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