Is a new political entity an answer? Random conjectures on the future of Team Anna- Aug 2, 2012
Will Team Anna enter politics? Should they? Will such a move end our woes, provide a more rational, appealing option to voters, especially urban voters in India? It’s a question that has daunted me the past few days and something I wondered about even last year when Team Anna’s movement against corruption was its focal issue and at a high point.
Today, the team clearly announced that they would enter politics to provide a “political alternative” to the ‘corrupt’ political class”. They also said they would support candidates committed to “patriotism” and “country’s development”.
If I were to be outright cynical (and I confess I feel that way about a lot of things happening in the Indian political scene right now), I would say Kejriwal’s original plan has always been to start a political party. Even last year, his comments betrayed his leaning in this direction, but Anna himself maintained a neutral stand. The debate on extending this movement into a political one seems to be growing right now.
What does this development mean for us as citizens? For very long, our sense of disillusionment with politicians has been intense. Many urban, educated voters are really caught between a rock and a hard place while trying to take sides between the Congress-UPA bunch and the BJP-NDA lot on the other. Theoretically, a third front has always been an option. But putting together such an alternative is an enormous challenge.
It is one thing to call upon politicians to answer on charges of corruption and demand change as a citizen group. But will Kejriwal and his allies be capable of the political acumen required to play the power games? Will they remain clean when they are in the system? I don’t see in this team the kind of charismatic leadership you need to upset the power balance in a democracy as large as India. I’ve heard Kejriwal speak up close and while he has his facts pat, he came across as hot headed, even a bit rabid. His simplicity and uprightness is very appealing, but I wasn’t bowled over. Not by a long shot. Who else, with Anna clearly taking a non-political stand. (Of course, one could argue that the two main parties are just as bereft of capable leadership!) I’m also wondering if TA has a pan India base. I don’t know enough and would love to learn more. And importantly, an alternate political party needs to have a bigger vision for the nation. I don’t quite see that here, though it can evolve by logically extending the current principles of transparency, democratic process, etc.
Despite my doubts, I do admire the courage and conviction of the movement. I wish it had not waivered, but rather stuck to its original agenda of targeting graft. I also wish it had focused as much on efficiency of governance as on corruption; efficiency and optimization through technology and better processes would go a long way in solving most of the day-to-day problems citizens face, and control low-level corruption.
I also understand that it is logical to fight the system from inside if you cannot make a dent from the outside. If Team Anna can unveil a well-rounded and more palatable vision for India, then they might well get popular support. However, I suspect a lot of their appeal until now has been that they represented the common man and fought against the establishment. Now that they aspire to be the establishment, the expectations will change drastically. To keep their agenda afloat in this new milieu will be quite a challenge. Let’s wait and watch- the run up to 2014 is getting exciting!
Good governance can only come out of good intention! Not feeling optimistic about Gurgaon- April 7, 2012
In May 2011, Gurgaon residents elected its first set of councilors under a newly formed Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG). Nothing dramatic seems to have happened since then. In fact, from what I hear, many initiatives remain mired in conflicts between councilors and contractors, contractors and MCG officials and MCG officials and councilors. Voters who dare to ask questions are pretty much told to shut up and show up to make changes at the next election!
So when Shashi Tharoor says that good governance must become the passion for governments, I can only laugh! In the context of Gurgaon, good governance does not even seem to be in the vocabulary of the government. Day after day, residents struggle with the same issues–bad roads, frequent power cuts, lack of policing, traffic mismanagement, no system to streamline private developments with mainline government-supplied infrastructure, poor maintenance of public spaces, no street lighting, mafia-run public transport, nuisance liquor vends at every crossing….I could go on and on. And councilors continue to not care. Clearly, they ran for public office with the sole intention of filling their personal coffers. I sincerely hope they are not being able to achieve even that, which is probably the case since contracts would need to be given out and some work shown for pockets to be lined!
Of course, part of the issue is that Gurgaon’s educated urban population doesn’t really turn out to vote. And priorities of rural voters and urban voters do differ. Councillors, therefore, do not really feel the need to be answerable to you and me. I am tired, however, of trying to divert the blame for lack of governance on lack of motivation by citizens. We deserve good governance because we pay the taxes that fund the government. Gurgaon’s urban citizens may not vote, but they pay hefty taxes to the state government and deserve not just basic, but world class amenities.
Gurgaon is an opportunity gone waste for Haryana. Yes, the government’s made a killing on land, but opportunity for continued revenue generation is being wasted as the city languishes in a semi-developed state. If Kingdom of Dreams is not making enough money to pay the government taxes, something is terribly wrong indeed! I don’t feel optimistic at all about a city that fails to make its entertainment destinations economically viable, a city where the transition from ‘scattered islands of population’ to ‘community’ is painfully slow and receives absolutely no government support, a city where no one really seems to care and those who do….. don’t vote!
Government processes need major revamps: A morning at the property registry office
People, chaos, each group comprises of sellers, buyers, broker, tout, bank lawyer. Some fifty people squeezed in a room with four counters, shiny chairs and a lot of stress. In the midst of all this, a child wailed for chips. A mendicant boy shined shoes, a beggar girl went round the room. All inside the air conditioned (in name) space waiting for the people on duty to oblige them and register the property they were here to buy or sell.
Though the system was computerised and there were modern devices like digicams and thumbprint scanners, corruption was rampant. When will these things change? A chaotic three hours were spent watching the chaos unfold at Gurgaon’s mini secretariat today. And there were moments of hysterical giggling when we were exhausted out of our wits.
Sigh! I can only say I am glad it’s over!