considered settling the issue of Indo-Bangladesh enclaves ?

(iii) Has anyone addressed these matters – growing incidents of rapes, juvenile justice system, human-trafficking, acid-attacks, improving care and financial aid for the orphans, old and destitute ?

(iv) Is any leader talking about revamping the current education system in the country ?

(v) How much has been achieved in diminishing judicial backlogs and increasing the police:public and judge:public ratio ?

(vi) What about the health care industry ?

(vii) Where do we stand in our external policy and defence preparations ?

The list can be endless but these are very basic current issues of the nation. Therefore, these must be substantially addressed by whoever wants to come to power or gets it. At this stage even, many ‘aamjunta‘ like me do not know with certainty whom to vote !

Does ‘right to reject’ or invoking ‘Rule 49-O’ of the elections conduct have any meaning ? Not really.

May be, we should be highlighting work of good performers like Mr. Naveen Patnaik, Mr. Manohar Parrikar, Dr. Raman Singh who have done really well; at least, in the recent past, if you consider the limited support and resources that they have got in-hand. Till date, they are not involved in any public spat ! So why don’t we speak in all positivity about their achievements and their desire to achieve more for the mass ? As some would have observed, these three men have known when a leader has to work at break-neck speed and when he has to go slow or even compromise for a greater cause.

Is there any way to give chance to such men at the centre ? Let us not forget for a single moment that what we choose today, we would be rewarding it to ourselves tomorrow and to our next generation(s) !!

Aamjunta – what do you say ?

Regional Political Parties – danger to Democracy and India?

With the recent political divorce between the BJP and JD(U) after 17 years of their political marriage, and with the talks / speculations by top regional leaders over the creation of a Third Front before / after the next general election, it becomes difficult to check Congress led UPA, which has the dubious distinction of scams and corruptions, forming the next Government again in Delhi. With the next general election some months away, political parties started playing their pawns in a very calculated manner – a game where every individual party wants to win, may result in a big loss to the Indian union!!

Whatever it is…

The regional parties are all set to play a big role next time; may not be good at all for India and for its democracy. The recent political developments may go to the extent that the grand showdown between the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and the messiah of reforms in Gujarat become a non-existent matter to decide the fate of India’s future. Even if there is a Third Front government comes to power, the constituents of it are so individualistic with diverse local agendas, the leaders are so ambitious and so short-sighted, lasting a full 5-year term may become a concern for Indian democracy, Indian economy and reforms.

The irony is, that, no Third Front government can come to power on its own without the inside or outside support of the BJP or the Congress. Moreover, it is really hard to understand the obvious unwritten understanding between like-minded political parties, which is being coined by various regional leaders for the formation of a Third Front without the Congress or the BJP. It had happened in the past – 1979, 1989 and 1996, may repeat again in 2014.

Coming to the root cause of this problem, it is true that the regional parties are formed with a separate mandate and a goal or as a division of a big party on personal / ideological ground, before and after India’s independence.

Their goal might be a claim or otherwise –

  • that there are political/economic bias against the state’s wish and/or right (TrinaMul Congress TMC-West Bengal, Biju Janata Dal BJD-Odisha, Asom Gana Parishad AGP – Assam, Shiromani Akali Dal SAD-Punjab, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party MGP-Goa, Shiv Sena -Maharastra, Sikkim Sangram Parishad SSP-Sikkim), or
  • on a language basis (mostly against Hindi – variants of Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam DMK/AIDMK/PMK -Tamil Nadu and Telugu Desham Party TDP-Andhra Pradesh), or
  • to create a division of a state and to come to power (Telengana Rastriya Samiti TRS–Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha JMM– Jharkhand), or
  • on a caste or religion basis (Bahujan Samaj Party BSP-UP/Bihar/Delhi, Muslim Majlis Uttar Pradesh), or
  • on a individualistic charisma to hold power (Rashtriya Janta Dal RJD-Bihar, Janta Dal Secular JD(S)-Karnataka, Janta Dal United JD(U)-Bihar/UP, Maharastra Navnirman Sena MNS-Maharastra, Karnataka Janata Paksha KJP-Karnataka, Samajwadi Party SP-UP/Bihar, Samta Party UP/Bihar, Lokshakti Party – Karnataka), or
  • to be the center of attention (Odisha Jan Morcha OJM-Odisha, Praja Rajyam– Andhra Pradesh) and so on…

Whatever it is, it is true that most of the times their (regional parties) claim over the so called bias in economic share, language participation, power balance, cultural differences, political representation are legitimate. At present, regional parties are dominant over more than a fifteen states – Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryna, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Kerala, and Jammu and Kashmir. With the present vote base and support, it is definite that the local parties are going to influence the Indian politics for at least a decade or so.

Must be alarming for BJP and Congress of course. But, do not we think that some how the BJP and the Congress parties are a party to their creation and existence? – compulsion or an opportunity?

Their rise is definitely a major concern for the major political parties like BJP and Congress and it creates a question mark on the democracy, economy and federalist structure of Indian union, coordination among states , etc. With no single party (most likely) winning 273+ seats, creation of the next government whether it is Third Front or UPA or NDA or any other new coalition will largely depend upon the regional parties; horse trading will be a major concern. With multi-party involvement and with differences in ideology, the stability of such government, the economic development, the reforms, the law and order issue, etc ., will definitely suffer.

It is true that most of the times agenda and ideology of regional and national political parties do not match, and quite different from the federal agenda. It is also true that the local power equations and compulsions are so intense, that they won’t be thinking of the country – India; instead they’ll always think of their states only. To maintain their vote bank in their states (largely based on caste, language, regionalism and religion), they will never support an alliance or coalition even with a slight difference in the common minimum programs; irrespective of whether their action is triggering an un-necessary mid-term election as in 1996 (AIDMK withdrew support from NDA government) or creating a chaos as in 2012 (TMC withdrew support from UPA government) and so on…

Saying all this, one has also to understand and accept the fact that both the Congress and BJP are failing in uniting their coalition partners and the voters intact, mainly due to their poor governance in some states, personal agenda at some places in general, and lack of mass leaders in those states in particular. If the major national parties like BJP and Congress want to expand their base across India, then they must understand the local problems in particular and should go to the root cause of their loss of base in those states in general; grass level effort is required, not political chintan meetings at Surajkund or at Goa. They must groom local leaders, check corruptions, maintain discipline inside the party, take strong action against individuals violating party principles, learn from their earlier mistakes, and abolish dynasty rules in those states. Fortune follows effort, failing which the problems will intensify only.

In the present context, the teachings of Chanakya are definitely relevant. We have to understand that the existence and formation of the states is for creating brotherhood and Indianness among the people of the country, and for the distribution of power to core of the democracy – the citizens of this country, and for the unity in diversity, not for the division of the country on the basis of language, development, religion, caste and so on… Country’s growth, aspiration, stability, economic power, diplomatic power is more important than the individual states’ growth, stability and aspiration. We have to understand that it is India first, not Odisha, or West Bengal or Karnataka or Gujarat or Tamil Nadu or … A modern Chanakya is definitely needed.

Aamjunta – what do you say? Remember “Prosperity forsake even a lucky one, if he/she acts without a foresight” and we all want a prosperous India.

Jai Hind.

Election in Karnataka: a Semi-final or Practice Match before the next General Election!

It is Election Day tomorrow (5th May, 2013) for the State Assembly of Karnataka, India.

The country as a whole is struggling with corruption, rape and murder cases. One should not be surprised to know that Karnataka too is not far behind from the national average. The significant rise in criminal cases particularly in the city of Bangalore and mega corruption, mis-governance, routine in-fights in Parties and poor infrastructure are the major worries of the common man or aamjunta. Election in Karnataka is also important due to IT-industry’s presence in Bangalore. Every political party is definitely looking for a share – major or minor, that time will say. With General Election due in 2014, remember, the election in Karnataka may be the semi-final or a high temper practice match for all major political parties. No political party wants to lose; their fate lies in the hands of aamjunta.

Lets see how the major political Parties are talking about this Election-

Congress: Party chief Sonia Gandhi in an election rally at Gulbarga said that the “BJP Government has looted Karnataka and incited communal feelings”. In addition, she further lamented the BJP’s record on communal harmony by saying “we have always believed in communal harmony and are against forces which disrupt communal harmony.”

BJP: Star campaigner of BJP, Narendra Modi blasted at the UPA’s foreign policy and  criticized the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi. Apart from this, the other campaigners of BJP including the current Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar have been talking about the level of good governance the Party has delivered in the past and deploring the UPA for its corruption at the central level and step-motherly treatment in case of distribution of  Cauvery water and allocation of central funds to Karnataka.

JDS: Both the father-son duo, ex-PM Deva Gowda and Kumar Swamy have been talking about a clean and transparent government, ruling out dynasty in politics.

KJP: B S Yeddyurappa formed the KJP with two aims – to ensure BJP’s loss and be a part of the next government if the situation arises, such that  legal cases against him can be handled without any major drama or hassle. He too has been promising for a clean and transparent government and is ready to provide financial support to all religious places; all, which he could not do while he was in power.

But, what is ultimately going to rule the election?

Simple answer to most of the questions – “MCR” : Money, Caste and Religion PowerCritics and analysts say that any thing in the range of Rs 700/- to Rs 10,000/- is being spent per vote by many of the candidates. On an average, some of the candidates are reportedly spending more than Rs 30 crores per constituency.

This kind of bribing existed in the 2008 election too. After analysing the affidavits of 347 candidates who contested the 2008 Karnataka elections and are contesting this time too, the recent report disclosed by the Karnataka Election Watch indicates that in the last five years, their average asset increased over 72% (Rs 12.62 crore or so) !! It clearly shows that indeed politics is a very profitable business.

Caste is also playing major role in Karnataka politics. All political parties are busy in appeasing the voters of two major castes in Karnataka – The Lingayats and the Vokkaligas, comprising nearly 18% and 13% of the state’s electorate respectively. This divides Karnataka into northern and southern power bases.

Religion too plays a major role in Karnataka politics. Both the majorities and minorities are being lured in the process. All parties have promised to give special packages to religious activities; however, in reality it may not be true in future. Appeasing the minors or the other backward classes is quite apparent.

Muscle power too is holding some of the reigns of this Karnataka election. While the Congress has filed 55 candidates with criminal charges, the BJP is not far behind with 48. When the entire country is struggling with rising rape cases and sexual abuses or harassments, there are 2 ‘contesting’ candidates from the KJP with pending rape cases against them !

While every candidate is fighting for a win, political analysts term this election as the “Semi-final for 2014”. A win by BJP in Karnataka will definitely boost the morale of Narendra Modi’s candidature for the next Prime Minister, and a loss by BJP will augment the doubt on BJP’s ability to retain power outside its traditional political base in the north and hence, become a stumble for its run up to the 2014 National polls.

If Congress wins tomorrow’s election in Karnataka, it will definitely brush up the party’s image ahead of 2014 National elections and lift its sagging spirits; it may also alleviate an anti-Congress mood prevalent in most parts of the country mainly because of rising corruption, incidents of rape and meek or poor bilateral issues with our neighbouring countries. It may lead to early National elections too.

On a different note, a win by JDS will definitely increase the speculation of the formation of a 3rd Front in the next National election.

Irrespective of whoever comes to power, all the above factors will play major roles in the government and the governance. With rising corruption at the Centre and in many States, it looks like there is no solution of this particular issue in a single day. Like cancer, it has already spread to the roots of our system, our existence, our daily lives. Very often, we do not have an option but to pay bribes, small or big, if we need to get our work done smoothly or quickly, or done at all ! Such bribes are sometimes labelled in sugar-coated terms like ‘commission’ or ‘chai-pani’ (refreshments), mostly to stay away from legal implications. Though it is hard to accept, it is a fact. With corruption largely being a moral issue, Law Enforcement agencies have always found it hard to eradicate it through either use of force or preventive surveillance.

The worst thing happens when the common man, the aamjunta or the voter becomes corrupt. If our votes are sold to these corrupt leaders for a selfish, baseless favour or meagre cash or a bottle of wine or freebies, then whom can we blame ?

Jaago aamjunta, jaago… the wake-up call to the electorate…

This is the right time to show our strength, and make the system clean and strong. Let’s cast our precious vote not under the influence of “MCR” – Money, Caste and Religion, rather on our own conviction – a conviction that is largely based on morals and right knowledge. We need to do something substantial, which will make our life rewarding and us worthy aamjunta; not an useless and corrupt aamjunta. Let’s respect our dignity, our state and our country. The choice is definitely ours !!! It is not that far … just couple of hours more!!

Jai Hind!

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