It is very heartening to see the number of citizen candidates who are standing for the upcoming elections, both for the 5 state assembly polls and for the Municipal Corporation elections in Pune and Mumbai. Many of these candidates have reached out to me over the past few months to share their stories, and seek support.
As I speak with them, I am reminded of an encounter that took place a few months after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. We were standing in a small group at a Social gathering, when a senior politician from a well-connected political family, and belonging to a major political party, came and joined us.
“So” he said, referring to my campaign, “are you going to stand again ?” Without waiting for an answer, he continued condescendingly, “Idea chod do – is zindaji mein tum kabhi jeet nahi sakogi ” (Give up the idea – in this lifetime you will never win !)
Somewhat taken aback, I looked carefully at him. Past the arrogant bravado, there seemed to be a glimmer of fear in his eyes. So I responded gently, that while he may be right, I was confident that in our lifetimes, the nature of politics in India would change.
Politics would once again be considered as an opportunity to serve one’s country and not as a dynastic prerogative where the “gaddi” or entitlement to rule was passed from one generation to the next . While it could be that I may never win, ordinary citizens like me would win one day – and India would be a better place for it.
It is therefore a matter of great happiness to see so many citizens candidates supported by grass root citizens groups, enter the fray just 3 years after the 2009 elections.
In Pune the Pune Nagrik Sanghatan (PNS) has selected and is supporting candidates like Binod Ojha , Sana Patil, and Advocate Sunil Jagtap, who have a track record of service and a reputation for integrity. More details can be found on the PNS facebook page http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/PNS-Pune-Nagarik-Sanghatana-Clean-Politics-for-a-Better-Pune/224762500939523. Whether or not you are a registered voter in Pune, do please visit the page, and register your support should you feel appropriate, by “liking” the page.
In Mumbai, so far 37 citizen candidates, have come forward to stand for the Corporation elections.
Mumbai 227, (who also have a facebook page by the same name) have followed a rigorous process to select potential corporators. Amongst their candidates are Capt Vijay Shivdasani an ex naval officer, with an exemplary track record, contesting from Ward 227 (Navy Nagar, Colaba); and Vishwajit Sangle a young social worker from ward 210 (Mumbai Central, Grant Rd East & Najivan Society) Both these gentlemen are well-known to me and I can vouch for the fact that they are standing for a better Mumbai. Corporators like them, can, and will, make a difference.
Similarly the Lok Satta Party, headed by the charismatic JP Narayan, is putting up amongst others, Sangeeta Sharma for ward 76 and Dr. Parag Jhaveri for Ward 216. The Mumbai Nagrik Satta led by Adolf D’Souza is supporting 7 candidates and the Mumbai Nagrik Manch led by Hansel D ‘Souza is putting up 3.
What is common amongst all these citizen candidates is that :
- none of them is a career politician
- they are standing independent of established political parties
- they each have a track record of performance and integrity in their current professions
- each is driven by a desire to improve their ward/locality/city/ state/country
- they are not afraid to lose !
The entry of this large number of citizen candidates has the potential to be a game changer – particularly at the Corporation level in Mumbai and Pune.
It comes at the same time that nearly 70 % of the existing corporators will lose their seats, due to reservations. The situation in Mumbai illustrates this clearly : out of 227 seats, 114 are reserved for Women, 61 for Other Backward Castes, and 13 for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes – leaving only 39 seats unreserved !
This explains the friction that the parties in all major political alliances are currently undergoing. It is no longer a scramble to find “safe” seats – it is hard enough finding any seats at all to stand from !
The upcoming elections provide us a unique opportunity. We can stop complaining about the problems of inadequate infrastructure, corruption and poor leadership and instead take positive actions. Let us take the trouble, to get to know the candidates who are standing, make a reasoned choice about who the best individual is, and make the effort to support her/him. Last but not least, let us take the trouble to go out and vote on election day – if we vote for better candidates we will have better Governance. It really is that simple.
In his lyrical book For Whom the Bell Tolls, Earnest Hemingway reminds us “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
If ever there were a time to remember this, it is now – it is not these citizen candidates who will win or lose – it is us, you and me.