Sunday, April 13, 2014

Politics of development is as narrow as the politics of secularism and communalism.

Modi is riding the development wave. He and BJP has successfully created this common perception over the past decade that politics now should be played on development and that BJP has the lone copyright on 'development'. The most common instance given are the roads of Gujarat to prove development, then the Tata Nano plant and then the opinion that most Gujarati (s) are rich.

I was convinced about the need for development, and the need for politics to be based on development and progress. I liked BJP for taking that plank. (However, I never liked Modi read this blog). In offices and in various dinner parties, development was the most discussed topic.

Over a lot of dinner table discussions, media reports and my own research, I realized that nobody has defined the measurement of development. For a Capitalist, development means something completely opposite to what it means to a Socialist, or a Leftist. Development means a certain thing for a salaried employee, and it means something else for a self-employed. Development carries a certain perception for urban population, and means something completely different for the rural population.

Today, Congress in Assam has released a full page advertisement on the most widely circulated Assamese daily - Pratidin. It says, "Reality of Gujarat in comparison to Assam". The ad signs off saying, "Action speaks louder than words". It gives various statistics to prove that indeed Gujarat is much lesser developed than Assam. One of the point says, "For every 100 sq. kms, Assam has 308.26 kms of road whereas Gujarat has 79.68 kms of road only".

This advertisement may fool the people of rest of India, but not the people living and suffering in Assam. This ad has clarified in my mind that 'development' politics is no different from 'secularism' politics. Both are shallow, mis-leading, corrupt in their meanings and mere vote led politics.

Some Statistics shown in the Ad

  1. For every 100 sq. kms, Assam has 308.26 kms of road whereas Gujarat has 79.68 kms of roads only.
  2. Women in reserved seats: Assam (33.3%) Vs Gujarat (14.7%)
  3. Per 100 boys going to school: Assam (100 girls) Vs Gujarat (85 girls)
  4. Farmers with loan debt: Assam (18.01%) Vs Gujarat (51.09%)
  5. Hunger Index: Assam (4th) Vs Gujarat (13th)
  6. Allotment for Rural development: Assam 3.13% vs Gujarat 2.80%
  7. Allotment for Health and Medicine: Assam (4.8%) Vs Gujarat (4.6%)
  8. Health Development Index: Assam (3rd) Vs Gujarat (13th)
  9. Education Development Index: Assam (23.25%) Vs Gujarat (12.7%)
  10. Loan NPA: Assam (29200 crs) Vs Gujarat (176500 crs)
Please note that this blog is NOT IN SUPPORT of CONGRESS. This is only to prove that we all can bluff on development. Even the most corrupt Congress Govt. in Assam can. It is primarily because development has no standard definition.

Corruption on the other hand has been given a definition by AAP. It is primarily segmented into two categories: Exploitative corruption and Mutual corruption. Exploitative corruption is the kind where the common public feels exploited, but is helpless to just accept it. So only one of the party benefits. Mutual corruption is the kind where both or all the parties involved are benefitting from the transaction. There is a third party or the country which is getting the hit.

Corruption not only takes away tax money meant for welfare, but also creates inefficiencies all across the economic and social value system. The most critical negative side effect of corruption is the effect it has on the character and morality of a society. It has a lot of indirect effects as well. For instance, the standard of driving and traffic skills is the poorest in the district where the department issuing licenses is most corrupt.

If we can reduce corruption either through fear or through awareness by 50%, Govt. expenditures will become 50% more effective and development will increase by over 50% automatically.

It is time that we understand what each of the political parties are saying in the real sense of the term. We should discuss, read and spread awareness. We have seen enough political promises and we have got cheated enough number of times by the ruling class.

It is time we vote for a party which is created by the Aam Aadmi with a clear focus on the common man. With Swaraj Bill and the Jan Lokpal Bill, it will bring power to the grassroots and thereby reduce mutual corruption in the ruling class. Jan Lokpal Bill will create necessary fear in the bureaucracy and the Govt offices and thereby reduce exploitative corruption.

Support AAP. Join AAP. Donate for a corruption free Assam, and India.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Confession of an AAPtard.

I was sort of a BJP supporter. They seemed like the better option as compared to the corrupt clue-less Congress. I loved Vajpayee Ji. I liked a lot of the BJP spokespersons on TV as well. They seemed smarter than the rest, and were more direct and clear in their interaction.

I was a salaried employee working in an MNC company then.

Yet, I was not very comfortable about my choice. The primary discomfort was because of the fact that I am more of an Assamese, than an Indian. To me, BJP is a very non-Assamese party and it does not understand the sentiments of the Assamese people. It may sound stupid, but that was how I felt. (Later I found out that lot of Assamese in Assam felt that way.)

Secondly, I could not get completely comfortable about Modi. I indeed tried to get comfortable by reading about him and his works, but he was just too much of an enigma. He seemed un-approachable, and far away for my conscience to get comfortable with him. He is an one-man army and his council of ministers in the Gujarat Government were too conspicuous by their absence and silence. This defeated the ethos of democracy.

Aam Aadmi Party in the meanwhile was being formed, and something or the other was happening in New Delhi. I didn't take much notice, perhaps because it was primarily a 'Delhi' thing, and I couldn't gauge the power behind the idea. It was only when AAP won 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly that I took notice and thought of reading about AAP and their anti-corruption drive.

One of the first videos that took my breath away -

I started following Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP website for a clearer understanding of the party. I found a strong anti-establishment sentiment primarily based on honesty and anti-corruption. I found a clear shift of focus from 'the ruling class sentiment' of a politician to the 'common man sentiment'. I found a lot of intelligence and ingenuity in the quickly evolving institution called AAP. The website and the various online services it offered were very innovative and user-friendly towards the single goal of forming a powerful institution. I loved the concept of 'Swaraj' where AAP is directing all its efforts and energies. I related to the concept of decentralization of power in terms of political, social and cultural administration of the country and the various varied states.

Two more videos to understand Arvind Kejriwal...

It was December 2013, when I had packed my bags and left Mumbai for good. Being in Assam for just a few days gave me a clear indication that corruption has entered even deeper in Assam, fueled by un-employment and lack of knowledge and awareness. I was surprised at the happy state of being corrupt, right from the top to the man on the streets. It was anarchy. To me, the wave of honesty and power to honest people seemed more critical for Assam than the rest of India.

BJP in the meantime had played its cards well and had become a formidable anti-incumbency option to the Indian citizens. From the last few elections, Indians were anyway fed up of coalition Governments and the 'concept per compromise' of NDA and UPA. It was not the party or its philosophy that had been creating a polarization of affection towards BJP. It was the univocal public sentiment of the well meaning citizens of the country towards a majority one-party Government, which was acting for the BJP. The in-efficient Congress, Modi effect with his team of spin doctors and the perception of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh being two of the most well-governed states of the country was adding fuel to the BJP fire.

At the same time, AAP, its leaders, its supporters including me were getting more and more confident of the alternative of honest politics, Swaraj and Jan Lok Pal bill. We were in a hurry. With the Delhi victory, we became doubly in hurry. Our objective of a corruption free country, where the power resides with the common people seemed possible. Quite obviously, BJP became our primary obstacle, as Congress ship was sinking on its own. We started attacking BJP and its policies more than those of the Congress. This created a huge confusion, debate and disillusionment among the well meaning citizens of India, who had already selected BJP as their saviour. BJP supporters, in no time labelled AAP as the agent of Congress to divide BJP vote bank for the Congress to win the elections.

We, the volunteers and supporters of AAP had got very upset about this new preposterous development. Labeling us with the Congress was an insult, hard to take. No amount of explanation and logic by the AAP supporters could convince the AAP haters to stop the tirade. The voice of the AAP critics and haters are so fierce that some time you get almost un-certain about the intentions of Arvind Kejriwal. I am confident about the constituency where I work, and the people that I work with. But sometimes I think 'who knows what is in the mind of the central think tank'. Politics is dirty.

Politics is dirty. This perception is the key reason why AAP is not believable for the un-initiated. 'Honesty is the best policy' has long lost its meaning and practicality. Honesty in politics is like a paradox. Honest politician is like a misnomer. AAP may have taken unconditional Congress support with honest intentions to form the Delhi Government, yet it is just not believable in the current context of politics in India. AAP and Congress just became allies for the common man of India. All the reasons and facts that had made people believe that AAP is an alternative to Congress in Delhi before the assembly elections, somehow faded into oblivion. After the elections when AAP took Congress support, all of those reasons and facts were all categorized as gimmicks with double meaning.

It is just unbelievable that AAP is an platform and a collection of honest people with the common intention of removing corruption from the political and administration system of our country. In Assam, there were a lot of people who joined AAP because it was easier to join, thinking that it will be just like any other political party - acceptably corrupt. It becomes very embarrassing for the party, as these people spoil the brand AAP. Although, they will get filtered out sooner than later, yet it is a problem that perhaps every state in the country has faced or is facing as I write.

Politics is also about power. There is a certain power addiction in becoming the ruling class, and remaining as one. AAP refutes that equation. AAP genuinely wants power to come to the masses. AAP genuinely wants the lowest unit of democracy to be the most powerful unit of democracy. This is again unbelievable, for it is a paradigm shift in terms of political thinking. It is about acting local facilitated by thinking global.

I have experienced this philosophy within the party. I was the campaign manager of the Jorhat Lok Sabha candidate - Mr. Manorom Gogoi. During the whole campaign process, there was no high command. Even the manifesto was made by us without any interference from the state committee and the central committee. It was all about the local needs best understood by the local people and by the people directly involved in the campaign process. The basis idea of honesty was omni-present but it got manifested in the most local way possible in our actions and speeches.

I have realized one thing for certain. AAP is not merely a political party. It is a revolution that have touched the length and breath of the country. It has polarized the country against corruption. Good intentions and actions will keep converting people in the fringe into hardcore supporters.  Arvind Kejriwal has started the revolution, and now it is all about what we do that will define this great phenomenon.

Till now, we have shown extreme intelligence, dedication, comradeship and perseverance. Just look at the huge IT infrastructure that the party is able to create in just over a year. It is no mean feat that AAP is fielding the highest number of candidates in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, among all parties. Arvind Kejriwal and Kumar Vishwas have shown extreme courage and commitment by deciding to stand against Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. It is quite likely that both Arvind Kejriwal and Kumar Vishwas will win their respective elections.

If that happens, we will not be very far from the miracle of really being able to restore honesty in the electoral politics of India.