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