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8 December 2008

Is desh ka neta kaisa ho

Five states in India declared the assembly election results today.

Everyone in Mumbai hates politicians and political parties right now. The fact that the CM and HM ousted over their ineffective handling of the terror situation have paved way only for others with equally and more frightening records as criminals and crooks, makes it no better. Mumbai watches helplessly as it is not able to even have an elected Mayor.

Hence it is that while ‘party workers’ celebrated in a vulgar display of loud drums, fire-crackers and red powder/ gulal (as if it is festival of Holi) at party headquarters, the common man sighed and just went on with the day.

It was fun to watch and hear the ‘seasoned and astute’ political comments.

#comment 1- Congress won Rajasthan because of Rahul Gandhi -the youth heir apparent leader who was partying in a farm house near Delhi while Mumbai was held hostage to terror- his campaigning, and ticket allocations he did. Friends, Congress won cos BJP lost Rajasthan the day the first shot was fired at the Gujjar agitation.

(And if Rajasthan has succumbed to charisma it is question of time. Simply in terms of voter turnout, even a state like Kashmir has opted for development finally defying the extremists calls for boycott of elections.)

#2-Chattisgarh - BJP after a neck-to neck race with Congress chugs to victory. - I wish they had strangled each others necks along the way. Whether BJP or Congress- these are the ‘leaders’ who have in the past two decades handed over 1/3rd of the country to naxals; and the ruling govt. had to run the elections with help of Indian army and special forces; alienated tribals and done little to nothing for eradicating poverty. Is it any wonder that ‘rice and dal’ wins votes. Development in this state of hungry stomachs is not defined as highways and IT .

#3- Madhya Pradesh ; Add a little , subtract a little from the above two scenarios and it gives an idea of what election in any state means where these two ruling majority parties dominate . Now that the new CM has won because of his 'clean image' , can we hope that justice will be done in Prof Sabharwals case. But wait, that was transferred OUT of Madhya Pradesh. So much for track records.

Mizoram is a win for Congress. The far-east states are now a congress strong-hold. One more instance of how and where local leadership has failed. Of local populace fed up with greedy leaders and opt for a change in the HOPE that things will change. Hoping against hope. I’d love to see the record/profile of each candidate here who has worked to make a difference in development so it can be used as an example. But as they say, for other parts of the country, the seven sisters do not exist.

Delhi! The capital and the nation’s success story for infrastructure projects. Of course, never mind safety of young journalists, criminal justice system that cannot apprehend killers of arushi, bomb blasts, rising prices, etc etc. What I hear - Sheila Dixit for three consecutive terms is a vote for development. After all, she is the only CM who McKinsey has covered. I wish the population voting for BSP would vouch that. BSP has made significant inroads in percentage terms (if not in seats secured) as it said it would. What does it say for topics like development and upper-middle class votes is a matter of dispute even as it is a city than has seen less than 50% voting and has logged what I think is the first documented invoking of 49-0.

The last time I heard these lines used for Sheila Dixit, it was used for Chandrababu Naidu. Remember, the CM with a laptop which could not connect to the farmers suicides.

While the TV anchors mentioned Sheila Dixit as the only one after Jyoti Basu to have done ‘Hat Trick’, they seem to have forgotten Modi who the populace of Gujarat have elected back into office repeatedly.

So, Is desh ka neta kaisa ho. How should the leader of the nation be.

1. Humble
-Vasundhara Raje is the one example in this election but by no means is she the only one.
2. Of professional integrity and one above corruption
-With so much IT and software tools at hand this should be one of the easier things to ascertain- where can a common citizen view the candidate’s record of public service, development, funds
3. Spirit of service and not entitlement
-the people elect the politicians into seats of power and yet the results are barely declared than they are seating on lawns and accepting flowers garlands. Poor people stream in a line, touch their feet, offer flowers as if they are ‘God”. Mai- Baap.
4. Where age (being young or old) is a asset and not a liability
I won’t elect Rahul Gandhi because he is cute or charismatic and won’t reject Manmohan Singh merely because he is old.
5. Who has his finger on the pulse
which means one who shuns VIP culture, stays involved in issues at ground level and not one who hits the campaign trail only when it is election time


While we work towards a scenario where more people who can be judged and evaluated against these parameters get elected, we must understand that the electoral process is one that is slow, once in five years, complex and at varying levels of maturity in the country.

While changes and interventions in this process is required and will take place, a simultaneous and immediate, urgent need is one to ‘Monitor’ the elected representatives.

It is time to move away from a scenario of “Hoping” that the elected reps fulfil their roles and responsibilities and to move to a scenario of “accountability’. After all, at work, no boss or business owner ever works on mere ‘hope’ that his team will deliver. Hisab Kitab dekha jata hai. Books are checked, time and money accounted for, and attendance monitored. Rewards & recognitions and punitive measures. All are used.

Time to do the same at least in the cities and urban areas . What are the methods available to citizens to monitor how the money that the local corporators are allotted for development is used ?

This is a huge gap currently at least in Mumbai and I hope one which is plugged soon.

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