Delhi elections 2013 – Revolutionary political upheaval or a one-off incident

Dynasty rule is ingrained deeply in Indian politics, notable examples being the Gandhi dynasty, and Mulayam Yadav and his successors. Traditional election manifestos have focussed on vote-bank politics, where Congress indulges in minority appeasement and incentives for the underprivileged, BSP panders to the Dalits, SP caters to the Muslims and Yadavs, and BJP targets the middle and upper class Hindus. Such strategies are more the norm rather than the exception, which is why Aam Aadmi Party’s revolutionary style of pro-people and community driven politics is such a breath of fresh air.

Ranging from their crowd-sourced mechanism of formulating election manifestos, to their election campaigns being entirely funded by Indian citizens with online records, and refusal to grant tickets to candidates facing criminal charges, their strategies and the corresponding success have proved, albeit partially, that an unconventional and all-inclusive campaign can definitely succeed. Their sweeping effect is reiterated by the top brass of Congress and BJP also accepting and commending AAP’s success, though through back handed compliments. However, this is where AAP needs to not die down as another JP movement and make sure they carry and build on the momentum from here on.

However, it is important to view the elections not only through their result but their preceding events. How Congress continued sticking to its archaic manifestos of growth and incentives, while the BJP sensed the growing mistrust among the people and for the first time started changing their strategies. Though they still copied the issues raised by AAP, they added their own flavour to them and added their trump card to the mix, aka Narendra Modi. Coupled with the Modi wave, the anti-incumbency factor, and an extension of AAP’s issues, they were able to beat the Congress for the first time after fifteen years in Delhi. Though the Delhi elections can be considered as a one-off incident, the post-poll surveys show that people are still adamant about bringing AAP into power, which is further highlighted by the fact that AAP’s total vote share exceeded BJP’s share, though they won a lesser number of the seats.

The change in the voter patterns can only signify that a positive change, though nascent, is fledging at least in Delhi. Although Delhi was never known to vote based on caste and religion, the same antiquated manifestos were repeated in each election, and seemed to be effective. This has been turned on its head in the 2013 elections, and could reflect the voter transformation. Although an oft-repeated caveat is the JP movement, the AAP movement is not to overthrow a party but to bring about a systemic and comprehensive change in the political ecosystem. This indicates that the movement has a longer shelf-life, though its longevity will depend on AAP’s election results in the upcoming Haryana and Lok Sabha elections. Though inconclusive, Delhi elections have shown that a well-planned pro-people movement can bring about a political upheaval and only time will tell if this fizzles out or indeed revamps the Indian political system.

RTI: The invisible thread uniting both government and opposition

url

A great furore has been going on over the much talked about RTI Act which is to be implemented on the Indian political parties. The Right to Information Act sorts to bring all the political parties under the scanner of RTI. Thus, they could be questioned at any point of time over their various expenditures and the ways through which a representative is chosen by them.

This decision of including all the political parties in the gamut of the RTI Act was met with a lot of opposition, especially from the six parties, which were especially chosen by the Central Information Commission in an attempt to rid the Indian politics of the bad reputation it has acquired over the last few years. While the BJP has always demanded the ruling party, Congress, to be fair and transparent, it is the same BJP which has joined hands with Congress on the issue of rejecting the RTI Act to be implemented upon these parties.

Congress, on the other hand, which takes pride in saying that it’s absolutely diaphanous, has also been feeling jittery about the C.I.C.’s decision of devising this plan of including the political parties under the RTI Act. Mr. V. Narayanswamy, one of the ministers in the Prime Minister’s Office, was also quoted as saying, “Declaring a political party as public authority under the RTI Act would hamper its smooth internal working which is not the objective of the said Act and was not envisaged by Parliament under the RTI Act.”

Similarly, former BJP president advocates the same line of thought saying, “Political parties don’t function on the Government’s money. However, as a proverbial ray of hope, not all political parties have unequivocally rejected the decision. Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party both support the CIC’s decision. The latter has even set up an internal Lokpal right from the inclusion of the party, and has made sure to disclose all its donation sources and the procedures to elect its candidates which will be fighting on the party’s ticket. However, it is important to note that Aam Aadmi Party holds no current seats, either at the state or central level, and even though being transparent might be easy for a small organization with nothing to lose, it becomes increasingly harder as the size and influence of the party increases.

It is interesting to note that there are certain provisions whereby the sources of the party’s finances are divulged to the Income Tax department, but the rider is that the amount needs to exceed INR twenty thousand. Political experts believe that parties can easily split their incoming funds into smaller blocks, and generate fake names, which would not be easy to carry out once they will be under far greater scrutiny. Additionally, experts also believe that the IT department should be allowed to look into funds lying between the INR ten to twenty thousand bracket, as that will help uncover bogus sources and help unearth the real sources of funds.

Honesty and its pitfalls for Indian bureaucrats

Honesty is the best policy, a proverb coined by Benjamin Franklin, is oft quoted in Indian textbooks. However, it is unfortunately not a character trait much sought after or rewarded among Indian bureaucrats. As the recent incident involving UP Chief Minister, Akhilesh Yadav and the 2010 IAS cadre bureaucrat, Durga Shakti Nagpal has highlighted, honesty is rewarded only till it doesn’t affect the ruling class. Nagpal had dared to tackle the infamous sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh, but was allegedly accused of razing down the wall of a mosque under construction, and was charged with abetting communal violence. The incident had, not surprisingly, been criticised heavily by former UP chief minister Mayawati, who reiterated the growing goondaraj in UP under Samajwadi party’s rule. Unfortunately, Ms. Mayawati’s tenure as chief minister was not bereft of cases of corruption or lawlessness, and her consistent attacks are more a sign of blaming the ruling party by the opposition, than constructive criticism encouraging honesty and transparency in governance.

Nagpal’s case is not an aberration neither did it uncover truths earlier unknown. The uncovering of Robert Vadra’s DLF deal also brought to light the tribulations of Ashok Khemka, who has been termed as ‘Haryana’s most transferred civil servant’. His inquiry orders into Vadra’s real estate dealings were not appreciated by the Congress ruled Haryana Government, which decided to refuse his family security cover, even after receiving multiple threatening messages by the real estate mafia. These are not one-off incidents, as the long list of honest bureaucrats includes, Arun Bhatia who decided to report his corrupt colleagues; Uma Shankar, who uncovered the cremation shed scam; and G.R. Khairnar, who had demolished the unauthorised encroachments in Mumbai, and went against the direct orders of the Maharashtra chief minister. Although, all these numerous cases of honesty among the executives are encouraging, the advanced and persistent harassment faced by them from the ruling parties is extremely unfortunate.

An exception to this rule was the case of the former Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, who decided to target any wrongful political action. Rai was earlier criticised for solely focussing on the ruling UPA government, but gradually also included the popular Modi government in his scathing reports on political wrongdoings directly or indirectly affecting the exchequer. An important reason for Rai not being publicly harassed or transferred was his position, seniority, and the body of work possessed by him, although he was heavily criticised by the ruling parties, both at the centre and the individual states.

It is essential that the Indian voters introspect and find the root cause which explains why honesty is something that is frowned upon in the political system. The voters ultimately are responsible for electing their representatives, and the widespread corruption benefiting the ruling elite is clearly against their interests. If honesty and transparency continue to be punished, Honesty is the best policy shall be a proverb which would be forever buried only in textbooks and eradicated from the Indian democracy for good.

MJ: Misunderstood genius or master manipulator

Michael Jackson is a name which usually attracts extreme reactions, whereby people either consider him to be exploited by the media, or think that he was a master media manipulator who twisted almost each fact to his own advantage. Before judging Jackson, it is imperative that we understand the events which occurred throughout his life. Jackson had a dominating father, who used to beat him up when he didn’t obey his orders. Additionally, his first sexual experience was at a young age at strip clubs. These events, coupled with his first girlfriend, Tatum O’Neal, who allegedly tried to force herself on him, were the reasons Jackson could never have a normal childhood and tried to replicate that throughout his life.

Michael Jackson- Still making headlines | Image Courtesy: Google Images.
Michael Jackson – Still making headlines.

Jackson was forever plagued by two debilitating allegations, namely, child abuse and his operations. It is important to note, however, that even though he was accused twice on multiple counts of child abuse, none of them were ever proved. As for his operations, multiple doctors have publicly accepted that Jackson suffered from a rare skin disease, vitiligo universalis, and had not undergone any skin lightening operation. The only operation which can be proven conclusively, and was further admitted by Jackson on the documentary presented by Martin Bashir was his nose operation. However, as disclosed by Jackson, he decided to get the operation after years of ridicule hurled by his father on his appearance, especially his nose.

Jackson was a pop star in his own right, and attraction from the opposite sex is inherent for a man with his stardom. However, his early experiences with women definitely left a dent on his psyche and he could never enjoy a long-lasting relationship. Although his relationship with Lisa Marie Presley did end up in a marriage, it ended soon enough amidst rumours that he had used her to downplay the intensity of the child abuse allegations. His marriage with Debbie Rowe was heavily criticized by the media, though none of them ever accepted that the marriage was a sham. Additionally, Jackson was a dedicated father, and although his marriage with Rowe could not last for long, it gave him two children which he cared for through thick and thin.

The constant discussion of Jackson’s apparent guilt is both unfair to his talent and his musical innovations. He is credited as the inventor of the pop genre and introduced and inspired countless contemporary dance steps. He holds countless records on all the major music charts and can safely be termed as the most successful musician of all time. His professional career and the musical legacy he leaves behind are nothing short of legendary. It is a shame though that whenever Jackson’s musical brilliance is discussed, the blemishes on his personal life are not usually far behind. It is thus imperative that people, no matter what they think about Jackson’s personal actions, give the body of work that he has left behind the due respect that a musician like him deserves.

Sushmita Banerjee and her mortiferous Afghanistan infatuation

As the recent incidents involving Malala Yousafzai and Sushmita Banerjee have shown, Afghanistan and its neighbouring sites are an extremely dangerous place to be for women, especially for those who disagree to conform to the misogynistic and draconian set of laws imposed by the Taliban.

While Malala has been lucky enough to survive the attack on her, Banerjee was unfortunately killed by suspected Taliban militants. Although the Taliban has since vehemently denied any involvement in the attack, it is unlikely that any other terrorist group could have carried out the gruesome actions, without the incident being condoned and supported by Taliban.

Banerjee has been hailed as a martyr by her colleagues and the novelist community believes that these actions will only strengthen the growing movement against the repressive Taliban. However, the same glorifying words were spoken when Malala was attacked, and have unfortunately not resulted in any concrete political action by either the Afghanistan or the Pakistan government. Taliban still has a stronghold in the state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan, where Malala was attacked, and women are still afraid of going to school or revolt against the set of rules laid down by the Taliban. The only fault of Malala was that she was an education and women’s rights activist, which is strictly against the doctrine of the Taliban, which prohibits women from studying and being an equal member of the society. On the other hand, reasons of the attack on Banerjee are still unknown, which could range from her refusal to wear a burqa, her book on the life of women in Afghanistan, her social work, or simply on the basis of her being an Indian woman.

It is also important to understand that she was not living as an isolated foreigner and had integrated well into the Afghan society. She was working as a health worker in the Paktika Province in southeastern Afghanistan, and was in regular contact with the local women to research for her book. She was married to an Afghan businessman, Janbaz Khan, and had earlier lived in Afghanistan from 1988 to 1995, when she had been sentenced to death for not wearing a burqa. However, thankfully she had fled from Afghanistan with the support of the village headmen, and had even inspired a movie, Escape From Taliban. It is important to understand that why, even after millions of dollars are being pumped as foreign aid in Afghanistan, the local government is not able to thwart the Taliban’s oppressive regime, and honour killings are still a norm and not an exception. It is imperative that the sources of the aid focus more on ground issues and coerce the aid’s recipients to help provide basic rights to the Afghan women. By providing education, basic human rights, and protection from the Taliban’s attacks to the citizens, the growing support and fear of the Taliban can be minimized, which will help uproot their stronghold on the interior regions on Afghanistan, and in turn help eradicate them completely.

No ‘Band of Brothers’ for Egypt

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members shout slogans during a protest in front of the Supreme Judicial Council in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/ Amr Nabil)
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members shout slogans during a protest in front of the Supreme Judicial Council in Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo/ Amr Nabil)

Egypt’s current situation is nothing less than an outraged cry for stability and democracy. The majority of the protestors believe that authoritarian rule, whether carried out by their elected representatives or their country’s armed forces, violates the essentials of democracy.

Morsi Mohamed, the first civilian Islamist president of Egypt, had threatened the stronghold of the Egyptian army on the overall politics and administration of the country, by bringing in the Islamic Brotherhood. Experts believe that the growing popularity and influence of the Islamic Brotherhood forced the army to support the rebel movement. Many have also accused Morsi for turning into a religious fanatic and a dictator from a democratically elected leader. He had earlier abrogated and nullified Egypt’s first ever hard-earned democracy to suit his own religious beliefs and laws of his Islamic Brotherhood.

The military police cracked down all Muslim Brotherhood camps the past few days. Over 900 people are feared dead. REUTERS

The revolution is against authoritarian rule, but has been painted as a protest supporting Morsi’s government by the army to justify their heavy-handed actions. On the other hand, the ruling generals of Egypt have showed little to no interest in driving their country back to the much demanded and needed democracy.

A civil war also seems to be on its way to ensue soon enough in Egypt as the political disregard and insensitivity of General Abdul-Fattah ek-Sisi, the de facto leader of the country in need, shows no concern towards the plausible results of such an uncontrolled rage and anger of an already volatile situation.

Protesters offering prayers during the month of Ramzan.

What has further complicated the matter is the insistence of Egypt’s neighbours for external intervention. The Saudi Arabian and UAE governments believe that external forces, especially Russia should intervene and help peace prevail in Egypt. However, USA, which had decided to not take any sides, is against Russia gaining control over the strategically located Egypt. However, all the international governments have their respective agendas which were reiterated during the Libyan uprising, and will only interfere if the action provides benefits to their governmental policies.

As is apparent from the army’s actions, their primary aim has been to quash any opposition to their interim regime. Any dialogues with either Morsi or the Islamic Brotherhood were refused, and the haste in crushing all the protestors without following proper protocol highlights the army’s ulterior motives. History has shown that authoritarian rule involves direct control under the garb of nationalism or religion. While the rule in Iran reflects the rule of the religious leaders with support from Ayatollah Khomeini, North Korea uses nationalism to impose the Kim dynasty’s regime.

It is clear that there is a direct struggle between the two opposing forces in Egypt, and the citizens are suffering as a result of that. The current revolution depicts their struggle to reinstate democracy. Only time will tell whether the revolution will lead to added chaos and complete degradation of the government machinery, for example, in Libya, or it shall lead to a positive influence in the Egyptian political scenario.