Thursday, April 30, 2009

National issues deserve their due: Will the result of 15th LS elections reflect that?

The recent case of CBI giving a clean chit to Quattrochhi around the time of elections, raises suspicion on the way Congress has been known to interfere in statutory bodies like CBI who are meant to be away from political interference.

In this editorial by Pratap Bhanu Mehta he points out a very significant quality of any leader and also a political group of setting up institutions which would cater to the needs of the society without falling prey to partisan politics. He points out to a very serious threat the society faces on account of such irresponsible and self centered behaviour at the expense of loss of trust of the society at large on institutions which are meant to uphold truth and justice.

Thus the moot question is, whether there is any value in the public raising its cry over police reform as represented by mandates given to politicians prior to elections during citizen group meetings asking them to work towards it. Aren't we fooling ourselves when we try to ask lone MPs from one or two constituencies to work towards such key national level problems where probably as individuals they are powerless since the overall framework of these parties has clear stakes in allowing those issues to persist.

The only way in which the electorate can arm twist and make the govt act on such lines is by bringing to fore such issues as a collective during General elections. Unfortunately this is not to be seen in India since the electorate rarely votes on national issues. Despite the fact that Congress has shown utter ineptitude in responding to the menace of Naxalism and Terrorism, there is hardly any nation wide concern to be seen. And the reflection of the same can be seen when go through the political manifestos of the national parites wherein we realize that none of the manifestos talks about fundamental reforms in depoliticising institutions meant for social welfare like IIMs, CBI, Govt Hospitals etc. Moreover the birth of Coalition politics will only cause problems in fixing such vital bottlenecks.

Sitaram Yechury CPI(M) leader while answering to one of the questions related to fragmentation of our electorate, marks that 'I think it is a process of maturation. You cannot have a social plurality that is as wide as we have in India and have a political monolith. Your social diversity has to reflect in your politics. '

The point is that if this be the India of tomorrow, with regional parties coming up with their local issues during General elections, how are we going to decide the course of the country at a larger level. These regional groups will give rise to Coalition as an inevitable option but this is only going to relegate the national issues to the margins and whether we get a Maharashtrian PM or a Dalit PM at the top would be the sole subject of debate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Horse of Democracy

Elections should ideally be Celebrations of Democracy. Thats the time when the electorate gets to decide whether it is happy with the performance of the government or not.

Today we see gloominess on account of limited choice of parties and sense of pessimism and fear about who is going to be at the helm of nation's affairs . The country needs ablest people at the top when we are finding ourselves in the midst of explosive neighbours, deep global economic turmoil, poverty getting manifested through violence in the name of Naxalism, dismal state of farmers in some part of the country, antiquated policies on education, health etc.

Will we get the right persons in the most important positions to take the country ahead or are we going to find the most incompetent pachyderms.

Instead of being the elephant which is required to lumber on carrying the weight of dynastic politics, black money, divisiveness, narrow sectarian agenda, rotten and stinking mix of religion and politics, corrupt bureaucracy, I aspire for the democracy that is represented by the horse above.

As times change, the society should be required to validate its notions, its beliefs, its errors and make the right changes. These aspirations should match the times and also the need of the nation as a whole in the context of the global forces. The electorate needs to rise beyond self centered agendas; they need to understand what national leaders should be focussing on; people need to know what MPs are required to do; on top of it all they should be willing to understand their own role in making democracy a success.

Only when the electorate in general matches the pace of changing times and gives up its traditional clinging to its own fears, jingoism, communal mind sets, corrupt and greedy nature, will it be able to set a pace to give the political class a run for its money.

The electorate should be like that horse whose aspirations are forward looking, symbolize energy, youthfulness of ideas, strength, inner steely character and Extreme longing for Freedom from both the soft and hard atrocities of the State.

And as this horse runs its course with complete Freedom, the party most suited would be the one which understands the mood of this horse and is able to saddle it to take charge of it for the next five years and lead it to greater heights.
Thus, not the political party but the horse is central to the success of this nation.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

15th Lok Sabha polls

As our country enters into its 15th Lok Sabha polls, there are interesting changes in the social and demographic landscape which would surely have impact on the forthcoming elections. 

The most important and also tragic part would be the post poll zero ideology driven and only opportunism based power struggle which might lead to a very weak government at the center with most incompetent people at key positions.  

Candidates/Political parties whose performance in the Lok Sabha elections interest me more:

The political equation in Uttar Pradesh- The state which sends 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.  How does the pie get distributed amongst BSP, BJP, Congress and SP? A state which has remained backward on social as well as economic parameters doesn't seem to show any sign of coming out of this situation of poor governance.

Janta Dal (U) in Bihar- Apparently Nitish Kumar has done a good job in Bihar as the CM. If anyone can challenge the hopeless caste based politics in the state of Bihar, he seems to be the most promising candidate.

Lok Satta Party in AP- a promising party with strong leader- Dr Jayprakash Narayanan, but questionable second rung. The performance of this party would to a large extent decide how it 
manages to interest youngsters in other states. 

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Party which has fielded 11 candidates in Maharashtra- a party trying to use violence to capture the issue of immigration in Maharashtra. A party which has the potential to change the contours of society in Mumbai around ethnic lines atleast in the next 5 to 10 years.

Praja Rajyam Party- Party started by Chiranjeevi in AP and being considering to have the capacity to give a strong challenge to Congress in that state.

Kalyan Singh defected BJP to join SP. Considering the baggage of Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 when he was the CM, how does his candidature help/dent the prospects of SP, which has always gone by Muslim vote bank politics

Arun Bhatia - former accomplished bureaucrat standing as an independent from Pune. The country is in need of such high performers

Mallika Sarabhai from Gandhinagar Constituency- she is standing as an independent against L K Advani

Rishi Aggarwal - an environmentalist from North West Constituency of Mumbai standing on behalf of Jagore Party- New party

Meera Sanyal from South Mumbai - independent against strong Congress, MNS and Shiv Sena candidates

Dr Mona Shah and Rajendra Thakkar- Candidates from Mumbai fielded by Professional Party of India. A new party driven heavily by the thought that Professionals can be good politicians but seems to sound too simplistic a solution to excite the electorate. 

Varun Gandhi- the idiot son of Menaka Gandhi and representative of BJP who came into limelight on account of the venom he spewed against the minority community. His electoral performance will be a reflection of the quality of electorate in Pilibhit.  Not much to say about BJP and its murky and convoluted ideology.

Last but not the least, Sadhu Yadav, the estranged brother in law of Lalu Yadav who has joined Congress. He is pitted against Prakash Jha from LJP (headed by Paswan) Considering the fact that this constituency is dominated by Yadavs and having defected RJD, its likely that this candidate would lose because of their loyalty to RJD.  

As far as completely new candidates are concerned, it would be interesting to understand the number of votes they are able to capture as that would be an indicative of how the electorate perceives clean chit candidates.

Other interesting statistics can emerge from understanding the popularity of the new parties like Bharat Uday Mission, Bharat Punarnirman Dal and Jagore Party. None of these groups seems to have a convincing mandate though they are talking about the promise of good governance

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Right to Dream

Last evening there was an event at the Prithvi theatre in Mumbai on Mahasweta Devi. They had invited Mahasweta Devi to have an interactive session with the audience which was preceded by an hour long documentary based on four interviews of the great authoress .
She is an 84 year old Gandhian who comes across as a very strong lady who is both individualistic as well as a humanist from the core of her heart. A prolific writer who has spent decades in writing and has received the best literary awards of the country.
I got introduced to her thoughts few years back, when i saw the movie 'Hazar Chaurasi ki Maa' which was based on the Naxalite movement that originated in Bengal. She wrote the book in 1975 after few young men came to her one day and complained that she always writes for rural Bengal but never for what those people are going through. She said that she never saw who those people were as they were standing on the road in a zone where the street light was not reaching and she could also not give any immediate answer to them.
Some of most fascinating aspects of her personality are her rootedness to the Indian ethos, her deep sensitivity towards social causes for which she has worked tirelessly to the extent of giving away her award monetary contribution, her very simple lifestyle which allows her to connect to lakhs of people who adore her work as well as her persona.
She recounted the greatness of Gandhi when she got a chance to meet him in 1946 when he came to Shantiniketan; this was the second time he came there after he had met Tagore some years back.
When the servants of the place came to greet him, he asked where was Gopi (one of the other servants who was present when he came their last) and how their sons and daughters were doing. The greatness of that individual can be gauged from this simple instance. This was the time when Gandhi had spent decades being at the helm of India's political affairs and still was 'human' enough to remember why a certain person was not around and the well being of their kins.
The fact that the authoress could remember it after 60 yrs of its incidence gives a clear idea of what actually makes an impact us. What defines greatness. She lamented the fact that there were almost no individuals like him these days not just in India but across the world.
One of the strongest messages that she gave was on believing in the "Right to Dream" as that is what defines the progress of individuals and society as a whole. She stated that those dreams that managed to escape the jail of one's society allowed her to become what she is right now. Her belief in equal treatment to all be it tribals, down trodden, rich etc was very strong.
As an answer to one of questions on whether she had ever written for dalits, she stated that she never writes keeping the identity of the individual in view. For her an oppressed person has no identity. Whether he is a tribal, a dalit, Hindu, Muslim, Christian etc really loses significance.
She is surely a Legend.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Less is More- An interview

Such clear thoughts on spiritual matters is not common. I experienced a very balmy feeling as I read through this interview

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Being too busy may not be the right thing

I received this post as a forward in my mailbox this morning. Didn't try to validate its factual accuracy as I realized that the message was clear and something which we all need to carry with us at work.

Live a life of love. - Ephesians 5:2

The great Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle married his secretary, Jane Welsh. She continued to work for him but when she got ill, Carlyle, who was deeply devoted to his work, didn't seem to notice, so he allowed her to keep working. But she had cancer and eventually she was confined to bed. Although Carlyle truly loved her, he found that he didn't have much time to stay with her or much attention to give to her. Then she died.

After the funeral Carlyle went up to Jane's room, noticed her diary lying on the table, picked it up and began to read. On one entire page she'd written a single line: "Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven: I love him so much." A reality he had somehow been too blind to see now revealed itself with crushing clarity. He'd been too busy to notice how much he meant to Jane. He thought of all the times he'd been preoccupied with his work and simply failed to notice her. He hadn't seen her suffering. He hadn't seen her love. Turning to the next page, he read words he'd never forget: "I've listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it's late and I guess he won't come today."

He put her diary back on the table and ran out of the house. Friends found him at the side of her grave, covered with mud. His eyes were red from weeping; tears were rolling down his face. "If only I'd known, if only I'd known," he cried. After Jane's death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again.

Are you neglecting your loved ones?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

'Market to Mother Nature' accounting

This insightful piece by Friedman raises some very pertinent questions.

Friedman makes a compelling case of the need to look at how the model of engine of wealth creation is impacting sustainability and also other values of human co-existence and growth.

The fact that the consumers would in general rarely ever look at the environmental implication of buying more and more goods, puts pressure on the business leaders and our policy makers to come out with 'Market to Mother Nature' accounting system to explain how our actions are systemically connected to larger wheel of existence on this planet.

The progress of mankind in the decades to come would be measured not in terms of the cumulative and widespread wealth that gets generated but also on how responsibly that wealth is generated. If the wealth of today only leaves dry arid lands or over flowing water bodies and creates imbalance all around us, we will be left no option but to perish miserably.

The more people we have on this planet with appetite for more and more consumption of fuel, goods, food etc, the greater would be the challenge to think systemically and go beyond isolationist planning models where we fail to consider the other dimensions of existence.

Its not that reaching out to environment is the be all of everything. The kinds of crimes being conducted in the garb of market today also clearly hint at the importance of diving as much within ourselves as much as we are trying to look outside.