Transformation in Indian Democracy – Part III
Continued from “Mature Democracy & Principles”
Couple of days ago I turned on the television to catch the evening news. There was this interesting live broadcast from Jantar Mantar. I am not sure what channel it was on. There were representatives from the Congress, BJP and AAP along with a significantly vocal crowd. The news reporter would ask a party representative to make some comments and then would push through the crowd to get a response from seemingly a random person. He would restrain the other persons standing nearby from snatching the microphone to make comments. It appeared unruly but everyone seemed to be passionate to make their point.
BJP was making the charge that Congress and AAP are together behind the scene to form a government in Delhi. It is clear that no matter what they say publically, they would rather have a re-election in Delhi. The Congress representative was loud and more vocal. He said that the aim of the Congress to support AAP was to help them form the government so that they can be exposed to the public. He felt that the AAP has made a lot of promises that simply cannot be fulfilled and the public would soon be angry with them and dump them from power in the follow up election. It was partisan politics with heated exchange.
Then something unique happened that caught my attention. The news reporter sliced through the crowd and asked someone from the back rows as to what was his response to the charges made by the Congress? The person replied that if AAP make genuine efforts to fulfill their promises and keep their actions transparent and keep us informed, the people would not mind even if they are not able to fulfill them.
Let us pause to think on it. There is no excuse for making false promises willfully. The public in general does understand that parties tend to exaggerate on their promises. What upsets and disappoints people most is when after coming in power they show utter disregard to the people, do not make any sincere efforts to fulfill their commitments and try to deceitfully pacify them instead.
We have all heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy”. It is not just a cliché. It does work. Accountability and transparency in politics is possible and will work. Of course it requires a degree of unselfish commitment on part of the government. There is a wide spectrum here from one side of an ideal and truly unselfish approach to the other side of selfish and deceitful approach. We have to genuinely make and support efforts toward accountability and transparency. If it is not possible through systemic restraints only, then fundamental shift in the way democracy is practiced also has to be explored.
Let me give you an example on the other extreme on how politics in played India. Rahul Gandhi has become very pro-active all of a sudden. He has promised to reform the Congress party in ways previously unimaginable. He has suddenly discovered that corruption is the number one problem facing the country. He claimed with straight face and without any hesitation that his party, the erstwhile Congress, has done a lot to fight corruption in India. He then went on to explain how Congress spearheaded the passing of the RTI and “Lokpal” bills and is committed to pass a host of other anti-corruption measures. All this while Adarsh Society report is being rejected by the Maharashtra Congress where scores of Congress minsters are indicted. This is the kind of politics as played by the Congress. In the process, Mr. Gandhi lost any credibility he had before. He would have been better off admitting that Congress and UPA did not have a good track record in fighting corruption. They have learned their lesson and are now committed to right the wrong. But this is political suicide in their perspective. They are victims of their own paradigm.
AAP is walking on thin ice. They would have to master this art. Their only ally is transparency and accountability, certainly not the Congress. They need to stick to their manifesto. Prioritize and act on issues as promised. Post all their actions on the web and announce them to the public. The state budget, its allocation, spending, programs being supported, extent of progress being made and any midcourse corrections should be constantly communicated. No compromises should be accepted on account of the outside support by the Congress. Congress appears to have caught the tiger by the tail. They would be really afraid to let go of it. BJP would have to sit quiet and watch. They cannot follow their usual rhetoric. These might backfire. It will be interesting to see how they can criticize the popular moves anticipated by AAP. They have no choice but to harp on inability of AAP to deliver completely on all their promises. That might backfire as well. They have no track record of fulfilling their promises in the past and the public in Delhi may very well be sympathetic with AAP if they are convinced that genuine efforts are being made by them.
At the end, one thing is emerging very clearly. Both, Congress and BJP are facing a new challenge that they do not know how to deal with. They were masters in outmaneuvering each other with their crooked moves and ulterior motives. They just appear helpless in fighting an alternative approach with accountability and transparency.
Continued to “Re-engineering the Bureaucracy”