A New Year’s Resolution…Vote for Independence

When I look back at my campaign for the 2009 Lok Sabha election, one of the most memorable moments was watching a news clip of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh on a flying visit to Mumbai, for a day, say “Don’t vote for Independents – they are spoilers” !

As I was an Independent, and as this had been, for several weeks, the refrain mounted by my opposition, it was widely assumed that the PM’s comment was directed at me.

A group from my campaign team was elated – they felt this was a sign that the traditional political establishment was so threatened by the new independent voice in politics, that they had to get the PM to speak against it. Other members of the team saw this as a real dampener for my campaign. The PM was one of the most respected voices in the country, and his comments would undoubtedly sway many voters against me.

The TV channels asked me to comment on Dr Singh’s statement. What I said at the time, was that I was glad we were living in a Democracy. The Prime Minister, whom I greatly respected, was entitled to his view. However, as a citizen of India, I believed that we needed Independent voices in Parliament – people who stood because they wanted to serve this country; who would vote for issues on principle; and who took a stand based on the dictates of their conscience rather than on the direction of their party’s High Command.

Watching the debate in Parliament on the Lokpal Bill over the past few days, I feel this is more important today for India, than ever before. There are many intelligent and honorable men and women in Parliament – however their voice is drowned by the compulsions of Party politics.

It is astonishing that narrow partisan considerations have blinded all political parties to the nation wide outrage at Corruption and the unwillingness of our representatives to pass legislation to tackle it.

Perhaps the reason is, that this sense of outrage, has not yet translated into a loss of votes. After all, why should the political establishment change its behavior, when old behaviors continue to be rewarded ?

The excellent reports by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) show the disproportionate increase in assets of our elected representatives term after term. Proceedings from Parliament are broadcast live. We have more than enough facts to be able to draw up a balanced score card of the performance of those whom we have elected. If despite this, we continue to re-elect them, are we justified in complaining ?

Yatha Raja Tatha Praja : In his Nitishastra, Chanakya said “As the ruler does, so do the citizens of his country”. The philosophy of Grecian democrats was the inverse of this – they believed that citizens of a Democratic state, would choose leaders who reflected their own nature, namely Yatha Praja Tatha Raja !

Indians are hard-working, God-fearing, honest people. This is evident from the success of the Indian diaspora across the world. Given a level playing field, and access to equal opportunity, our fundamental entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to work hard, help us succeed. At home, Corruption has become all-pervasive, not because “we are like that only” but because the inefficiencies and over regulation of the system have made normal honest functioning very difficult.

If this is true, then we deserve leaders who reflect the true nature of our people. In the New Year, we will have the opportunity to test this belief.

In February 2012, Municipal Corporation elections are scheduled to be held in Mumbai and Pune, followed shortly thereafter by Corporation elections in Delhi and Lucknow. In each city, Independent candidates supported by Citizen’s groups, are coming forward to stand as Corporators to serve their cities. The Pune Nagrik Sanghatana, Mumbai 227 and other civil society groups are doing a magnificent job in supporting Independent citizen’s candidates.

So on the eve of the New Year, if you too feel that we deserve Independence from our current lack of leadership, then rather than becoming despondent or cynical, please resolve to support the Independent Voice.

As we have seen recently, one can be sure that it is NOT the Independents who are spoilers !


20 thoughts on “A New Year’s Resolution…Vote for Independence

  1. Ours is a party democracy where independents, though not exactly spoilers, can not do much. And that is the reason the electorate is generally cold to the idea of electing them. I, therefore, suggest that the Mumbai 227, once selected by well-known people with integrity and experience of public service, turn themselves into a political party and fight election from that common platform. Then they will present themselves to the people of Mumbai as an alternative to the older political parties.

  2. India’s unique democratic traits lead to people voting for Parties rather than individual candidates. That leaves us with strong top down leadership where individual MP’s are like pawns on a chessboard with no power of their own. As an result with their MPships being of finite time frames, party’s tend to choose people for their loyalty than their efficiency. While Parliament is supposed to represent a bunch of peoples representatives it actually represents a bunch of party’s representatives. The loyalties of these MPs is to their parties & not to Parliament or the people who elected them. The present PM of our country, though a designated PM is a lackey of the political establishment. We need a better system & we need better leaders like Meera Sanyal. The present system of Governance has to go, but it will not go until we evolve a better system

  3. well said ma’am. Dr. Singh is indeed a great man, i respect him a lot but i too share the same view that he is under constraints and he is budging to his party.
    i would remember him as the great economist rather than our prime minister.

    one more thing is i read this blog today, i didn’t know about you, but by the above blog truly respect you ma’am.

  4. We deserve the Government we elect 😦 unfortunately, most of the independents who won the elections with muscle power and then they get into horse trading. For one exceptional independent MP/MLA we elect 100 goons

  5. I am saddened by people like you in relation to the Prime minister Dr singh’s personal respect. This campaign has overplayed really as I for one believe no public representative can be an able one unless chosen directly by the people. MMsingh has declared his residence as a rented place in Guwahati for a safe RS seat . Is this the honesty to which Meera sanyal respect him.. And now by keeping mum at the midnight murder of democracy on 29th of december he has chosen to find place which is shared by opportunists like Chndrashekhar and Tau devilal…

    • Dear Mukul, Dr Singh is a person of both integrity and intellect. I believe we are fortunate to have a Prime Minister like him. However it is clear that he is operating under strong constraints. Let us not attack any individual but try and redress the underlying issues that are holding our country back

  6. As long as you know that you are doing something which will bring a change that will benefit our people, irrespective of whosoever passes any comment or opinion, you don’t really owe an explanation or even a reply.

    When people pass a comment or give an opinion or categorize you it only means that you are doing something they are incapable of or fear doing.

    I feel what you have started may not be successful for you considering the level of emotionalism in our country today but it has surely opened a way for future Independents. I am glad that a person of your stature has taken a step in this direction.

    How many MBAs will think of entering politics and that too Indian politics in future ?

    You did and that’s what matters!!!

  7. Dear Meeraji,
    I fully agree with your view and support it. But the problem of funds required for canvassing is a major hurdle. This problem may be overcome by Electoral reforms. One of reform I would recommend is Candidates should be allotted free time on radio and television to make their opinions known to the people at large. They should be provided space for ads in newspapers and booklet of their opinions on the issues, free by the govt. This would free independent candidates from the need to raise large amounts of money, which in turn encourage candidates to contest election as independent candidates.

  8. Hi Meera,
    Fully agree…But am not really sure how an independent will be able to manage election funding thw way it happens in India unless lots of people like us join whoever stands up to contest…Also power and success seems to run into everyones head..While their cause was noble they suddently felt they could just take people for granted….which resulted in what happened in Mumbai and Delhi…So the fight is to find balanced people…

    • Hi Rejo – you have really hit the nail on the head. What is really important to any independent candidate is the support he or she gets from fellow citizens. If we build a support base – good candidates will have the confidence to come forward and stand and only in this way can we bring about the change we are seeking

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