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 !