Why I Lost Faith in Arvind Kejriwal
Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, 10 April, 2014
Copyright © Dr. Seshadri Kumar. All Rights Reserved.
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Disclaimer: All the opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Dr. Seshadri Kumar alone and should not be construed to mean the opinions of any other person or organization, unless explicitly stated otherwise in the article.
The Anna Hazare Movement – A Turning Point
I started this blog in August 2011. I owe my political consciousness today to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement of August 2011. Until then, I was a mobile vegetable like most other Indians, content to go to my office, do my work, get my salary, watch cricket matches on TV, and see Bollywood movies, but never motivated enough to use the brain I had to think in detail about the kind of society we live in.
Like most Indians, I had a “chalta hai” attitude. I used to see the news about some economic policy or other, or some political development, and then drop the paper after a little while and go back to being self-absorbed. If I had to deal with a government office, some friend would guide me on whom to talk to so that I could get the necessary work done with the appropriate amount of grease money; I never thought much about it except that this is the way it is in India.
I had no real interest in analyzing the conflicting claims of different candidates and different parties; I had never thought much about whether capitalism was better or socialism was, beyond the sound bites I used to hear. One day one commentator seemed to make sense; another day a different commentator made sense; and, in any case, it was more important to know if India could win the match and to know how many runs were left for us to clinch a victory, so I would change the channel. I knew little about article 370, and vaguely remembered details of the Shah Bano case from my growing-up years.
I had lived in the US too, and while I used to follow presidential debates and political analysis on TV channels there, my mind rarely rose to examine things in a serious way. As with most ordinary folk, the simplest explanations made the most sense to me then, with the result that I thought all the policies of the Democratic party were correct as they seemed to care for the guy on the street (the “aam aadmi”of America.)
The Anna Hazare-led India Against Corruption movement changed all that. I was transfixed by the sight of an septuagenerian going on a hunger strike to protest against corruption in India. Like most people in India, I was energized. I was living in Pune at the time, and even participated in a rally in support of the Jan Lokpal bill.
Starting Leftbrainwave and Songs on Youtube
I wanted the movement to succeed; but I knew that my strengths were not in organizing political movements on the ground. I could write, though, and so I thought my contribution to the success of the movement would be to write about it.
So I started this blog; and in a series of articles, I supported the IAC movement. I first wrote an article talking about how criticism of Anna’s movement as “unconstitutional,” claims that it was tantamount to “blackmailing the government,” and accusations that he was being disrespectful of the constitution, and so on, were baseless; wrote about my feelings on the day Anna was released from jail, which were simply a reflection of what most Indians were feeling that day; talked about the biased coverage of the movement in Indian cable channels; discussed the nature of the opposition to Anna Hazare’s movement among intellectuals, more than once; compiled information on the support for Anna Hazare in protest marches throughout India to counter the propaganda that this was a movement limited to urban middle-class people; criticized an article in the Wall Street Journal which claimed that the Anna Hazare movement could not be compared to the Arab Spring; wrote articles in support of the movement when it was criticized for being disrespectful to parliamentarians; wrote articles in support of Kiran Bedi and Om Puri when they were threatened with privilege motions by members of Parliament for criticizing the government; and even wrote a celebratory article when parliament agreed to a “sense of the House” resolution agreeing to Anna Hazare’s three main demands.
I was even energized enough to compose a song in support of the Jan Lokpal movement and sing the song, which I wrote originally in Hindi (based on the Golmaal title song featuring Amol Palekar), and then translated into Tamil and Telugu as well. And I was not even part of the India Against Corruption organization! I was simply doing this on my own initiative, because I liked what they were doing. (Just to clarify: I have never been part of the AAP either; all my support for either IAC or AAP has been from the outside.)
But today, I am writing to tell you that I do not support Arvind Kejriwal or the Aam Aadmi Party. I will not vote for them.
What has changed in my view? Why did a person, who has spent so much energy and passion supporting Anna Hazare, as well as Arvind Kejriwal and the others who formed the core of IAC and went on to form the AAP, decide they were not good for India’s future? Read on to understand the reasons.
“Anti-Corruption” Does Not Make a Party
About a year after their highly-successful and visible anti-corruption campaign in August 2011, Team Anna completely disintegrated. I have written in detail on how and why this disintegration happened in a summary article a year after the August 2011 protests. Essentially, by this point, one year after their great success, the Anna movement had lost all steam, was unable to draw any crowds in their rallies; and their repeated fasts were losing their sheen, so much so that those involved in the fasts had to give excuses to terminate the fasts so as not to die an ignoble death.
While people were writing off the IAC as a footnote in India’s political history, Arvind Kejriwal sought to reinvent himself by transforming IAC into a political party, the Aam Aadmi Party. I was not delighted by this development, as I felt they should focus on their core competency, which was to be a pressure group to achieve an objective, not a political party which required core competencies in several areas, for which they were not equipped. As I wrote in my summary article on the IAC movement,
A movement can be based on a single issue; a political party cannot. A political party HAS to have a position on every major issue facing the nation: foreign policy – whether to align with the US, with Russia, or China on any issue; what to do about our nuclear capability; whether to further implement the US-India nuclear agreement; whether to allow FDI in multi-brand retail; whether to take any action against the Sri Lankan government for attacking Tamil fishermen; whether to build roads in Arunachal Pradesh to match the Chinese level of development on the border; whether to implement more or less reservation in education and jobs; how to accelerate the pace of infrastructure building in the country; what kind of economic liberalization measures needs to be undertaken in the country; how to make Indian education more effective, and to create students who not only finish school, but actually possess skills in reading, writing, and arithmetic; how to effectively realize the benefits of India’s demographic dividend; how to eliminate the corrosive effects of casteism in India and to truly raise the living conditions of the poorest of the poor; how to resolve the border conflicts with Pakistan and China; and a hundred other such crucial and pressing issues.
Team Anna neither has the experience nor the ability to deal with most of these issues. The key attribute of most of their principals, as has already been highlighted above, was an unassailable integrity. While they were great leaders in a campaign for probity in public life, it would be too much to expect them to have answers to all these questions.
Inflexibility and an Inability to Achieve Consensus
Another reality about the IAC/AAP people that I had begun to notice after a year of following them was that they were not willing to accommodate diversity of opinion. This had been pointed out quite early in the movement’s history, as far back as August 2011, by commentators, but I was too taken in by the movement’s dynamism to take those criticisms seriously. In fact, I wrote a rebuttal to it in my very first blog article, on the “misinformation in the media about the Anna Hazare movement”:
Anna's proposed Jan lokpal bill has been out in the open for 8 months. The reasoning behind the bill has been publicly explained by them and debated all this time. The bill has received intense scrutiny and discussion in the media over this time and the team has received 1300 suggestions from various people that they have incorporated into it, according to Arvind Kejriwal who stated this in an interview on TV with Karan Thapar. The current version of their jan lokpal bill, according to Arvind Kejriwal, is the 13th. In contrast, how open has the govt's bill been? Did they consult anyone except themselves? It is clear to everyone except those who do not wish to see that Anna Hazare's people are open to valid criticism of their bill and are willing to change the draft if a valid objection to it is raised.
Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan have made it clear in interviews on several TV channels that they are open to modifying the draft. A debate in parliament, if conducted in good faith, taking Anna's bill as a base, and then modifying it suitably, will, I am sure, not be objectionable to anyone in the Anna camp.
Anna's public stubbornness should be seen for what it really is: a negotiating tactic. I am sure he is willing to negotiate with the govt., but do you really expect him to announce that on national TV and reveal his hand when the govt has not made any conciliatory overtures? But his team has made it clear that while they are willing to negotiate, the negotiation is about issues like implementation, etc., not about corruption or about leaving some people out of the ambit of the bill. I think this should be viewed as reasonable; the aim of the lokpal is to eliminate corruption; how can you negotiate on corruption? The govt. continues to be stubborn and sound like a stuck record; but I don't see commentators talking about how the govt. is behaving in a high-handed and dictatorial manner, and how it completely is ignoring the wishes of the people!
Sadly, I was wrong and the commentators I was rebutting were right. Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, and the rest of the team made it clear, time and again, that they would accept ONLY their version of the Jan Lokpal; that any additions, omissions, or modifications suggested even by prominent social activists like Aruna Roy and Jayaprakash Narayan would not be acceptable to them. I had high hopes that they would conduct a national debate on the Lokpal Bill and, in consultation with the other civic society members, present a unified bill that truly represented the views of the people in the interests of the people. Anyone who raised an objection that the proposed Lokpal of the IAC might be too powerful for India’s good was immediately shot down as someone in cahoots with the corrupt politicians.
This same tendency carried over to the AAP that was born from the ashes of the IAC. During the 49 days that Arvind Kejriwal was CM of Delhi, the party would not listen to any objection to any of its proposals. It was always my way or the highway.
The Problem with the Basic Premise – the Genesis of Corruption
As I kept discussing these ideas with friends, reading more literature, and writing articles on the subject, one thing became clear to me – that first IAC, and then AAP, was mistaken in understanding the core issues of corruption and how it happens. I realized that the Lokpal does not really address the root cause of corruption. Let me explain this.
The root cause of corruption is discretionary power. Politicians are able to demand bribes for decisions that they can take because they are entrusted with too much discretionary power. The best way to remove corruption is to remove the discretionary power that lies with politicians.
Asking for a Lokpal while allowing politicians to have discretionary power is akin to asking a wolf to guard sheep and then having a committee to punish the wolf after it has eaten a few sheep: you are asking to have a policeman to punish the erring wolf, but not solving the root problem, which is that you should never put a wolf in charge of guarding sheep.
Asking for a Lokpal while allowing politicians to have discretionary power is akin to asking a wolf to guard sheep and then having a committee to punish the wolf after it has eaten a few sheep: you are asking to have a policeman to punish the erring wolf, but not solving the root problem, which is that you should never put a wolf in charge of guarding sheep.
In the same way, the resources of the nation should not be in the control of politicians. Remove discretionary power, and the politicians cannot be corrupt even if they want to be. As long as the government retains significant control of resources, they will continue to have discretion in how to use those resources. The only way to remove their discretionary powers is to end their ownership of state resources. In other words, privatize.
This will require large-scale disinvestment (at good market values) of most of India’s infrastructure, such as oil and gas, minerals and mining, ports, energy, railways, and the like. Except for a few critical, national-security-related industries like defense, most industry needs to be privatized for government corruption to end.
In addition, even for things that need to be under the control of government, there are too many hoops for people to go through. For a business to start in India, there are dozens of clearances that it has to obtain, and each clearance means a bribe to a different officer. This maze of regulations needs to be greatly simplified – and a Lokpal will not solve it.
This does not mean that there should be no regulations. There should be regulations, but they should pertain to performance, not permits; and they should be streamlined. For example, if someone wishes to set up a power plant, they should not have to submit a proposal and hope for a subjective approval; instead, the guidelines for a power plant should be openly and clearly published on a website – what kind of environmental impacts are allowed, what kind of resources can be granted, and so on, and if an agency wishes to set up a power plant, all that should be needed is a check that they have fulfilled all the necessary requirements, which does not even need to be done by the government itself, but by a third party regulator – in the same way that the government itself does not scrutinize the balance sheets of companies – that job is done by independent auditors like KPMG or E&Y. The role of government should be limited to setting the standards and nothing more. This will eliminate government corruption in one fell swoop.
Further, the Lokpal will put a much greater strain on the already-overloaded judicial system of India, which has arrears of decades. Indian courts are poorly staffed and even high-profile cases like the 1993 Mumbai blasts take 20 years to be decided – and that is a case where 350 people died. So the demand for a Jan Lokpal is poorly thought through, and there are more effective remedies for corruption.
It certainly isn’t worth giving up elected office for.
Hit-and-Run Politics and U-Turns
Having formed the Aam Aadmi Party, Mr. Kejriwal, in an attempt to stay in the limelight, publicly proclaimed that he would expose the corruption of the major parties. One week one heard that he had exposed the illegal land deals of Robert Vadra, the son-in-law of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, in Haryana and Rajasthan; another week one heard that he was exposing the illegal affairs of Nitin Gadkari, at the time the BJP President, in diverting water meant for poor farmers to rich industrialists; a third week he would talk about Union Minister Salman Khurshid embezzling funds from his trust where he supposedly donates free wheelchairs; and the fourth week one heard that he was exposing industrialist Mukesh Ambani for corruption in gas pricing. In none of the cases did he stay the course long enough for an investigation to be completed and the accused to be proclaimed guilty. For all the allegations, Mr. Kejriwal did not even press a single criminal case. The popular perception was simply that he was doing all this to stay in the limelight. The impression was firmly that of a dilettante rather than a serious politician.
In addition, Mr. Kejriwal, whose IAC had been on fairly friendly terms with the BJP when he was associated with Anna Hazare, suddenly developed a severe antipathy for the BJP when he had formed the AAP. Although initially he stuck to the script and said that both national parties were corrupt, the anti-Congress talk quickly evaporated and all criticism was directed at the BJP.
As if this were not enough, the man who had made his political life on the basis of an anti-corruption campaign suddenly started claiming that corruption was now a secondary concern and that the primary focus of the AAP should be fighting communalism, a veiled reference to the BJP, whom he was accusing of being communal.
In line with this changed focus were several photo-ops, wherein Kejriwal was seen with fundamentalist Muslim clerics, praying at mosques, and circulating pamphlets exhorting the Muslim community in Delhi to vote for the AAP, for which Mr. Kejriwal was pulled up by the election commission for model code violations.
This sudden change in emphasis was extremely puzzling to most people and gave them the impression that Mr. Kejriwal was as opportunistic a politician as the ones he liked to criticize.
The Delhi Fiasco
Despite all these misgivings about the AAP and their central election plank, viz., the Jan Lokpal Bill, I was still optimistic when the AAP actually won 28 seats in the Delhi assembly polls and were offered the chance to form a government in Delhi. Despite my understanding of their past inflexibility, as discussed above, I still had hope that they would see their mission as broader than just the Jan Lokpal bill; that they would understand why a state like Delhi could benefit greatly from people who are genuinely interested in doing good; and that Lokpal bill or not, here was a chance to demonstrate to the world how clean, good governance was achievable in India. There was some drama about this, and I wrote with much concern at the time, urging the party to take up the reins of power in order to make a difference – with a warning that failure to do so would doom them to irrelevance, much as failure to take the best offer from the UPA government at the height of the IAC’s influence doomed it to irrelevance.
To my relief, the AAP agreed to take up governance in Delhi. I was, by this time, not a big fan of the party, because of various pro-socialist statements from key people in their party – recall that I believe socialism is a pathway to corruption as it strengthens the discretionary powers of the state – but I still wanted them to succeed in Delhi to set an example for the entire country as to how a clean administration can deliver.
Unfortunately, the AAP disappointed again. In their brief, 49-day government, the party preferred to court controversy rather than focus on serving the people. Their manifesto talked about issues for which they needed support from the Congress and BJP parties, as well as issues over which they needed no support whatsoever. Examples of the former were a demand to have the law-and-order framework entirely under the control of the Delhi state government and the passage of the Jan Lokpal bill. Both of these required the central parliament to act in cooperation with the Delhi government, and the AAP government did not get the necessary cooperation.
But they knew that this was the case when they assumed power – that they could not expect a lot of cooperation from either of the national parties, especially on matters which needed to be settled in the Lok Sabha (powers of the Delhi state, for example.) There were still a lot of issues on which a clean and sincere government could do much, and the AAP started a lot of initiatives, but was unable to complete anything because they ruled for so short a time. For instance, an initiative they undertook was to try to make arrangements for homeless people to sleep in a makeshift shelter during the harsh Delhi winter. This is a laudable initiative, and had the AAP government stayed its course, it might have well been able to deliver.
Another initiative floated by the AAP was to provide toilets in all public schools and to increase the number of schools. A third initiative was to rationalize the price of water and electricity, for which they promised to conduct an audit of the utilities to determine if corruption had been occurring, and if so, what would be the correct pricing for these utilities.
While these were all worthy initiatives, and I wish the AAP had pursued a lot more of these, they quit within 49 days over the fact that they did not get cooperation in passing their pet Jan Lokpal bill. Immediately after the bill was defeated, Kejriwal announced that he was quitting the government. The same inflexibility they had shown earlier was continuing to dog them.
Mr. Kejriwal announced his party’s resignation from power without so much as a thought for the millions who had backed him. In particular, he had exhorted people in Delhi to not pay electricity dues, arguing that the rates people were being charged were too high, and that when he came to power he would see to it that the rates were revised down with retroactive effect. About 24,000 people defaulted on their bills as a result of his exhortation. Well, he did come to power, and he did reduce the rates, which in itself was controversial, because it meant that only those who had supported him availed of the subsidy – clear nepotism and a violation of equality under the law – and attracted widespread criticism. The move was also criticized as financially irresponsible because it was not based on any careful financial analysis but populism. The final goof-up in this massive exercise in stupidity was that he did not make any provision for the Rs. 6 crore subsidy in Delhi’s budget, as a result of which the subsidy lapsed.
For me, personally, Kejriwal's resignation was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Here was an opportunity to do so much for a city state like Delhi, and here were people who were willing to give up ALL this for one single issue. That was what proved to me that this was an impractical bunch of people who could never achieve anything – never, at any rate, as long as Mr. Kejriwal was their leader.
Whenever I walk around Mumbai, or Pune, or Bangalore, or any other city I have either lived in or visited, I think of how much I could do to change the place if only I had the authority. How, even if I had a portfolio generally considered “unimportant,” such as tourism, I could make a difference. For instance, when I visited Delhi a few years ago, I had the chance to visit Humayun’s tomb, a world heritage site. For all its billing, the site had very little help for the tourist. There was very little signage telling you what you were looking at. I remember how tourist sites in the west are so well-developed. As I was standing in Humayun’s tomb, I was thinking of all the things I could do to make it a truly world-class tourist site.
And this is just about one small, fairly unimportant issue – but something that can have a huge domino effect. Think of all the things one can do to make things better when one has control of an entire city-state – schools, public transport, water, electricity, food supply, hygiene, hospitals – the list is endless. The AAP had that power and control. They chose to throw away this opportunity on this single prestige issue. That is what tells me these people – and especially their leader, Arvind Kejriwal – are not serious about providing good governance. And I would never entrust such a party with the affairs of the entire country when they cannot manage to run a city.
Mr. Kejriwal seems more concerned about grandstanding and about winning seats in the Lok Sabha. In a recent debate on facebook, one of their party volunteers proudly informed me that “quitting Delhi was a planned strategy and well-scripted.” I asked him if they had told the people of Delhi about their plan to quit the administration within 2 months if elected. Had they told them this truth, would they have gotten their 28 seats? This shows that the AAP betrayed the people of Delhi; that they never had any intention to govern if elected, but were only using the Delhi election as a springboard to the national elections.
By acting in these ways, the AAP has proved that it doesn’t embody a different kind of politics, as they have been claiming all along. They are (at least their leaders are) as cynical as the worst political party, and their so-called “sacrifice” of power in Delhi was simply a gambit to get more power at the national level. Their leaders are as power-hungry as those from the worst political party, and the mask of righteousness has finally been torn off their face.
The citizen’s movement that started with Anna Hazare’s “Indian Monsoon” movement in August 2011 has run its full course. The movement began well, and had the salutary effect of awakening the Indian citizen to the awareness that he or she needed to be actively engaged in the politics of the nation; that he or she could not blindly entrust the politics of the nation to its politicians and simply vote once in 5 years and expect things to be fine. The citizen has to be an active participant in the politics of the nation. This realization is certainly a strong positive outcome of the movement of Anna Hazare.
However, the party that has sprung from this movement, the Aam Aadmi Party, has failed the people. The party has betrayed both the people of Delhi who elected it to power, as well as its own volunteers, many of whom left lucrative jobs in a spirit of service to do good for the nation.
I don’t believe, however, that the idea of the AAP is dead. The idea that the common people of the country should get together to form honest parties that aim to do good for the country has now been established as a credible alternative reality. Unfortunately, this particular incarnation of the idea has failed, due to flawed, egotistical, and obstinate leaders like Mr. Kejriwal who have put their own ego ahead of the well-being of the party.
There is no reason why a different incarnation of a people’s party, composed of ordinary Indians unconnected with political parties and big money, should not work. We should be thankful to the AAP that it showed that one can win an election without being well-connected and well-funded, and can still win 29% vote share in an election such as the Delhi assembly. They have broken new ground and shown people that this is possible.
However, two important requirements have been shown to be very essential by the experience of the AAP, and any future party should clarify these before engaging in a similar endeavour as the AAP.
One of the major flaws of the AAP is that they were a single-issue party that was only concerned about corruption. Any viable political party should have a detailed internal manifesto on all major issues that all party members must be in agreement on – religious affairs, economic direction, industrial policy, defence, urban development, natural resources, environment, and the like - else there will be conflict on the party direction. The AAP’s brief history clearly illustrates the importance of such an internal manifesto. Having such a manifesto would have prevented embarrassments like Prashant Bhushan shooting off his mouth on Kashmir.
The second requirement is the need for educated followers of a new party like the AAP to be independently aware – to study issues independently, and to form their own opinions. One of the signal flaws that I noticed in the party was that most of the people were simply following the leader, viz., Kejriwal. They had little independent thought, and were simply parroting their leader’s statements on facebook and twitter. How different is this from the hundreds of illiterates who follow a Lalu Prasad Yadav or a Mayawati? Most of the AAP volunteers are educated; but this education seems to have done little to awaken their own desire to be informed participants of a democracy and a democratic party. Unless Indians start to think independently, the future is bleak. It is time to get rid of your intellectual laziness; otherwise, just as your father’s generation was exploited by leaders like Lalu, Nitish, and Mayawati, your generation will be exploited by self-servers like Kejriwal.
It might seem to you that I am writing the obituary of the Aam Aadmi Party. If so, you would not be mistaken. I don’t expect this party to be viable for much longer after the general election. But the death of the AAP might well be the start of a new beginning. The countless volunteers who have supported this party and contributed to its growth will not quietly fade away. Their desire for a better India will find a new, and hopefully a less egotistic and a more coherent voice for expression. It is a vision one earnestly hopes does translate one day into a reality.
Good post. As honest as it can get. Now each invdividual's perception of reality can vary, but at least i felt you wrote what you believed in with every bone.ReplyDelete
Thank you very much for understanding. Please spread the word. I was not able to write this in time for Delhi voters to see it, but I think people elsewhere should read this and not waste their vote on this party.Delete
good writing skills but i still feel kejriwal is better option than almost all major political parties. You also need to know that Kejriwal didnt join either BJP or Cong. But Anna ji went to TMC, Kiran Bedi, Anupam kher, VK Singh etc went to BJP. Its less about personal political ambitions, its more about good political intentions. Kejriwal and Kumar vishwas still score 10/10 after IAC but Ana, Kiran, VK Singh have lost the main purposeDelete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
Wonderful post.. You almost summarized the happenings of last 5 years. I really liked your views on how Privatization is a better option than amending laws with a stick of Lokpal. Even the ideological paralysis of AAP and its followers is quite a reasonable reason which you very well articulated in your post.ReplyDelete
Thank you very much! Please spread the word!Delete
Excellent piece of note, you opened new provocative front, like intellectual laziness and there is no difference between Kejriwal ' s supporters and Lalu's, Mulayam and Mayawati's. These people are intellectual dead bodies just floating in our society to let the Kejriwals to come and rape our system.ReplyDelete
Yes, it is an unfortunate fact of human psychology that most people prefer to remain sheep rather than learn to think for themselves. This must change if India is to improve. It is one thing if an illiterate villager blindly follows a Lalu; there is no excuse for an educated person who has internet access and is able to send 20 tweets a day for not doing a bit of googling and learning about the issues, instead of blindly parroting what a Kejriwal says.
Please spread the word!!!
This is what a sane person who just doesn't believe what media says without processing writes. Well written. And happy to know that there are still enough people who don't believe in this mass hysteria. AK to me is a good as goebbels. Use the mindset of people, incept thoughts and win on their short term memory and continue to keep it short term by limelight stunts.ReplyDelete
I'm eagerly waiting for that day when the so called intellectuals of this country who follow and support Aap blindly finally understand the reality.
Thank you! Please spread this far and wide. People need to know; they shouldn't waste their vote.Delete
I think they will still exist as a power group, but this time within the Lok Sabha - and in future elections in municipalities, state houses etc. Rather than being a special interest group which can only hope that the govt and MPs will effect a change, now as elected MPs in the opposition AAP and AK will make the govt of the day take notice and maybe behave better with respect to policy making et all.ReplyDelete
I'm not idealistic , I dont think such a young party with such a nascent party building and organization building capability has the maturity to run a govt - point in case Delhi. There is still time for that. But I see them as an effective opposition who will make the right moves against bad governance and corruption as an elected rep rather than an outsider.
I am afraid I don't agree...and this is why. I don't see them winning more than 5 seats in the LS election, if that many. You don't become a power group that way. I also don't think their fortunes will change as long as AK is their leader. He seems to not be serious about anything. If the other party members find their own bearings and the hero-worship of AK stops, maybe there is some hope.Delete
And I also disagree that they could not have run Delhi. If they had not been held hostage to AK's ego on Jan Lokpal, they could have learned on the job. I don't hold their inexperience against them. You make mistakes and learn, and that's why I did not make a big deal about Somnath Bharti, etc., in the article. The dharna was a bit much, but they learned after a couple days that it was not the smart thing. And they would have learned more along the way - IF ONLY THEY HAD STAYED THE COURSE. Quitting the government robbed so many people of the chance to learn governance firsthand. What was the hurry to contest LS in 2014? Prove yourself in Delhi and run in 2019 - or even in midterm assembly elections. If they had done well in Delhi by, say, 2017, they would have probably won a few more states.
And they need to move beyond Jan Lokpal and think of the different dimensions of governance.
I think they lost the people's trust when they quit the Delhi govt. May 16 will show if I am right or not.
Thanks for your comment.
I agree on most of the points.ReplyDelete
At the same time, when you say you do not want people to waste their vote on this party, you do not make it clear whether you mean people should instead vote for BJP or Congress, as they are leading choices people have, or you meant people should vote based on the candidate in their respective constituency.
Also when you compare the Kejriwal followers with those who follow Mayawati Mulayam and Lalu, are the followers of Modi and Rahul Gandhi any different?
I am making these observations because I agree with your points but additionally I also see that the current politics needs to be changed, and the current general election is definitely not doing any good, with the kind of Modi followership I see. But I don't see any reference towards BJP or Congress.
Mr. Ravi Gandh,Delete
Thank you for your comment. I will reply to it below.
But before I do that, I want to mention something. You made a comment on 12 April at 01.21 hrs - saw that I did not respond immediately - you did not even wait 24 hours for a response - and when you saw that I had not replied within just 18 hours, you post, at 19.24 hours on the same day, that you "guess" that I will not reply because your comments don't align with what I wrote in my post!
For your kind information, I do have a life outside the blogosphere. And there are priorities I have to deal with in real life too. While I appreciate your taking the time to comment here, do you think I have nothing in life to do but to respond to it? On what basis did you make such an uncharitable suggestion, without even waiting 24 hours for the response? Have you seen any of my other posts and seen how I have responded to almost everyone, regardless of whether they agreed with me or not? I have usually reserved my most detailed comments for those who disagreed with me. It is very to say thank you to someone who agrees with you; it takes more time, and hence I don't immediately respond, to people who disagree with me ... I need to think carefully about my response.
Your response in speaking badly about me without even checking on what my past behavior has been reflects poorly on you, not me.
Having said that, I will respond to your comment this time since you have taken the trouble to comment, although I am not interested in pursuing this conversation with a person who doesn't appreciate other people and their time.
I did not bother talking, in my article, about who people should vote for because this article was about the AAP, not about the BJP or the Congress. But since you have asked the question, I will mention that I would vote for the BJP and recommend this to my readers. And the reason is written in my post - I dislike socialism. I believe socialism is the surest way to corruption, and it will destroy whatever is left of India's prosperity. Whatever prosperity we have today is because of the liberalization of our economy which started in 1992. Right now the Congress is in the process of reversing that progress with schemes like MGNREGA, RTE, and FSB; and the AAP is so left-wing that I fear that they will take India back to the 1970s, when we were beggars in the international economy. I am not going to discuss these ideas in detail here, because I am in the process of writing a detailed, 12-part piece on why socialism is bad and why free markets are good for India. The first part has been released and you can see it here: http://www.leftbrainwave.com/2014/04/the-case-for-free-markets-in-india-part.html
Now, the BJP itself is somewhat conflicted about capitalism, and there are many who do not subscribe to it. There are many who only want to follow the same economics that the Congress is following. From what I have seen of Modi, however, I think he genuinely believes in free markets. I would like him to win in a decisive way so that he will not have as much opposition in bringing free-market reforms into India at a faster pace. That's my belief - you may disagree. And I think market reforms are the single most important thing for India - more important than corruption, Jan Lokpal, and the like. There needs to be regulation, of course, and so activist movements towards a regulated market are welcome. If the AAP can change its focus so that it battles for tight regulation in free markets so that cronyism can be eliminated, I'll support them all the way.
Secondly, as to your question "are the followers of Rahul Gandhi and Modi any different?" the answer is probably not. But the AAP wants to be the party with a difference, right? If you want to build a different kind of party, a party with ideals and inner-party democracy, then people within the party should be educated.
Very well written and informative from a stand point of "look at these jokers, they have no clue about governance nor experience in this area". I personally, just like you subscribe to the philosophy and intention of AAP's underlying message of changing the political system. "The idea that the common people of the country should get together to form honest parties that aim to do good for the country" .ReplyDelete
That said I strongly am also with you on that one point you made about those who call themselves as educated, intellectual, well read/travelled citizens not putting in the effort of using tools like Google to research and get information needed instead of falling for media propaganda and other rhetoric by charismatic orators.
I did exactly that when I saw this article in the Times of India ( The highest circulating English newspaper in the country) - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/lok-sabha-elections-2014/news/40-of-AAP-candidates-in-Madhya-Pradesh-have-criminal-records-30-are-billionaires/articleshow/33511737.cms .
The article says that the "data" is from the ADR report. The ADR report is here - http://adrindia.org/research-and-report/election-watch/lok-sabha/madhya-pradesh/2014/phase-3-analysis-criminal-and-finan
I spent 10 mins comparing the article released by Press Trust of India and published by numerous print and online media with the original report. It was so obviously inaccurate and misleading I have lost all faith in the media in this country!The article screams with the headline -"40% of AAP candidates in MP have criminal records and 30% are billionaires." (Billionaires here is not accurate usage, the "reporter" is using it for impact. The people are "crorepatis". It cites the ADR(Association for Democratic Reform) report and quite obviously is indirectly trying to exhort AAP's "double standards" . Now spend 5 mins...go through the actual report and decide for yourself.
An unbiased article would have read - ""44% of BJP, 14% of AAP and 13% of INC candidates in Madhya Pradesh have criminal records, 89% of BJP, 75% of INC and 29% of AAP are billionaires". Or if the intent was to highlight the party with the worst candidate backgrounds - "44% BJP candidates in MP have criminal records and 89% are billionaires."
Since that episode, I am starting to believe that there seems to be more to it than meets the eye. Why is all this criticism on this new entrant who is trying to bring in change? As we know very well in any field/situation..change is never easy and for change to be effected in the dirty old world politics is met with even more resistance.
Detailed list of inaccuracies are here - https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=494619880637777&set=a.300369023396198.53817.290805814352519&type=1
You and me are fortunate that we have access to a computer and internet to verify this article (although news media are supposed to be unbiased and therefore negating the need to verify). So all those folks who started crying hoarse about free press etc need to introspect and more importantly there seems to be some truth in what Kejriwal and co have been going on about like a stuck record - "Paid Media"
Imagine the remaining 80% of the country who have no access to information at this scale that we are fortunate to have access to. They rely on the media (print and online) for information that would help them comprehend and decide. Most villages without a high level of literacy or where there is no access to radio/Television would rely on the one literate person to read them the news and keep them informed. Now imagine that one person is biased - the villagers are doomed to follow his or her interpretations.
And that is the reason I would consider AAP as a good opposition until they are able to prove and gain experience in governance.
I hope he responds. My guess is he won't, since you, and even I, made some observations that don't align with his thoughts in the blog. I was waiting for him to reply, but he hasn't, while he has responded to others who have "blindly" praised his blog!Delete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.Delete
Dear Tarun Smanie,Delete
Thanks very much for reading and taking the trouble to comment.
I am glad you liked the article; thank you for your kind words.
However, I must first disagree with your characterization of my intent. You say that I wrote this article
from a stand point of "look at these jokers, they have no clue about governance nor experience in this area".
I must defend myself here, for I don't think their lack of experience in governance or the fact that they have "no clue" is something to be held against them. I didn't hold it against them, otherwise I would not have urged them to take up the reins of the Delhi government in my earlier article http://www.leftbrainwave.com/2013/12/those-who-cannot-remember-past.html
My complaint with the AAP has not been its inexperience. Experience is a Catch-22 problem, as everyone knows from the struggle to get their first job. You won't get experience unless you do the job. I fault AAP not for inexperience, which they can do nothing about, but lack of perseverence and application, which they can do everything about. For example,
You say Vadra, Gadkari, Khurshid, and Ambani are corrupt; but you just hold a press conference and don't follow up.
You promise so many things to Delhiites - good hospitals, schools, colleges, etc., etc., but you quit before ANYTHING has been achieved.
You get the people of Delhi to vote you into power, and then quit without running a full term, or even 6 months - you quit within 49 days when you were NOT FORCED TO QUIT.
These are character flaws in the leadership of AAP. If you don't have experience you can do nothing about it. But if you lack character, you have yourself to blame. The Delhi people were willing to overlook the lack of experience. They will not forgive the lack of character.
Now, coming to your point, it is true that there is a lot of negative publicity about the AAP. But to just say that this is paid media is to try to ignore the elephant in the living room. Every criticism of the AAP is not because of paid media. There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that if Modi comes to power, India will be better off. The journalists who are engaged in biased and dishonest reporting are probably doing it thinking this is their bit to help Modi. Even I believe that Modi will be good for the country - but that is because I think he will further the country in free-market reforms (see my reply to Ravi Gandh earlier). I have criticized the AAP in my article. Am I, therefore, paid media? Only a person with blinders on would say that. I am not paid; I don't belong to the media proper; I have no ties with the BJP. I write whatever I do as a private citizen, based on what I think is right. But Mr. Kejriwal has a tendency to call anyone who criticizes him as paid media. It seems inconceivable to him that any ordinary, honest Indian could disagree with him. I find this incredulous considering that even in the Delhi election, he only got 29% of the vote - which means that 71% of the Delhi people disagreed with him. Are they all "paid media"? This hysterical nonsense has to stop...and this is what I mean by saying that AAPians simply parrot what Kejriwal says without thinking things through. Yes, the media person you refer to has behaved dishonestly, but this is very likely due to his own biases or the biases of his organization (which don't have to be paid for.)
Can the AAP be an effective opposition? I think their numbers will be too small for that - about 5 MPs. I do wish they learn a little more about how the economy works before screaming "chor, chor" at the first opportunity. Yes, there is chori, and it is good to scream about that, but not everything is chori.
Lovely and comprehensive case study - I want to clarify two points - (a) while I agree with you that in the long-run privatizing is a good thing ... but corruption often happens druing the process of privatization.. e.g., 2G. So there is still a role for a strong Jan Lok Pal Bill. (b) Second, I think while they may have not been inclusive in their apprach, substantively the Jan LokPal bill was fairly well conceived - I had little content objections in it's construct (unlike the Congress' jokepal bill). So personally, I regard the charge of "he is not being inclusive" more of a ego battle from the other NGOs who did not enjoy the limelight like the core IAC team did. But it did speak to an absolutism which doesn't forebode well for success in politicsReplyDelete
Thanks very much for taking the trouble to comment!!
You have made two points, and I will respond in turn.
First, on the fact that corruption happens in the process of privatization. True, but what is the solution to that? Is the Jan Lokpal the solution?
I say no. And I'll explain why. What is the Jan Lokpal? It is an agency that PUNISHES people for wrongdoing. It cannot do anything to prevent wrongdoing in the first place. So, essentially, you are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. What we need more than the Jan Lokpal is a mechanism so that corruption does not happen in the first place.
Since you brought up the 2G scam, let me explain with reference to that.
First, it is essential to understand what the wrongdoing in 2G was, because there is a LOT OF CONFUSION on this.
For example, the statement is often made that there was a LOSS TO THE EXCHEQUER amounting to Rs. 1.75 lakh crores.
This is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. There is NO LOSS TO THE EXCHEQUER. In a strange way, Kapil Sibal was right.
But there was LOSS TO THE CITIZENS.
Let me explain.
The auction of 2G spectrum was preceded by discussion within the Union cabinet, which decided that spectrum should be available to customers (Indian lay citizens) at low prices, as this would have multiple beneficial effects in productivity, communication, etc., when everyone could afford to use a mobile phone.
As a result, it was decided to price 2G at a low price - to benefit ordinary Indians.
What happened was that A. Raja asked friends of his to apply for this spectrum which was being sold real cheap so that they could sell it off immediately afterwards at market prices and pocket the profit - a part of which would be fed back to him as a thank-you kickback.
So, what you saw was a company like Swan Telecom (Shahid Balwa's front), which was a bogus company with no telecom experience at all - and many others like this - buying big lots of spectrum in the govt. auction dirt cheap. Soon afterward Swan sold its share to UAE telecom major Etisalat at market prices, pocketing a huge profit.
Now, if Etisalat is paying market price and not discounted price for spectrum, how will it price its services? At market price!!! So the government's original intention of giving spectrum cheap to favor the ordinary citizen was fruitless. Citizens had to pay full price because Etisalat had to pay full price.
So, there is no loss to the exchequer, because the whole intent WAS for the exchequer to LOSE some money in order to benefit the citizen - in other words, it was a welfare scheme. The real crime in the 2G scam is the crookery, whereby a company pretended to be a telecom company for the purpose of getting spectrum cheap, only to sell it to a real telecom provider at market rates.
So, how do you stop this?
By having regulatory mechanisms such as requiring all bidders for an auction to be bonafide players. This is so blindingly simple that any idiot can design a screening system. Say in the bid document that you can only bid if you have been in business for 10 years; if you have executed past projects worth so many billion $; if you have an annual turnover of so many billion $; and you are guaranteed not to have any fraudsters in the fray.
Why wasn't this done? Because no one screened the bid documents to see the requirements. Had they done so, they would have seen that there was no worthwhile requirement at all on the bidders - any donkey could bid for 2G spectrum.
So the solution to the 2G spectrum and related problems is simply to have a regulatory agency to scan all bid documents before the govt. can go and auction anything. Maybe the CAG could do this - make a law that the CAG should check any bid document floated by any ministry for holes.
That's a whole different thing than having a Jan Lokpal whose only job is to punish all the people involved in the scam - after all the money has vanished. And, btw, Raja is fighting the 2014 elections, and is going to get elected, so good luck with punishing him.
The other problem with the Jan Lokpal concept is that all the JLP can do is bring charges against people, even investigate them. What about justice? The Indian justice system is backed up for decades. JLP will just overload this system. So there will be a case against a guy who demanded a bribe from me at the RTO, and it will get settled 40 years later, and he will be fined Rs. 5000, after I am dead or he is. I kid you not. The 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts, in which 350 people died, took 20 years to get justice; what's the hope in getting justice against a guy who asked for a Rs. 1 lakh bribe?Delete
Now, to your second point: you may be right that it was more of an ego battle as the different NGOs' versions were not substantially different, but not including them in the platform deprived them of the strength of allies. It ensured that when they were down, they were really out because they had no one to help them. People were cheering instead of helping because they had been so cocky. And that absolutism will keep hurting them in politics as well, as you also agree.
Nice article. Unfortunately the true situation is even worse than AAP losing their way. Please see:ReplyDelete