Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Verdict

Ten days after the verdict in favor of NDA in Election 2014, I would like to say that I am surprised, at the scale of the victory achieved by the NDA. However, my views on NaMo remain unchanged. Electoral legitimacy cannot make one change ones view about a person. However, there is hope for each and every person including Narendra Modi. His actions rather than utterances will be under close scrutiny.

For starters an optimist like me cannot despair at the complete defeat of good in this mahabharat, but as they say the battle is lost but the war has begun. This is a war to rescue the soul of India and to win this war even a handful of crusaders is enough. The fallacy of the system first past the post leads to this skewed result. I am quoting from stats from an article by P. Sainath.
Nationally, the BJP got 31 per cent of the vote and 282 seats. The Congress got 19.3 per cent of the vote and 44 seats. As Siddharth Varadarajan writes,  that’s a 12 per cent difference in votes, but an over 500 per cent difference in seats.
In UP, the BSP got nearly 20 per cent of the votes and zero seats. The Congress in that state got less than 8 per cent of the vote but won two seats. The Samajwadi Party  got 2.6 per cent more than the BSP and got five seats. The BJP got just over 42 per cent of the vote -  and close to 90 per cent of the seats.
In Seemandhra, the difference between the TDP-BJP front and the YSRCP in the Lok Sabha polls was barely 2 per cent.  The combine however got twice the number of seats the YSRCP did.
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK got 23.6 per cent of the vote  -  and bagged zero seats. The BJP-led five-party alliance got 18.6 per cent but bagged two seats.  There were five-cornered fights in many places. That is, the AIADMK, the DMK, the BJP-led alliance, the Congress and the Left. Ultimately, the AIADMK took all but two of the 39 seats with 44 per cent of the vote.
In West Bengal, the Left Front got nearly 30 percent of the vote and just two seats. The Congress got less than 10 per cent but took four. The Trinamool Congress got 40 per cent of the vote, but 80 per cent of the seats, winning 34 of the 42 in the state.
Do these kinds of waves hold much water? Some 60 per cent of Indians who voted did not favour the BJP and its allies.
Is it time to consider bringing in some degree of proportional representation? Perhaps, for a start,  by placing a third of Lok Sabha seats under PR while the rest remain in the first-past-the-post system. We’d  be able to compare the outcomes.
So for my critics and gloating NaMo bhaktas 60% of voting Indians have rejected NDA. And remember only 66% of the eligible voters voted. However, this happens in every election. The underlying current of this election is a rejection of Congress, therefore in straight fights where the BJP was pitted in a contest against Congress it won, but in places where there were many parties like UP the division of votes worked in its favor.

The power of money in this election is unprecedented, the law which allows parties expenditure to be not clubbed with candidate helped. A media owned and controlled by corporates who was the next messiah for them gave disproportionate coverage to Modi and every speech was covered live at all times, in fact timed to influence voters on voting day where campaigning had ended. The unwillingness of media to ask inconvenient questions and of Modi to debate real issues was the hall mark of this election. Whereas he justifiably criticized congress for vote bank politics and celebration of poverty, Modi cleverly used his hench men to divide and polarize voters and project a mask of development and modernism. Modi is a image and a perception created to cash in on the bankruptcy of his opponents.

Honestly, UPA and NDA are tools in the hands of corporate interests and will loot and plunder Idia and hand over lollipops to the rich, resulting an accelerated inequality set in motion by the ex PM in his avatar as the FM. Modi's past will haunt him till he regrets it and reaches out to those who have suffered in his regime.

We have lived through and overcome Indira Gandhi's emergency, we will overcome these days too.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Heat and Dust Of Elections India

As a concerned citizen I write with a deep sense of responsibility today to express my anguish about Elections 2014. While democracy and elections in a parliamentary system of representation has its pros and cons, a nation and its leadership and the wisdom of the voters can and should overcome the flaws of the system. The country has seen so many reforms and amendments to the constitution and the electoral laws over the years and particularly in the last few years. However, Elections 2014 has been one of the worst in living memory. The abuse and charges and counter charges and personal attacks along with the blatant use of money power has been unprecedented. Is this now a permanent malaise or will this be a temporary phase?

At the cost of sounding unpopular and predictable, Elections 2014's slide began the day , BJP declared Mr. Narendra Modi the Prime Ministerial candidate, and abdicated the power to run the campaign to Modi and his inner coterie. They left no stone unturned to single mindedly  pursue their goal to polarize and provoke the people and appeal to crass communal sentiments. Riots aided abetted and encouraged in areas to create electoral gains, use of abuse invective and blatant lies, along with deliberate subversion of historical facts, silence on corruption whenever convenient, unwillingness to address core issues facing the country and making everybody in his party toe his line are the main reasons for this , the worst election in living history. The other parties on their part and the media have played into their hands by becoming tools of vested interests and making every violation of norms and codes a media event and an occasion to raise TRP's. While there were some meaningful debates and attempts by the adversaries to make this an ideological battle, these were few and feeble. The issue of corruption was reduced to a Vadra model vs Adani model, without giving credit to AAP who had raised both the issues much before the election campaign had even begun. The Congress leadership had no leaders and the family magic was completely missing. Rahul was a poor orator and his attempts to take on Modi was more in the nature of reaction rather than issue based. Priyanka while being a reasonable speaker  was an example of disproportionate power given without qualification or work. While in the past elections there were leaders and orators who opposed each other vehemently, but hardly ever crossed the line of decency. Personal lives and affairs were never the main part of the political discourse. The only party which barring a few aberrations remained steadfast  stuck to its guns was the AAP. Their manifesto which advocated participatory democracy, development with a human face and an appeal to voters based on a quest to empower the common man were the hallmarks of their campaign. But their inexperience and at times naivete, along with a TRP driven media, did not give them the time and space to become a major contender. However, in them I see hope for the future.

On May 16, the results will be out and a dispensation or a coalition with less than a majority support. A fractured mandate may result in a party with less than 1/3rd of the popular vote yielding power disproportionate to its real popularity. Also given the bitterness of the campaign and acrimonious exchanges and abuse, we can expect parliament to become dysfunctional. No debate and no inclination for participatory democracy along with a government wedded to corporate interests, without little care or concern for people and environment are not in the best interest of our country. However, in my view a complete disclosure and audit of funding of every political party, along with bringing them under the ambit of RTI act is essential. Proportional representation based on vote share as against first past post system will go along way in creating a proper political mandate and compel political parties to appeal to voters without polarization or creating fear among the minorities. A complete weeding out of criminal and corrupt elements from the system and the use of NOTA as a tool to reject dubious candidates is needed to make our democracy a better system. The wisdom of the Indian voter and his uncanny ability to teach a lesson to over confident and arrogant leaders, gives me hope that election 2014 will give a result which will be in the best interest of our great country and its people.
Yours sincerely,
Dr. Vispi Jokhi

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My vote is my right and duty

As election 2014 comes closer the cacophonyof this election is more than many elections of the past. This is inversely proportionate with the substance and content of the issues discussed during the campaigns of the major stake holders. Therefore it becomes paramount that each of us reflects on the real issues and makes an informed and correct choice. Every citizen must exercises his right with a clear sense of duty to the nation. I cannot preach or directly or indirectly influence the voter, but can  only speak for myself as a voter.

Rights of Voter: The most obvious is the right to elect a representative to Parliament, the highest decision making body of the Government. So the question in a Parliamentary democracy is do we choose candidate or party. I think for me a local candidate with integrity and a clean record and who is capable of articulating the aspirations of his constituents effectively at all levels is important. He or she must represent the interest of all sections of society and must believe in participatory democracy, have a full time regular office and staff to look into the problems of his constituents. A member of Parliament must be able to take on even his own party on issues affecting his area and must be prepared to resign or seek re-election if his own Government is pursuing anti-people policies.
The next right is the right to elect a Government.The main quality of a Government in a democracy is a government for the people that pursues policies which are pro people. Good intent is paramount and an honest dispensation which backs bureaucrats and facilitates good governance is what India needs. A government that concentrates on judicious reforms, and basic issues like education and health without taking away or trampling the legitimate rights of the poor is far better than a stable but dishonest corrupt dispensation. The strictest adherence in letter and spirit to a secular Constitution and an idea of a non theocratic state is needed for this country. A pro farmer,  pro environment agricultural policy with zero tolerance to corruption is an absolute must for any dispensation at the Centre. While decisive firm clear headed leadership is a virtue, the danger of such leaders becoming dictatorial and intolerant of anything contrary to their own opinions is very great. A compassionate firm leader with the right mix of emotional quotient with assertiveness is ideal for the nation.
The third right is the right to reject. This has been granted by the. Supreme Court as an option called NOTA non of the above on the ballot box.  While cynically saying sab chor hain sounds the easy way out, I think in the face of the shameless promotion of criminal and communal elements this option should be exercised especially when persons are fielded on the basis of caste community or criminal clout.  These candidates can be rooted out by a popular rejection by ensuring NOTA option gets an overwhelming majority.

I also feel that proportional representation based on vote share rather than first past the post is required to ensure that a dispensation without a majority support cannot have disproportionate powers. Unfortunately often a party with less than 50% vote share gets a disproportionate representation in government. This calls for electoral reforms.

My duty as an educated informed citizen is to study the manifestos of the contending parties and their past record of fulfilling promises made. My vote must not be for my own selfish gain but must be for the greater common good. I see around me rich and aspiring middle class of India disturbingly disconnected with the poor and dispossessed. They seem to think that electing a pro market dispensation will ensure their personal rise. If one votes on such a basis, why should we blame the poor who vote after consuming alcohol or get monetary inducements for their votes.
My duty is to send to Parliament a person of impeccable credentials who will represent all his constituents impartially without fear or undue favour. A person who is an effective communicator and who will not be a disruptive influence on Parliament.
While our system does not give me the right to choose the PM, I will take care that I as far as possible will not contribute to elect a divisive, corrupt or dictatorial person for the high office of PM and leader of the nation.

Voting is a sacred right and a duty and the choice has to be made carefully. In a complex political scenario with multiple choices and conflicting interests it is very easy to get carried away by the noise and media and create a bad government. I sincerely feel that voting for the winning horse or not voting for a good person or party merely because of the perception that my vote will get wasted or will confer an advantage to another party or candidate is a wrong practice.

While the country's destiny is predetermined, we must do our best to vote after understanding and thinking clearly.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Elections

For a long time I have silently viewed the scenario and refrained from commenting. However, with the clear battle lines being drawn up by the adversaries, it is time to make ones choices.

The moribund Congress and UPA has woken from its slumber. It has started to play its divide and rule game. Politics of creating fear among the minorities, tom tomming past achievements, reviving the legacy of the glorious leadership provided are all typical old style jargon. Then what is new, an aggressive assertive Rahul who seems recklessly abusive and ready to take on a communal Modi without pursuing a soft Hindutva line. Is this because in this election Congress is a dead duck so it wants to go down with bravado? or it wants to make sure that Modi sinks. Congress has done nothing nor does it seem capable of reviving its fortunes. All the sops in the world cannot mop up the tears of the Congress worker who sees his leaders incapable of turning its fortunes. The only saving grace is the media presentation which makes even a Rahul look respectable.

The NDA looks like an engine speeding away smug in the belief that it can steam roll the UPA and win a clear majority. Modi is their mascot and as expected the party has become secondary. Here instead of dynasty there is dictatorship wearing a mask of democracy. A demoniacal leader, blatantly communal and intolerant of any dissent is driving the national agenda, thanks to the lack of an ideological challenge by a corruption ridden inefficient UPA. Modi's liberal misrepresentation of historical facts, random abusive language and unwillingness to debate core issues without trivializing or politicizing them, makes him really unsuitable to become PM. Notwithstanding the Gujarat riots, the record of subversion of civil liberties, intolerance to any kind of dissent and the desire to turn India into a theocratic state make completely unacceptable.Even his non corrupt image is getting blown by the charge of silence or complicity in crony capitalism, vis a vis Adani's and Reliance. Slowly the runaway engine seems to be running out of breath as the regional satraps sharpen their clout.

The communists and the rest, are akin to post dated cheques on a crashing bank. None of them seem to be strong enough but see in the freak historical tenure of HD Deve Gowda, a possibility that they never dreamt of a few months back. While Nitish Kumar and Navin Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee have their credibility as mass leaders, they cannot become national leaders, capable of providing a stable Government. However, this ragtag cannot be ruled out and a dark horse PM like the wily Jayalalitha is possible.

Then we finally come to the dark horse of this race, the iconoclastic AAP. Is AAP a serious contender? My heart says yes, my mind says maybe?? However, this new kid off the block, is hell bent on changing the political discourse of the nation. Participative democracy means that the premise that once elected the MP or MLA does not need to be accountable to his constituents is blatantly wrong. The AAP ran a personal door to door campaign in Delhi. This formed the basis of a local self government model, out to take on established methods of governance and correct the flaws of democracy. The issues of corruption, police reform, crony capitalism, pragmatic pro-people targeted subsidies are all steps in the right direction. Nobody in politics comes with skills in governance, but these evolve with time. AAP will learn and evolve, however it needs to be steadfast and uncompromising on core values. It needs to recognize that idealism must not be compromised at the altar of pragmatism or short term gains. Anarchy is part of revolution and non-violent resistance is acceptable to passive acceptance. The only danger for AAP is that the media not giving them a chance makes the hesitant voter remain undecided because he does not want to waste his vote.

Taking all things into consideration, I have decided to vote with my heart and mind and cast my lot with AAP as neither 5 more years of UPA, nor the unstable rule of third front nor living under a dictator enthuse me in any way. A well meaning pro-people dispensation responsive to their needs and aspirations will serve the nation far better than experienced, corrupt, power hungry, communal and casteist dispensations.

Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Semi Final and voter wisdom

At  4pm on a Sunday the Indian electorate has delivered a verdict.
About Delhi first. While I have been a fan of idealism, the cynic in me has often despaired and wondered wether the times in which we live will has any place for any idealism. The electorate has shown that idealism is not dead and given a choice they have with some caution given encouragement to a green horn Aam Aadmi Party. The fact that more people voted in this election than ever before, first time voters came out with a fresh mind and one in three voted for Aam Aadmi Party is an important pointer. When going to vote, voters vote on issues affecting them and express either their happiness and give a positive vote or vote against the dispensation which they perceive as corrupt and bad and chose the other option. So is it only a question of changing horses and the voter be damned?  In this context the emergence of AAP presented an alternative pro people option. The major difference is that without being right or left there has to be alternative which puts people and nation above all considerations. The voter has seen such hopes and promises being dashed in the past and therefore hesitated to vote for the dispensation which is seen as a "not likely to win". This to my mind seems to be the reason for AAP not getting past the winning post. While I am delighted with this result and hope for India's democracy, I would like to sound a note of caution. The most important thing for AAP is to remember that they must never compromise on means to achieve an end result, however laudable it may seem. They must shun communism and casteism which for long have undermined Indian democracy.

About the other states, the BJP has reason to celebrate as they have decimated the weak and ineffective Congress. I also feel that their decision to project Modi has significantly contributed to the magnitude of their victory. Along with that I feel that the real message given by the voter to the BJP in MP is that quiet good governance without playing the communal can also yield rich electoral dividends. The same message but with some riders holds true for Chhatissgarh. Can Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh be given credit for achieving this result? I think the voter in these two instances rewarded good governance with victory. In Rajasthan a corrupt ineffective inefficient government was punished unequivocally by the people and a chastened former CM has been given another chance.The lesson for the Congress is that laurels of past, minority appeasement, populism and dole cannot be a substitute for performance and good governance.

My hope for the future is that the momentum of Delhi will spill over to the Lok Sabha election and the voter who sincerely believe in a real alternative will take courage and make the pro people choices.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

Friday, November 22, 2013

Can India become a Hindu Rashtra and Is there a danger of Modi becoming a modern day Hitler???

The optimist in me answers no to both the questions, however the danger of one or both happening is distinctly possible.
Hinduism has been defined by the supreme court and by the first real international representative of the religion , in the form of Swami Vivekananda, as an ethos or a way of life. This is very well expressed as a sanatana dharma,  a code of ethics, a way of living through which one may achieve moksha (enlightenment, liberation). The religion evolved from the Vedas which are author less books, passed on from generations through the spoken and the written word culminating in the Vedanta or the end of knowledge. The upanishads and the last one the Bhagavad Gita, are the end or epitome of real knowledge. The adherents of this faith never seeked to proselytize or conquer or subjugate others. The absence of a single universal teacher or papal structure allowed the Hindu to evolve from lowest forms of worship to the highest discovery of the presence of divinity in all of creation. While such a lofty and liberal world view is desirable, the practitioners of any religion distort and destroy it's true meaning and create divisions in the name of religion.

In an imperfect world, divisions in the name of community and caste abound. Along with human greed for power and money and erosion of values, the political class perpetuate these differences in the name of political strategy and actively perpetuate these divisions. The history of this nation is replete with these action reaction sagas. While some are lauded as master strokes of political strategy, most of them have resulted in tragic consequences. A Muslim League created by a sidelined petulant Jinnah, led to creation of a moth eaten Pakistan. The role of a power hungry Congress leadership led to the sidelining of the Father of the nation and riots on an unimaginable scale. The nation scarred by the trauma of partition resolved to mould itself as a democracy and heal the wounds of partition by adopting democracy and deemed to have no discrimination on the basis of religion or caste. But, tragically it did not adopt a uniform civil code and it made positive discrimination for the lower castes a policy. These were enshrined as temporary measures to be reviewed every decade. The genesis of minority appeasement came from the constituent assembly not allowing a Hindu Law which looked on child marriage as desirable but widow remarriage as undesirable. The practice of Sati was abolished. All these measures were opposed by the Jan Sanghis who are now BJP. So while undesirable religious practices among minorities like many wives, oral divorce, no adoption etc were allowed the Hindus were made to follow what virtually amounted to a uniform civil code. The politics of minority appeasement reaped rich electoral dividends for the Congress, which ruled for most of the early years post independence. The rest is history.

Coming to Modi and his mentor turned foe Advani, they have both honed double speak and outright lies into an instrument of policy. They have used the masks of an inclusive Vajpayee and plank of good governance as masks to hide their real aims to make India a theocratic Hindu Rashtra where the rest are second class citizens who will be compelled to accept the rule of the majority. The subversion of history in text books, intolerance to artists who are critical to Modi, bumping off of innocents in the name of encounters, stalking of women by illegal means, subversion of police and judiciary to such an extent that SC transferred all riot cases to special bench of Mumbai HC, hounding and destruction of political rivals both within the party and outside are just some of the very serious allegations which Modi and his cohorts face. No answers are given or sought to these questions by the middle class and upwardly mobile classes of India. They would like to believe that these are minor aberrations as against the shining India dream, which they feel Modi represents. The ghettoisation of the  Muslims in Gujarat and the infamous analogy of the puppy under a truck for the riot victims are not trivial issues. Of course he aided and abetted by corrupt, foolish and inefficient Congress, pursuing a path of minority appeasement and soft Hindutva.

However, I have immense faith in the Indian electorate and democracy to believe that the voters verdict will be good for this nation. The country has gone through the dark days of dictatorship in 1975 and the post Babri Masjid demolition riots. I hope that the capitulation of the people and the media of '75 and the communal violence of the 1990's will never be repeated ever again.

Even as we ready ourselves for the elections of 2014,we must choose an alternative non BJP non Congress alternative. A small number of effective MP' s with a visionary patriotic honest outlook can steer the nation on the correct path of inclusive growth free of corruption, communal discrimination and caste based politics.

Dr Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sachin Tendulkar finally decides to put a full stop to his story.

Well finally the question which a few years ago was asked in inaudible whispers, but lately had become completely audible whispers, has been answered. Will he? won't he? When will he? should he? shouldn't he? Where will he? were all being asked.

The game of cricket has always been a game of talent skill and above all temperament. Special talents bordering on the genius come but once in a generation and the cricket crazy nation India was lucky to get one such in the form of a young cherubic boy named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar,who burst on the scene 24 years back. He had even before starting his international career, been noticed as a prodigy waiting to burst on the scene. Many a talent of this kind has fallen by the wayside and examples of such so called prodigies and the next Bradman's and Gavaskar's have flattered to deceive. The fact that Sachin was able to carry these huge expectations as one of the youngest player ever to have ever played first class and international cricket and do that throughout his 24 year long career put him in bracket above lesser mortals. The numbers are staggering and his records in all formats except T20 are better than all of his contemporaries and better than most cricketers past and present.

The spectacle of Sachin 's batsmanship in his early heyday,. was a sight for the God' s. He dominated bowlers all over the world with superb attacking skills and also ground them with his immaculate defense. His colleagues and opponents almost without exception respected him and put their best effort to get his scalp. A team man and mentor to the younger players, he was a role model for the generations of cricketers who grew with him became players inspired by him.

However, does all this make him the greatest or the God of cricket? I think not for reasons I wish to write even at the cost of displeasing some of my readers. Over such a long career the proportion of match winnings in the finals of important tournaments are few and far between. In fact Sachin seems to get India into the finals but it is the other players with the  better temperament who have won us the major tournaments in Sachin 's career. His slowing down when approaching personal landmarks, sometimes detrimental to the team's interest and failure to perform as a captain remain the flaws in his great career.  Towards the later stage of his career his batting lacked the authority and class of his best times. However being such a great and powerful cricketer, Sachin went through turbulent times in Indian cricket, but never took a public stand or expressed his opinion on the raging controversial issues of the day. The  saddest cut for me is the fact that the BCCI arranged a farewell series for Sachin against convenient opponents rather than a contest against the greatest test side with the fastest bowler of the day. While many may think that I am a bit harsh in judging the man, however the greatest need to excel on every parameter.  Therefore the other big names in cricket also do qualify to greatness  equal or even more than the great Sachin.