Sunday, April 26, 2009

The unsung heroes ...

It is no mean job to conduct elections in India. The sheer amount of machinery, officials and security concerns are baffling enough for an ordinary mind. To go a step further and control the flow of money too, is an extraordinary achievement. The Chief Electoral Officer and the DGP of AP have done this precisely this and more.

When the elections were announced, we had a DGP who was partisan to the ruling dispensation. The Election Commission transferred him, and bought in A.K.Mohanty as the DGP. In a truly filmy style, the started cracking the whip right from day one! He gave the police officers down the ring very clear instructions, and more importantly instilled a sense of duty in all the officers across the state. State wide checks were carried out so rigoursly that the police recoverd upto Rs. 40 crore from various sources!! Imagine that! One change at the helm, and the difference in the functioning was so palpable. Police officers across the state functioned without fear and favour in these crucial times. Thousands of unruly elements were arrested as a preliminary measure just the elections. The biggest achievement still remains the success of controlling the flow of money in the state.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Dr.I.V.Subba Rao was more of a silent killer! He put in extra efforts to ensure that maximum number of people got enrolled as voters. Upto the 23rd of March ( one month before the elections ), the election commission gave an option to people to enroll! And to make the task easier, dropboxes were set up in almost all post offices. He was always available to recieve complaints/representations from any political party. I mean, he gave 2 hours to even K.A.Paul before he got on his nerves !!!! Every application was treated on its merit, and the violators of model code were reprimanded accordingly too. Strict enforcement of the code has again proved the impartial way the commission functions. Electoral rolls were also scrutinsed closely. Every election, 1000's of people used to complain that their name was missing in the list. This election had only 100's complaining. The setting up of CC Cameras, the excellent planning that went into identifying the polling booths with chances of violence fully ensured that the polls were by and large peaceful.

The entire police force, and the election related staf deserve unlimited kudos for a job so well done. They are, truly, this election's unsung heroes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The C-Word ...

I just heard this on TV, and got inspired ( frustrated might be a better word to describe the feeling) to write this blog.

Kapil Sibal tells us that the government has ensured "peace and tranquility" in the country because there were no communal tensions. So, all the terrorist attacks that happened across the country over the past 4 years did not disturb "peace and tranquility" as long as they didn't incite communal hatred? So, it's alright that about 500-1000 innocent people of all religions die over a period of 4 years? And because there has been no "communal" tension, there was "peace and tranquility" in the country? Is this the veil behind which the UPA is trying to seek solace?

Why has communalism and secularism acquired such a narrow meaning in today's political environment? Does being Secular mean appeasing other religions? Does being Secular mean disliking your own faith and religion? Does being Secular mean overlooking the unruly elements in other religions? Why does a Amar Singh get away when he questions the Batla encounter purely on religious grounds? Is that secular?

All debates, discussions, and arguments somehow get centered around the topic of communalism. One party accuses the other, the other says something on its behalf, and the debate goes on and on. Leave aside discussing other issues threadbare, most of them do not even find a mention in these debates. It's like the principle opposition party has lost all its right to talk about any issue just because they are tagged with being "communal" in nature. The ruling party always takes solace in the fact that "they did it too!". How does one mistake make it acceptable to commit those mistakes again and again?

If the BJP questions about terrorism in the country, Congress reminds us about Parliament attack and Kandahar. I feel compelled to write what I think about Kandahar episode here, before moving on.

The Indian Airlines flight was hijacked from Kathmandu and the pilot was asked to fly directly to Lahore. However, the pilot landed the plane in Amritsar citing lack of fuel as the reason. The then government had 30-45 minutes at its disposal. By the time, the NSG commandos reached the airport (they were apparently struck in a traffic jam - not sure about this story) the aircraft took off from Amritsar, went to Lahore, got refueled, went to Dubai ( where some passengers were let off ) and immediately flew to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Taliban was ruling Afghanistan then. We had no diplomatic contact with them, and so the question of storming the plane did not arise. We then sent our best IB officials to negotiate with the terrorists. Their initial demands were to release about 70 terrorists. Very hard bargaining by Ajit Doval and team bought down the list to 3 people. The Indian government chose to release them, instead of risking the lives of the more than 150 passengers in the flight.

I am still not sure whether Jaswant Singh accompanying the terrorists was a good idea. Maybe he wanted to personally welcome the hostages on the plane, or maybe there was some other logic but it surely didn't matter to me. The whole episode did not look like a surrender to the terrorists to me. There was a hostage situation in Russia, and Putin ordered commandos inside. More than 100 pepole including children died in that siege. I am not sure if any government in India would ever take that kind of risk.

So when UPA chairperson says "we killed terrorists, while they released them", the statement smacks so much about escapism. The attack on Parliament during NDA rule was despicable to say the least and a huge failure of the intelligence. There is no second thought about it. And yet, we refuse to punish the person responsible for it. All terrorist attacks on the country are equally despicable and are intelligence failures of large magnitudes. Neither have we enabled robustness in our intelligence agencies, nor are we punishing the culprits after they are caught. Now, isn't this a peculiar situation? Neither are we interested in investing to prevent these attacks, nor are we interested in punishing the culprits after the attack!!

Let's move away from security for a while. Last year, some forces in the ruling dispensation tried to buy MP's in the hope to stay in power for another year. They were successful in doing that too. Some "friends" were awarded with plum posts too. Nothing mattered. What mattered was that the opposition party spoiled the sanctity of the House by displaying money inside the house. The bigger crime of bribing at the highest levels was no more an issue. The issue was whether CNN-IBN was right in carrying out a sting operation, and whether the money should have been displayed. At what point of time did we decide to skip the bigger evil, and concentrate on lesser evils?

Let's talk about the "Aam Aadmi" now. NREGA is a revolutionary scheme. There is no doubt about it. Why is that scheme not discussed in as much detail as "Communalism" is ? How to emulate the success stories, how to overcome the shortcomings ( it has done as much harm as it has done good, for example, many farmers lost their labour to this scheme, and their revenues took a beating), etc. Unless the average viewer is given information, where can he/she debate it? What about the farm loan waiver? Barely did the media talk about this for a couple of days, it got bored! How many of us know about the Forest Dwellers Act introduced by this government? It was maybe discussed for 5 minutes before the discussion moved on to Communalism!!

It is an irony that the leader of the world’s largest democracy refuses to fight elections, and that is not an election issue. We had an inept Home Minister for 4 ½ years, and that is not an election issue. The powers that be, could not find one single person to be the Finance Minister of the country, and that is not an election issue. Multiple terror attacks are not an election issue. Rising food prices despite falling inflation is not an election issue. Infrastructure for health and education is not an election issue. The NDA has been an irresponsible opposition for the past 5 years, and that is not an election issue. Many UPA constituents just abandon the Congress at the time of election. Are we to understand that the partners themselves are not confident about their leader? This is not an election issue! They then announce that they are still part of the UPA. These flip-flops are not election issues.

Well, Sab kuch chalta hai because the only thing that matters is the C-word.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bullet points...

Sometime back, I compiled a list of major issues that, I felt, should go into the manifesto of political parties. Reproducing them here:

I know this will be a long list, and I know some ( or maybe most ) of the points are wishful thinking. But surely, there is hope - for if a Nitish Kumar can successfully make development, and not caste, the major issue in Bihar; if a Modi can make development, and not religion, a major issue in Gujarat, if a Naidu could make development, and not charisma, a major issue in AP - surely India awaits many more such leaders... With that, here are my views..


  • Connectivity in the country is a key factor assisting in development
  • Roads, transport system, power, water, sanitation, trees etc. - all help in the development of the country
  • Improved Tourism will be an automatic by product of better infrastructure, bringing in more foriegn exchange and also awareness about India.
  • Should not look at it as a profit making venture, public convenience should be the only driving factor


  • The key to combat corruption
  • Need to create awareness campaigns to let people know about their rights
  • Assist in effective use of the RTI Act
  • A No-nonsense leader should make sure his attitude trickles down as much as possible


  • Employable education is important
  • Purposeful education has to be the motivation
  • It should inculcate wisdom, civic responsibility, helping nature and more importantly, positivism
  • Need to stress on the roles of teachers - a factor that is convienently overlooked
  • School buildings should have basic infrastructure - benches, boards, library, and food.


  • Encourage agricultural research projects. Increase funding for such institutions
  • Keep farmers constantly updated on key developments in this field, and also invovle them in research activities
  • Provide the right kind of subisidies, and agricultural inputs
  • Continously revisit the MSP policy
  • It is the backbone of our country, deal with it with the importance it deserves.


  • Best solution is to heavily fund for infrastructure in government hospitals.
  • Improve facilities in them, and automatically their acceptability will increase
  • Mobile clinics, and mobile awareness vans to create awareness on cleanliness of our surroundings, and the importance of hygiene


  • This is another form of purposeful education
  • Provide infrastructure facilities, like stadiums and playgrounds at affordable rates
  • Encourage kids to take up sports
  • Remove the apprehensions that sports is too much of a Bureaucratic affair.


  • Create opportunities for backward people to grow.
  • Encourage small scale industries on a very large scale
  • Enable their long established livelihoods (fishing, weaving, sculpting etc) with modern equipment
  • Enable PSU's with more skill
  • Let them not remain backward, instead show them the way forward


  • Human Resources are under utilized in our country
  • Development through youth - involve them in developmental works
  • Development through women - involve them in decision making
  • Development of children - prepare them for better contributions to nation building


  • Laziness is pretty rampant
  • Leader needs to inculcate a new spirit of working and win the confidence of employees
  • Make them happy and appeal to their sense of responsibility, and then efficient administration will automaticall follow. The best example is what the DGP of AP has done ( will talk about this in the next blog)


  • Strengthen our intelligence organisations, and relieve them of the stagnancy they have been affected with.
  • Radical changes are the need of the hour - show the strength to do it


  • Enormous potential opportunities
  • Tap the resources for rural development
  • Creation of wealth is huge here, enable distribution of wealth too.


  • Lot of people in our country suffer from lack of awareness, so it is important that we encourage people to be armed with information
  • Information can be related to anything and everything - from agriculture to infrastructure, from health to sports, and from corruption to awards - people need to be kept in the know

I could have elaborated more on each topic, but then it will be too long. Hence, restricted myself to just Bullet Points :-)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Something to remember!

I got this brilliant idea in the morning. Why not be the first person to cast vote today? Thrilled at that prospect, I reached the polling station at 6:52am. And there I see that 12 people are already standing in the line :(

And then when I enter the booth, the polling agent asks me for the "slip". I am like... ahem..I don't know what you are talking about! He was like, they will give you a slip on which there will be a serial number. It is easier to search your name if I have that serial number. I am like...ahem.. the card has a serial number right ? He's like, that's too big, there is another serial number that is easier to find... you need to go outside and ask some of the agents sitting a little away from the booth !! I could sense the impatience of people behind me, so I came out and went to some agents sitting outside ( well, 100m away, right outside my apartments!).

These guys belong to political parties.. they help with idetifying if your name is in the electoral rolls. Since they belong to political parties, there will be atleast 3 benches with 3 people manning them. So now, I approach one bench. That guy looks in a couple of pages, and he's like.. your name is not there!!

I was like again ... ahem..... I checked online last week, my name was there in the list. He's like, ohh you registered last week aa, then we have to check new list. I then explained to him that I registered last year only and last week, I only checked! He insisted that my name will be there in the new list pakka! He was constantly being pepped up by his colleague... untadi anna, ekkadiki potadi peru.... ( It will be there, where will the name go!) And ofcourse he didn't find it there.

So then I tried to explain to him the logic in searching, and found that he was not very keen anymore! So, I took the book and searched, and then showed to him where my name was!! The colleague now says... "cheppa kada anna, ekkadiki potadi peru" ( I told you no, where will the name go) !!!

It was already 7:45, and I go back to the booth only to find 10 more people in the line. And finally at around 8, I was the 59th voter in that booth to have casted my vote :-). From wanting to be the first to being the 59th .... well, I don't know how to describe the feeling :D :P

While I was standing in the line, I could get to see real democracy at work. Old people, who were finding it difficult to walk turning up at the booth and dutifully casting their vote was a wonderful sight. One lady even got a small stool from her house so that she can easily climb the steps ( there was only 1, but it was a little high ), and voted. I know a couple of friends who travelled back to their native places to vote. Visuals on TV were also inspiring.

Surely, my first voting experience is something to remember :-) .

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just Do It !

What began in 1952, is what defines our country today. Not only was the first general election as resounding success, it laid the strongest possible foundation to an edifice called Democracy. It is a testimony to the farsightedness of our leaders; to the resillience of our bureaucrats; and to the strength of our citizens, that we have been able to build and sustain a democratic edifice

The circumstances then were no cakewalk. The country split into two, some 500 states just integrated into the fabric structure of our country and people were just beginning to enjoy the air of freedom. For the first time, many of the citizens were actually talking and experiencing democracy with no clue as to who, when and from where can come and create disturbances.

I think the single largest achievement of the government in the 50's was that they could peacefully conduct two general elections. To sustain the democratic framework of a big country such as ours is no mean task, and to have accomplished that with such resounding success, is something that every voter and every Indian has to feel proud about.

One look at our neighbours, and we will realize how fortunate we are. Pakistan's trysts with democracy need no new mention here. So is the case with Bangladesh. Nepal recently realized the full fruits of democracy. Maoists themselves left weapons and participated in the ballot war! Bhutan is now a fledgling democracy. China is yet to become a democracy. The less that is spoken about Afganisthan, the better!

Look around, and we will realize how fortunate we are to get the freedom to express, the freedom to choose, the freedom to debate, and the freedom to live! Every general election since the first one in 1952, again and again reinforced our committment to these freedoms. Only once were these freedoms taken away from us, and it was a general election ( 1977 ) that proved that no one can take them away from us!

Each general election was historic in its own sense, and that was primarily because the voters spoke their mind. They reminded to all and sundry that they cannot be taken for granted, and that they too realize their responsibility.

To conduct a general election is no mean task. One look at the number of people, and the machinery involved will make your mind blow! Right from the preparation of electoral rolls for over 70 crore people to manning the more than 8 lakh polling booths, right from filtering the thousands of candidates filing nominations to ensuring security at each polling booth, and right from enforcing the code of conduct to ensuring peaceful conduct, successive election commissions have done a laudable job that will put many such departments in other countries to envy.

Come April 16, April 23, April 30, May 7 and May 13, and our job is to help them in this endeavour. And it is very easy to help too. Go vote.

Or to put in Nike's terminology - Just do it !

Friday, April 10, 2009

Like never before ...

As an undercurrent, the advent of TV media has given rise to unprecedented levels of debates and discussions just about everywhere in the country - in buses, trains, autorickshaws, offices, hotels, roadside eateries, and what not. Everywhere people are now empowered with information, with visuals, with views that they find interesting to share. Not only are people discussing the issues raised in the media, they are also discussing the media!

Polarization in media might not be a new thing, but the extent to which it is polarized in AP is probably only seen to be believed. We are very much used to politicians spitting venom against each other, but in AP, newspapers do it against each other too! Almost daily. Sidestepping many main issues, both the print and electronic media have allocated much space and time to defame and degrade their opponents.

Anyways, the one thing that has been good about the media though is that we have information about every major candidate in these elections. We get to hear them on a daily basis about their views, opinions, etc. We are now getting a much deeper insight into the mind of the leader, the thinking of the candidates, and the philosophy of the party.

The fierce competition amongst the different news channels is thereby ensuring that the voter gets to know everything he needs to know about parties, leaders and contestants before he gets to vote. Sure, there is every probability that the voter might be confused with this overload of information, but I am also sure this will lead to an informed decision too.

Watching 24x7 has its own flipsides. For one thing, we get bored of the same thing being shown again and again. The danger of an issue getting diluted because of excessive repeatability is very high in 24x7. In a sense, the media maketh the leader and decideth (:D) the issue. A kurta clad, dimple smile possessing, plainly speaking youth leader is given unprecedented hype over other additionally talented, intelligent youthful leaders. In a sense, the media is assisting in rubbing upon us a leader who is clearly not ready to lead. Many such contradictions and interpretations might do more harm than good, but since TV journalism is still in its budding stages, I guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt.

So far, the advent of television media has increased the intellectual capacity of the average voter like never before, polarized them like never before, presented to them huge chunks of information like never before and has encouraged them to participate, like never before.

PS: All said and done, I still think nothing can ever beat the experience of sitting in a chair, stretching your legs and reading the newspaper early in the morning over a cup of coffee :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lightening things ...

For those of you following AP politics, I need not give a special intorduction about the person I am going to write. For those of you who don't, you need to know about this man called K.A.Paul !!! hahahahahaha, that very name is making me laugh loudly !!

He manages to plunge himself into further depths of ridicule every passing day. His statements are so funny that for anybody in depression, the best medicine is to watch Paul's statements. From about last year, his mental status has degraded to unfathomable lows.

He tells us that he didnt like the rigidity of George Bush and so made Obama the President. Yes, you read it right. He made Obama the President by suggesting the slogan CHANGE.

He is not interested in small and cheap post like that of the Chief Minister.

He has guaranteed Satyam employees that he will form a comittee with all the CEO's he knows and then will research and investigate the fraud and do justice. He told us that he gave the government of Liberia Rs. 10,000 crores. Yes, you read it right again... the government of Liberia.

Also, by the way, all world leaders follow only his advice. He has travelled all countries of the world and met leaders like Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi etc and prevented many large scale wars it seems.

Sonia Gandhi has made sure that his name is deleted from the voters list... it doesnt matter that he is actually not staying in the house... it is a conspiracy by none other than Sonia. That's it.

He opened a ridiculous website, and promised that whoever ensured that one lakh people joined the site will get an MP ticket.

He had a list of 3000 candidates ready for the elections, and guess what... YSR had the sheet stolen it seems!!!! Yes... you again read it right. YSR ( since he has lot of free time ) tooks the pains of planning a theft against K.A.Paul.

Politicians in the state are all vary about him it seems. So much that some one stole the mikes from a ground where he was supposed to address "lakhs of his supporters", and therefore he could not conduct the meeting.

Flash news!!! K.A.Paul's name has been deleted from the voter's list. He doesn't stay at the address he has provided!! Yet, he finds the spine to go to the Chief Electoral Officer and create a ruckus for two hours!! The drama ended with his arrest!

I am pretty sure he is not done yet!!! With such people around, there seems to be no worry that these elections will be deviod of any fun :D. Thanks Paul, for your serious comedy and lightening things up !

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Meaningful movement...

It is never easy to walk the talk. Especially when there is money and power involved. In one of its television advertisement, Lok Satta offered a bribe to the voters. Infact it said, Lok Satta offers a bigger bribe than money and wine for your vote – the bright future of your children.


Imagine the kind of thinking that must have gone into coming up with that slogan. Now tell me, why wouldn’t we want to choose such leaders?


Post 26/11, the urban voter has been very vocal in demanding some drastic changes in the system. Urban India is frustrated at the kind of political culture prevailing at present. The lack of etiquette, the disregard for good manners, and disrespect to the law of the land is clearly getting on to the nerve of the Indian voter.


The urban voter wanted someone who had clarity in their thought process, conviction in their ideas and commitment to their policies.  Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) and his party Lok Satta offered precisely this. It primarily wanted to usher in a new culture in politics and in governance, which is precisely what the urban voter was also demanding.


What started as a social movement in 1997 slowly transformed into a political party in 2006. JP was and is the chief propagator of the message of the party, and he did it with such clarity that slowly people began to take notice of what he is saying. Every argument of his is backed up with statistics, and is nearly very convincing. The unconventional style of the Lok Satta’s approach to politics might take a very long time to sink into the prevailing mindsets of the masses, but 2009 is surely the best time to make a beginning.


A closer look at JP’s speeches and Lok Satta’s policy documents reveal the huge amount of experience that has gone into writing and framing them. Promising decentralization of power to the village level, establishing district level cabinet committees, increasing accountability into the system, investing huge amounts in the development of infrastructure for schools and hospitals are all visionary ideas that will ensure that security of all people in the years to come. Unfortunately we all live in a world where solutions have to be instant and results have to be immediately imminent.


To integrate itself into the Indian political scenario is also a big task for Lok Satta. It cannot remain vary to the demands of the voters for long. The party needs leaders at the constituency and district level. The party needs other visible faces that are as articulate as JP is in spreading the message. In this election, Lok Satta will create a split in votes in most of the places, but is not going to win any of them. Some of the candidates are going to lose very badly too. And this is primarily because India lives in its villages and rural India is still not yearning for the kind of change urban India is.


Rural people identify the local candidate and the party in equal measure. Lok Satta does not have such identifiable leaders in these areas and that’s exactly why it cannot win any seats with a lot of rural population. Post this election, the immediate task on hand for the party is to build local leaders who can better identify with the specific problems of the area and provide unique solutions too.


To make that task easier, here’s what the urban voters should do – send a couple of representatives to the Assembly and let’s see for the next 5 years what kind of constructive role they play in the functioning of the assembly. Show Lok Satta that it need not lose heart. The disgruntled urban voter needs to allow Lok Satta to use these successful examples to better propagate their message, and thereby become part of a meaningful movement.