Status Quo, Election-nama!

Status Quo means the present state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. In life, we humans try to avoid change and want the status quo. Such a status quo is what politicians always hope to achieve. When the status quo is maintained, life becomes easy for them to manage. India gained independence in 1947; we were a vast nation with a significant population. British had plundered the national wealth for their benefit. Add to this the partition that created a new nation Pakistan. The Indian nation survived the first fifteen years on the goodwill of millions of Hindu Gods! There were crises after crises which were somehow overcome with the help of the United Nations and other countries like the USA and Russia.

British had left behind the legacy of brown sahib’s in the form of Indian administrative service. The charismatic leadership of Nehru took over the reins of running the nation. Majority of people poor and rich, both were awed by Nehru and the ICS/IAS officers and their ilk. After Nehru’s death, with a small break, his daughter took over the Prime Ministership. It was the Dynastic succession, and all others were treated as commoners. Commoners had no chance! Running a Dynastic style strives for the status quo, to hell with India, especially poor and uneducated Bharat. To maintain the status quo, you need sycophants. Suddenly, training schools giving a degree in sycophancy mushroomed! Ironclad administrative infrastructure and the sycophants made sure that the whole country was anaesthetised! Whatever the kings and queens did was accepted without much challenge. Masses were kept uninformed and poor! Those questioning the royalty were steamrolled! A minor spectre of a group of people challenging the Dynasty was a blink on the horizon with a couple of seats in the Loksabha, in early ’80 s!

The nation was on the growth rate of around 2%, which many called as Hindu Growth rate! In 1992, India had to take significant loans against the national gold reserves. We were forced to improve laws to make the atmosphere business friendly. After a gap of a few years, the Dynasty again took over as if the nation was bereft of competent and capable leaders. The dynastic grip led to the birth of influential regional leaders. The era of coalition governments had started. Still, the status quo was primarily maintained by the rulers with license raj and coterie of prominent businesspeople. Nation had started growing at a faster pace from 2% to 7%. The more rapid growth was the result of changes in laws and the birth of the IT industry where Indians showed a flair to shine! The world started to notice India and many multinational companies started coming to India. Still, the dynasty rule by proxy came back with a break of five years. While they ruled, the status quo was maintained. But during their latest, ten-year stint, many scandals and financial irregularities came out. The scandals finally broke the stranglehold of the family, and the current government came in power. But this new government was the culmination of the spectre that was seen as a blink in early ’80 s of the last century. Modi took over as the prime minister in 2014.

It became evident that the new government wanted to do things differently to change the way of people’s approach. They wanted more participation from people; they did many things to bring back the anesthetised population to senses. But dynasts and their coterie treated this victory as beginners luck. They were a bit stunned with the idea that a non-Delhi person with no propah English accent became the prime minister. This person was neither Oxford-educated nor was he from a great family lineage. The rulers of India have to be Oxford/Harvard guys as they had to handle the IAS led infrastructure. The administrative gang was one group which knew that once they came out of Mussoorie school, they were the kings! No one in this world could touch them except for transferring them. How can a senior bureaucrat be expected to reach his office every day at nine am and swipe his card? On top of this, there were stories that their team of servants was likely to be eliminated. Please read the article below on the subject.

https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/modi-government-lok-sabha-elections-2019-indian-bureaucracy-ias

Combination of status quo raj and relaxed approach to administration was one of the primary reasons India was able to continue with large scale corruption, loan frauds which remained hidden due to quid pro quo approach by business people and administrators/bankers. The group of dynasts and administrators was complimented by the creation of a group of media gang which is now infamously known as Khan market gang. Khan market gang supported the dynasty and their coterie irrespective of results of their work.

Along with the new government came up another group, which came to be known as “Tukde, Tukde gang”, came to the fore! This gang was leftist, liberal and generally sympathised with anything that was done against the government, including armed rebellion. Showing support to proven terrorist was their specialisation. This gang was not afraid to go to jail. In real life, they were perpetual postgraduate or doctoral students. They got free publicity from the media all the time. Their main aim was to keep turmoil boiling, under the guise of liberal views.

During the current election campaign, all the above were anesthetised into thinking that what Modi government had been doing, was despised by the common man. There was a big hoopla about how the days of the government are numbered. Regional satraps like Naidu, Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and others started behaving as if it was only a question of crossing 23rd May to start taking oath in the new government at the Centre.

They never knew what the population of India was thinking. The highly educated, middle class, poor all were enlightened by the revolution of social media; caste, was not in the equation this time. Caste politics was thrown out of the window. Citadels were flattened, dreams of the above gangs were shattered. Campaigns reached such low levels that the prime minister, the chief ministers and other senior people were openly called thieves. The opposition parties continuously kept on challenging the Supreme Court and Election Commission with frivolous petitions.

The opposition parties had raised the temperature of the system in general. They created hype and started believing it. Rajasthan chief minister had claimed that since Congress had won the state election only six months back, they will win all 25 Loksabha seats in Rajasthan. They lost all!

When the exit poll results started coming out, there were indications that current the BJP government could get 300 plus seats. At one end of the spectrum, the figure was around 240, and at the other end, it was 350. The 350 number predicted by Axis/India Today combination was trolled by saying that they were “sold”. The “knowledgeable” gang of reporters/experts started sharing their knowledge and opinion that these are final days of Modi government. Anaesthesia effect was seen again. In the end, Axis/India Today predictions were vindicated.

Friends, I can keep writing on a lot, on this subject. What I have written is not about parties, candidates, results etc. But I tried to write about how the nation was put out to sleep by a combination of Dynasts, non-flexible bureaucrats and their ancient systems formalised by British, to suit them. Later the team of Liberal, foreign-trained Oxford or Cambridge educated media experts joined the bandwagon. All of them supported the old style, Dynastic style of working and put everybody to sleep. Unfortunately, they also went to sleep and did not know that India had moved on. The opposition simply did not accept these figures. Mamata Banerjee went to the extent of saying, “All this is gossip which I don’t believe. But I am afraid by calculating these extravagant figures, the ruling party will hack EVM’s all over India and cook the figures to match exit polls.”

There is one funny side to hacking theory. Rahul Gandhi lost in Amethi but won in Waynad with the highest margin. Supriya Sule, Pawar’s daughter, won but his nephew lost. Which EVM’s were hacked?

Finally, when they woke up from the deep slumber on 23rd May, 303/353 and 17 times 0 and few times 1 per state were the numbers that became famous! Majority population had woken up, and they have given BJP a mandate to take them on a progressive path for the next five years. I hope that the opposition team also wakes up, pulls up their socks and forms a robust and healthy opposition with constructive politics! Jaihind!

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Tango- the Elections!

My friends Nandu suggested I share my views about the Indian elections with others. I am allergic to politics, though I have voted in every election since I became eligible to vote. Maybe I am allergic to politicians! I don’t know; I am confused. Democracy is a necessity of our lives like Roti, Kapda and Makan (Now the latest additions to the need are cell phone and internet!), i.e. Food, Clothing and Home! (For my non-Indian friends!)

Why did I give the title, Tango – the Elections! Meaning of Tango is a ballroom dance originating in Buenos Aires, characterised by marked rhythms and postures and abrupt pauses. In a democracy we expect the ruling and opposition parties to perform the Tango, sharing their views of how to run the country; but our politicians have gone for the last part of the definition, “abrupt pauses”. They take abrupt pauses, change directions, from gentlemanly behaviour switch to use of nonsensical use of language. The attacks this time have become personal, and it appears that there is no end to it! Bad words are used against very senior leaders, Chief Ministers and Prime Ministers. What direction are we taking? There was a verbal diatribe on a lady candidate, below the belt, literally! No pun intended!

When I was in school, India had become independent, and people were thrilled to be allowed to vote. Democracy continues very successfully. (Except for a hitch in 1975) India has adopted electronic voting ahead of all the countries in a big way. We don’t use ballot papers.

I read a story told by Chidanand Rajghatta, TOI US correspondent. He was called in a University to speak about modern election systems in India. At the end of his speech, he was asked to advise the Americans. He said (tongue in cheek), “Outsource elections to India”! There were huge claps all around!

The voting method is where all confusion starts. When parties win elections using the current process, they are ok with the technique. But when they lose the elections, the same method is declared as the vilest system. It gets challenged in the Supreme Court- they have promptly thrown out the petition. Parties catch hold of some engineers who are supporters of that party. These engineers make a big drama of how hacking is simple etc. To overcome such issues, sometime back Election Commission declared a date on which all the parties could come together and prove to EC, how hacking could be done. Not even one political party registered for the event. We make millions of financial, purchasing transactions electronically. Passport system in India is entirely electronic. In India, Visa on arrival is given electronically. But our politicians periodically challenge the electronic process, as an election stunt!

Another issue that is seen this time is the defection from parties. It is on the rise and shows that people are only interested in standing for elections and not working for the party. The usual sprinkling of cine stars is there, and a retired cricketer has also joined the fray.

Another significant change, to worse, is attacking the independent institutions. Decisions given by Election Commission received comments that it is working for the ruling party. Similarly, Supreme Court judgments were twisted to make claims that suit the arguments of the parties. Supreme Court took these people to the task, is a different issue, but such twisted statements waste the time of the Supreme Court.

One state that has galloped ahead of others in “reforms” is West Bengal. Many summers ago, Gopal Krishna Gokhale had said, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow.” Bengal is the land of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekanand,  Netaji Subhashchandra Bose; it is the Bhadralok (prosperous and educated people), Calcutta was India’s capital at the time of British in the initial phase. All industries started in Bengal first.

https://indiatoday.app.link/ylVjmRhPKW

The article in India Today tells us about the anarchy in Bengal. It is titled, “How to rig elections, Bengal style”! I will not go into details as the report covers what is happening today in Bengal during this election. It will suffice to say that the Election Commission acted “Suo Moto” or on its own and disallowed election campaign meetings on a day before the last day, to prevent further anarchy. The indication of such a situation was seen for many years. During the change of government last time, there were attacks and murder galore which continued all through. Shifting of Tata Nano factory to Gujarat was the clearcut signal to the powers that be! But they were too busy appeasing their electorate, and god knows who! I hope India does not start thinking like Bengal, in future!

Another first in this election is that none of the experts can predict anything. No waves are seen, no indication is seen from any patterns in voting. The voter is the ultimate God, who does not talk to anyone. As usual, the caste, religion equations are being discussed, but nobody can come to any conclusion. Most crucial conclusion every expert is saying is that an unstable government will bring chaos to India, but it appears that the opposition may not be able to form a stable government.

In large cities like Pune and Bangalore, voting % seems much lower than most other places. These two cities are cosmopolitan, and the migratory population is very high because of the easy availability of work. The community is young, and for both towns, the voting day created a long weekend. People went away on holiday. Plus transient nature did not allow people to change their voting location from their original city to the adopted city. Times of India has started a new slogan, “Let your vote travel with you”! In days of internet and computers, people should be able “to carry their vote” with them to where they are staying. Technologically it is possible, but the Election Commission needs to change its laws and people should be educated to change their thinking. This change can be connected to something straightforward and doable. For example, if you file your IT reruns from a city A, this can be shared with the Election Commission to change your place of voting. It is just a way it can be done, but it is doable.

What can be done about the criminal records of candidates? Our laws need to tighten further. Another observation is that many candidates become very rich in between two elections. Most of these people never go to the office like you and me; they are not known to have businesses, but where does the wealth come from?

I have discussed mainly systems in Indian elections. One more thing that needs to be tackled is why not hold national as well as state elections at the same time. It will save a lot of costs. Last national election cost Rs.3800/ crores i.e. US $ 0.5/ billion, in 2014! We can assume a 20% increase in five years. If both elections are held together, there will be substantial cost savings. But somehow many political parties are against this. Probably this the cost of democracy!

All said and done, warts and all, we all should be proud of the democratic process India is following. Voting this time is done in seven rounds; these many rounds are needed to manage logistics! After all, we have states like Bengal leading the nation!

Notabhai! નોટભાઈ તમે કોણ છો?

નોટભાઈ તમે કોણ છો? This is written in the language Gujarati! In English, it means Notabhai who are you? I have chosen this title as  recent elections in Gujarat brought out this issue forward! Bhai in Gujarati is Brother! I do not write about political stuff as I do not understand many things from that arena. But this is about a procedure in our elections and its significance. What is NOTA? The Supreme Court, in September last year, upheld the right of voters to reject all candidates contesting the elections, saying it would go a long way in cleansing the political system of the country. The apex court directed the Election Commission to have an option of ‘None of The Above’ (NOTA) on the electronic voting machines (EVMs) and ballot papers in a major electoral reform.

Nota

This NOTA facility was available even before Electronic NOTA option. But in that case an individual was required to meet the polling officer, make entry in a register, fill up a form saying that you want to select option “None of the above”! Why people want the NOTA option? This indicates, that the voter finds none of the candidates are worth his vote.

In the recent Gujarat election, it was observed that besides three political parties NOTA option was fourth in the list based on the number of votes captured. That is not a small number, in fact it is a sizable number. In % it was about 2% total valid votes! What is the meaning of this option?

The NOTA option on EVMs has no electoral value. Even if the maximum number of votes cast is for NOTA, the candidate getting the most of the remaining votes would be declared winner. But then why have NOTA when it has no electoral value? The SC said, negative voting would even encourage people who are not satisfied with any of the candidates to turn up to express their opinion and reject all contestants.

It further said that negative voting will lead to a systemic change in polls and political parties will be forced to project clean candidates. If the right to vote is a statutory right, then the right to reject a candidate is a fundamental right of speech and expression under the Constitution.

This momentous decision will go a long way for any democracy! There is no doubt that India is the largest running and thriving democracy. We have been stealing thunder under all the advanced countries in the world, the way we conduct the elections in India. For the most technically advanced country USA, there have been nightmares about voting, counting and in its systems. It seems Florida specializes in them. There have been fiascos in 2000, 2006 and 2012! In one election Supreme court had to intervene and order the recounting to be stopped. Somebody had jokingly said, “Checkup if the counters can count between 0 to 100!” Or was it a serious statement?

You may find this article interesting.

http://www.madrasnow.com/2012/11/us-elections-why-fiasco-in-florida-vote.html

florida_votes_2012

Politics all over the world has been dirty line of work; you are always under scrutiny. But still the politicians have the penchant for foot in the mouth disease! From bribery, secret funds or not so secret love lives, these guys are capable of doing everything! The other day I read during the discussion on “Me Too!” campaign about sexual harassment, a comment was made that in USA if you are lucky to survive sex scandals, you are likely to become the President of USA.

The population world over is fed up of type of people who take part in politics. When all candidates in a constituency “qualify” now we have an option of NOTA! This is a sign of maturing population who may lodge protest by selecting to press NOTA option. Though NOTA vote has no value, it may so happen that without NOTA, candidate A could have won instead of B! Hopefully this will have effect on political parties. They may think twice before forcing certain candidates on populace. Ultimately trying to remain on the winning side is the name of the game! Remaining in opposition, keeps these folks in wilderness of the power game, with “huge loss in income”!

Are the people really serious about offering to serve the nation? Are they so much driven that they are very keen to uplift the society? In India at least, such statements will be a big joke. The dynastic approach in politics indicates otherwise and politicians are here just to loot the system. At least most of them are. If you read about the wealth amassed by such people in a short duration, it is simply shocking. When Income Tax department takes action, there is a hue & cry about political vendetta!

Will NOTA improve the system? It is a positive step in the right direction. There has been discussion of banning candidates depending on punishments meted out to candidates by court of law. But the law itself is such a maze, that we have known of candidates who fought elections from jail! What if one has made an appeal against the punishment? What if one has completed its jail terms? There are always good and bad sides in any democracy. Mind you the other option of dictatorship is simply not on. So, let us hope that we vote in an election in such a way using NOTA, that so called popular candidates are beaten by not so famous candidates!

I will share one small anecdote. Times of India’s correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta from Washington D C, was invited to speak about Indian Election system. Audience was amazed when he shared the details. He was asked, “What can America do to improve its systems?” He smiled and said, ” Please sub contract your elections to India?”