Friday, May 22, 2009


A new government under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh just took oath of office, thus ending the election process in India! Democracy has again won, and kudos for that!

This is the first time I have penned my thoughts so extensively on so many topics. Many of these thoughts were formed after I could get some first hand exposure into the campaigning, planning, documentation, ideas etc. I have been a very keen follower of politics from 1990 onwards, and this is the first time I was involved in such a manner. Some of the thoughts are new to me itself, and they have been gained through some really enlightening practical exposure to the real world. In this election, I have actually realised how difficult it is to win as an MLA/MP! I have also realised how you should always be on your toes while in politics, and how important it is to be constantly reading the public pulse and adapting accordingly.

Also this is the first time that my thoughts have been open to a wide public audience. I did not keep a "click counter" on this blog on purpose ( because I felt the focus will shift towards that :P ), but the number of profile clicks after starting this blog was a little overwhelming! To get criticism and compliments in almost equal measure on many of the articles ;-) was also very new to me, but I guess this was to be expected given that we are opening up our thoughts to a varied set of audience. I never knew how a writer would feel when he reads comments from people he did not know, but after reading them on this blog; it did feel good that these blogs did inspire other people to pour in their thoughts too.

In the process, I also read many other blogs and realised that there is indeed a lot of hidden talent in our country. Some of the thoughts and ideas expressed in some blogs were really enlightening, and all of them came from normal citizens like you and me. Blogs and chats have also exposed me to directly interact with some of the well known thinkers and journalists of our time :-). I guess technology is helping bridging the gap ;-)

There is seldom any dull moment in Indian politics, and I think the journey from now on will also be as interesting as ever before. While we will surely keep a track on all the happenings, I think it is also time we get back to some fun and food on my original Blog

It will sound cliché, but it has really been a pleasure writing these articles, reading your comments, and discussing them with you. Thank you for participating in this small "project" of mine :-) . For now, from me, it's adios! Or in the true Indian style, tata!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not emotional but thoughtful...

Even the worst critic of Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) gave them 30-35 seats in this election to the Andhra Pradesh (AP) Assembly, and the party belied his expectations too! With a vote share of 15%, 18 seats, second place in 38 seats, and poor to abysmal performance in the remaining 242 seats, the party got its rudest awakening calls.

Lot of analysts are blaming the lack of structure and infrastructure, escessive reliance on the image rather than the message, losing the confidence of fans while sitting in AC rooms :P, and more importantly the haphazard way in which the tickets were distributed. People are quick to point out to Aravind, Mitra etc for the failures. I am actually perplexed as to why people are missing the main reason for this defeat – Chiranjeevi himself. His arrogant attitude, his careless preparation, and his over confidence are the primary reason why so many of them had to suffer today. He is the ONLY person who is responsible for this chaos. Only when he gets clarity in his mind as to what he wishes to do, will there be any hope of improvement.

PRP did eat into the vote share of the Telugu Desam (TDP) more than anything else. Chandrababu Naidu and TDP spared no attempt to come back to power (read more about it here). The alliance with TRS failed to the maximum possible extent. But what caused the maximum damage is the fact the people still found it difficult to trust him. YSR’s “you did it, so big deal if I do it” kind of campaign further cemented people’s opinion on Naidu. His free for all schemes clearly did not show the desired effect.

The interesting fact this time is that he lost power due to a 2% difference in the vote share!! TDP alliance for 34.54% share of the vote as opposed to the 36.53% of the Congress. And though the TDP alliance got lesser votes than last time, it won more seats!! Strange indeed are electoral maths! The party still has its cadre intact, and to rise to a significant opposition party is something positive but in politics who would want to remain in opposition for such a long time! TRS and his own image are the two main reasons why he could not finish off what he started.

One thing you have to give to YSR – it was truly a one man show. The fact that 14 of his ministers lost further reinforces this fact! His firm stand on Telangana and the selection of candidates paid very rich dividends. And of course his policies too have helped in people not bringing him down this time. The number of seats is much less than what he won in 2004, and this time he has to face a strong opposition too. It will be very interesting to watch how the next 5 years go.

What is however more interesting is that the Congress won more number of parliamentary seats not in proportion to the number of assembly seats won. Vote share wise too there is a marked difference in the two patterns. Congress got a vote share of ~39% in Lok Sabha seats compared to 36% in assembly. Similarly TDP alliance got about 30% vote share compared to ~35% in the assembly. And the local candidate mattered a lot in the assembly election while the party mattered a lot in the national election. This clearly shows the voter was able to differentiate between their requirements for state and national governments.

JP won :-). This is a simple beginning and the actual task of building his party begins now. His performance in the Assembly is something that a lot of people are waiting to watch.

The most important thing to note from this election is that Telangana will take a complete backseat now. The people have once again clearly told that they are not in favour of a separate state. My address will still read as Hyderabad, AP ;-)

More than at the national level, the campaign and the 1 year period preceding it has been vitriolic in nature. It was seen as a clash of personalities and we do have a winner now. AP has seen one of the best polling percentages in the entire country. And the best part - In exercising his choice, the voter was not emotional, but thoughtful.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Crystal Clear ...

The past three elections have always seen the people of the country voting categorically for an alliance. Each election was unique in its own sense, and this time too, it was in no way different. The people voted for UPA overwhelmingly, and the unique point of this election was the Congress party won 206 seats on its own! With a vote share of 28%, this sure is a huge shot in the arm for them. This was the unexpected part of this election. I think the Congress primarily won because of 4 things –

  • NREGA,
  • Farm Loan Waiver,
  • The Prime Minister’s personality,
  • BJP!

NREGA and the Farm Loan waiver benefited those who needed it most desperately now than ever. With NREGA guaranteeing employment for atleast 100 days an year, this turned out to be a boon for the large rural populace. Simultaneously, infrastructure development can also take place. I am still not sure about the nature of work given to these people, but if it is aiding in the development of infrastructure, then it sure is an advantage.

The farm loan waiver did come as a fresh lease of life to farmers who were drowned in misery. This program was much under-publicised but the actual effect of the under current it created was evident only in the results we saw.

Clearly, the Prime Minister seems to have emerged as victorious in the “weak” vs “strong” leader debate. Though I still think the office of the Prime Minister lost its traditional sheen and importance, the message was not effectively conveyed. People did not like the fact that someone like Manmohan Singh is being criticised in a language not acceptable to them. And Advani’s previous record and his flip-flop did not help either.

Another major reason for the Congress victory is the kind of campaign the BJP led. To begin with, Advani did not have the kind of image that Vajpayee possessed
(discussed in detail in my first blog ). His constant attempts to come off as a person that he is actually not, did not pay off at all. Narendra Modi did not seem to enjoy the pan-india image that the BJP hoped he would have. His popularity is restricted to Gujarat so far.

The BJP concentrated more on reaching out to its cadre and activists than compared to the average voter. Varun Gandhi’s hate speech made sure they lost lakhs of votes, and more importantly the damage done to the image of BJP is just irreparable. So much so, that the relevance of the ideology of BJP is being questioned. Though the speeches of leaders talked about development achieved in various BJP ruled states, the message did not go out on a national level, partly because the media too was keen only on reporting sensational matters.

While it is too premature to write off the BJP completely, they have an uphill task to achieve before even thinking of returning to power. For starters, they have to behave like a very responsible opposition. No more blocking of proceedings, and no more boycotting of sittings. Only when the people of the country see and know their views on various issues will they start to take them more seriously again. Next, they seriously have to start looking for their next Vajpayee and Mahajan. I am consciously not mentioning Advani here. Mahajan has the organisational abilities of Advani but does not carry his hardliner image. That is very crucial for the BJP. They need a young leader who can be projected as an icon. Only when that search ends successfully will they be able to rise back to their earlier prominence. Tough luck until then!

The Left parties have been completely left out by the people! They sure have lost their relevance this time around! The Indian voter completely voted only at the national level, and not at the state level. Many people thought that these elections are essentially a sum of 28 different elections (like last time), but clearly this time the vote was more towards the national parties.

The curtain has come down on the most vitriolic election we have ever seen. It is now time to move on for better things. Politicians have to live up to the mandate that be best summed up as
- Crystal Clear.

Friday, May 15, 2009


At the centre:

Predicting the numbers this time will be very tough given the fragmentation of national parties, but I think it will be the UPA again. Not that the UPA will perform exceptionally better than the NDA – both are going to have very close numbers. The possibility of one of the parties emerging as the single largest party and the other alliance emerging as the single largest pre-poll alliance is also ripe. Either way, given the tendency of all smaller parties belonging to different “fronts” to practice political untouchability against the BJP, they will eventually end up supporting the Congress led UPA. Or they might just abstain from the confidence vote. It will remain advantage UPA then.

However, I think this time the coalition will not be as stable as the previous two regimes. We might as well see another election well before 2014!

In Andhra Pradesh:

A hung looks a very high possibility, but I still think the Congress has a bigger edge than all the other parties. A remote possibility of PRP supporting the Congress without YSR might happen, but other than that I do not see what will stop the Congress from coming back to power in the state. The Congress will be very close to the majority of 147 seats, or even possibly cross that. PRP will eat into the votes of both Congress and TDP, causing maximum damage to TDP. TDP led alliance might end up with 100-110 seats, Congress might end up with 130-140 seats with the rest going to the PRP. Lok Satta might win 1-2 seats, and BJP too will 1-2 seats.

I kept the predictions short, because it's just one more day for the results to come out and I didn't want to reel out whatever little analysis I did in my mind :-). Kept this short because I guess no election blog is complete without predictions :-) !

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Search for the elusive visionary ...

The first thing I learnt from this election is that the apathy of the urban voter needs to done with. I mean, seriously, they need to understand the system better. They need to participate in the system better. The perception that all is ill in this country is more entrenched into the mind of the urban voter, primarily because he never has to fight for the basic needs that more than 50% of the country yearns for. And therefore it is necessary for him to understand the actual working of the system and appreciate the intricacies involved instead of forming an opinion with peripheral understanding.

Contrary to what many of them think, this country has not and will not to go to the dogs. This country can be made a much better place to live in, provided one stops to think in abstract terms. The urban voter can contribute to nation building by participating in many social activities. They can visit schools, orphanages, participate in discussions, read more newspapers and also continuously debate. Once the disgruntled voter gets a feel of how things are, and how they can be improved, we will see a huge surge in their participation. The urban voter needs to understand that civilian movements have seen lot of successes, the most recent being its active role in driving policy making in Rajasthan, and that example can be and needs to be emulated in other states.

Sadly, this disenchantment arises partly due to the coverage of this election by the English visual media too. They don’t cover the issues threadbare. They often cover only statements made by the politicians that make the viewer angry. What Sonia said about Lalu, what Lalu said about Advani, what Advani said about PM, what PM said about Nitish, what Nitish said about Modi, and what Modi said about the media dominated the news more than what these politicians were actually focusing on. Listen to their full speeches, and you will be astonished as to how the media, for most of the time, just choose to report the most irrelevant pieces from their speeches. What should have been aired was the actual issues, instead we had to constantly listen to what every other leader thought of the PM candidates in 2014!!!

One channel even had a discussion on whether the “real” issues are forgotten by political parties! Well, after listening to most speeches of the leaders, I think it is the media that needs to take the blame, and not the parties. And quite naturally, the urban voter who follows these news items gets frustrated with the system. Instead of presenting information in its entirety, the media is gladly assisting in adding fuel to the fire. The rural voter attends political meetings, and gets to listen to full speeches. His participation in the election process is something the urban voter needs to emulate.

Contrast this to the coverage given by the print media. I guess they have the advantage of time and space, but still the difference in the coverage is only seen to be known. I have followed almost all the important newspapers both in English and Telugu and am mighty impressed with the in depth coverage they gave. Of course, there were analyses that were biased, but there was always another analysis that did always give a counter!

Actually, the state media’s coverage was also much better than the national media’s. I guess this has to do with the fact that the state media has correspondents in every constituency. Though the campaign was vitriolic, all leaders also stressed on various schemes and policies, and the media did give a balanced coverage to both types of campaign.

The next thing that I learnt from this election is that though we don’t have a dearth of leaders, we do have a dearth of visionaries. We need a visionary who has the dare to convert his dreams into reality. It is really very important to have a visionary who will invest in infrastructure. We need to build more roads and improve connectivity (at a fast pace, not at a leisurely pace and then take solace by saying this is how things are done), we need visionaries who can build more hospitals and improve the health of the villages, we need visionaries to build better schools, we need them to find better teachers, we need visionaries who can connect with all kinds of people, we need visionaries who think practically and implement efficiently. We need visionaries who not only can provide employment but can also provide sustainable business opportunities to the poor. And we need visionaries who can do wonders with agriculture.

It is not worth it to sit and rue that we will never find such people. We already have some Chief Ministers in the country who have a vision for their states. What is required is that other Chief Ministers learn from them. We need visionaries to head all important ministries at the centre. We do not leaders who treat a ministerial post as a desk job.

Not just Chief Ministers and ministers, but there are 100’s of local representatives who have a visionary approach. All we have to do is go and find them, advertise their approach and make it an example for others to learn and implement. And most importantly, we need a visionary to lead the country too.

Sadly, this election did not throw up such a visionary and we still continue to search for that elusive visionary…

PS: Prannoy Roy was chatting on NDTV website while I was writing this blog, so I asked him " What do you think the media has learned from this election?". And he replied :-)

"Dr Prannoy Roy: Interesting question, Sudhir. I think the media has learnt or should have learnt not to sensationalise small events.. serious issues like hunger or unemployment do not come into focus because these are hard to sensationalise. But tiny events like shoe throwing or a bollywood candidate are blown up beyond proportion. So media needs to learn to focus on real issues during campaigning. "

Monday, May 11, 2009

Downwards ..

Very strangely, the media has been obsessed with who will the PM candidates for the 2014 elections! Interviewer after interviewer posed the same question again and again to the two politicians who might be the top contenders for the post in 2014!

Also, I have heard the full speeches of almost all the important political leaders. I even heard a couple of speeches in person, and was really surprised to see how media covered the event the next day! Most of the leaders always used to cover a full range of topics in their speeches. Some were inspiring, some had excellent content, some were full of rhetoric, some had a balance of all three, and some were funny too!

Speaking of funny, believe it or not, Deve Gowda is dreaming of becoming the Prime Minister again! Well actually, more than being funny, a passing thought of that dreaded possibility is a nightmare in itself!

Speaking of nightmare, here’s another possibility being thrown around – Mayawati as PM! Can you beat that?

Speaking of politicians from UP, Amar Singh roped in another Bollywood star this time – Sanjay Dutt! I tried to figure out how he keeps doing this, and gave up on it.

Speaking of Bollywood, it was completely obsessed with trying to get people to vote this time. And only 41% of Mumbai voted. That’s probably the least in the whole country! Well, we cannot surely fault Bollywood from trying hard though.

Speaking of trying hard, I tried my best to keep this blog short, just like Karunanidhi’s “fast unto death” :D, but I guess it is difficult to meet such standards. :P

Speaking of standards, with the election campaign finally over today, it feels as if the politicians of the country know only one direction to go – downwards :D

Sunday, May 3, 2009

At the grass root level...

The difference in the voting pattern of the urban and rural voter is not just the disenchantment with the political system, but also the failure of the urban voters to connect with their local representative – in other words, their leader.

This is primarily because the urban voter gets pretty much what he wants. He has roads, sanitation, water, electricity, transport, the capacity to buy and what not. So what else is left for him to complain? This is where the national issues crop up. Security is therefore a major concern. Economics is a concern. Governance is a concern. Corruption is a concern. And they will remain his concerns for eternity. And while discussing/addressing these concerns, politicians are often projected as the rotten lot. Therefore he does not gather the will to come and vote.

In contrast, the rural voter is more dependent on the government. He is dependent on the government for his health, for the education of his children. He is dependent on it for Minimum Support Price, better farm inputs, loans, employment, sustainable opportunities, sops, etc.

And to them, government means not just their CM, but their local representative too. Only when there is a fine balance between leader at the local level and his intentions to implement beneficial policies, will we see a stronger nation emerging. The impact a local leader creates also helps in the development of the state and the country. Through the development of their constituency, they are assisting in the development of their country. There is absolutely no need to view development also in an abstract manner. To some constituencies, employment might be a problem, to some infrastructure, to some education and to some health. In the hands of the local representative therefore lies the well being of his constituents.

A Sidhu spending 5.5 crore out of the allotted 6 crore is signs of matured leadership. If Amristar developed better, then doesn’t it also translate to a part of India developing? I’ve heard about the Vijayawada MP going out of his way to get weavers trained by NIFT, now if they develop, isn’t a part of the state also developing? A Scindia investing in power projects, a Arun Shourie investing in IIT, a Purandareswari questioning her own government in Parliament are all excellent examples of the impact local leaders can create.

I think leadership is a term often used as an abstract in India. To me, there are 545 leaders in India. Infact, if we consider the base unit is an MLA, then we have about 3,500 constituency level leaders wielding the power to create an excellent impact in the lives of the people who elected them. Winning an MP or an MLA seat is no mean job (quite frankly, I realised that only during this election!). Only leaders can accomplish that. And only visionaries can sustain that victory for a long time.

Local leaders are the bridge through which the policies reach the people. Leadership at the top needs to inspire the local leadership; needs to guide them to think in a different way; and grant them whatever is necessary to pursue their vision. 2009 – 2014 should be a period where we get to know more about the impact the political leadership at the local level is creating.

Let’s create a spirit of competition amongst the members of the 15th Lok Sabha by constantly telecasting the good work being done by the local leaders. Let not the question stop at “The other MP asked 10 questions, how many did you?”, but it should begin with “The other MP already impacted the lives of 1000 people, how about you?” Let the media take the lead in deflecting the cynicism associated with politics. Let us create better leaders, not just at the national level but also at the grass root level.

PS: The relation between the party and its candidate is a mutual one. This article does not take into account the party policies, and the role of parties in assisting the local leaders. It is a conscious effort to isolate the two, and concentrate on the persona of the field level leader, which also plays a pivotal role in the victory of the party.