India, the largest democracy in the world, is having elections to elect a new Parliament which will then elect a new Prime Minister. India’s elections, the largest voting exercise in the world, will be conducted over weeks, with 814 million registered voters, of which over 150 million will be newly eligible youth first time voters. The Election Commission of India oversees this monumental task across all the states enforcing a uniform code of conduct nationwide in the 935 thousand voting stations—a model that we could emulate in the United States where each state or even county pretty much runs elections on its own set of rules.
While we must admire the predictable and reliable democratic election rhythm in India, we must also note that India’s personality driven politics sometimes allows quixotic, inexperienced and untested leaders like Arvind Kejrwal to be elected to positions of power. Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Admi Party, was elected in a landslide to be the Chief Minister of Delhi. Subsequently, a series of Kejriwal antics kept the nation and the press fascinated and sometimes entertained. In one of his first steps, Kejriwal rewarded the residents of Delhi who were defaulting on their electricity bills with a 50% reduction in their arrears. Of course, law abiding citizens who paid their bills on time received no relief.
Kejriwal quit in 49 days simply because he could not get approval from the legislature to pass an anti-graft bill. Instead of working within the boundaries of the constitutional process, Kejrawal resigned in protest. Kejriwal is now contesting the parliamentary elections aspiring to be the next Prime Minister. One wonders how, if he could not govern a city state such as Delhi, will he rise to the demands of leading the entire diverse nation of India?
While it is the prerogative of the citizens of India to choose their leaders, one would hope that that they make a wise choice. Qualifications must trump lineage, a successful track record of leadership and administration should trump personality or fame, concrete ideas and action plans should trump ideology, and a focus on sustainable development should trump promised largesse of freebees.
The voters must demand that major political parties announce their prime ministerial candidates in advance and then evaluate if their nominees can speak to and govern the diversity in India as a strong leader capable of producing results. A litmus test could be what Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker, said of leadership: “Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems.”
Last but not the least, a decisive verdict will ensure the stability of the next government in India—it all hinges on the choice of the 814 million registered voters—who must make the right choice.
Rameysh Ramdas, an S.F. Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby.
Yes, to Arvind Kejriwal
In the ongoing elections, Indians are faced with the daunting task of choosing between an incumbent Congress government that presents itself as the champion of the poor, the challenger right wing party led by Narendra Modi or NaMo as his “devotees” call him and the Aam Aadmi Party led by graft-fighting Kejriwal.
Except for a few policies that may have helped the poor such as food schemes to end hunger, the best contributions of the Congress party have been the unprecedented levels of corruption, and a strict adherence to the policy of “divide and rule” inherited from the colonial rulers. Thanks to short sighted voting practices, Congress has time and again successfully exploited India’s masses through political maneuvers detrimental to the long term welfare of the country, such as quotas to specific communities in educational institutions.
On the other hand, to many of India’s middle classes, controversial politician Modi represents the face of economic prosperity. So mesmerized are they by the lure of economic development and corporate jobs that they take umbrage at the slightest hint of disagreement with Modi’s demigod status. It is true that the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team did not find probable cause of his involvement in the 2002 riots, but his complicity in the riots cannot be dismissed. (It is not irrelevant here to mention that some of Modi’s closest colleagues have been convicted for leading the riots). Sure, the BJP may have better economic development plans than Congress or the AAP party, but as the right wing has time and again demonstrated by its actions, which include attacking women dancing in pubs, ransacking Prashant Bushan’s office for his personal opinion on Kashmir and advocating sedition charges against students for cheering for the Pakistani cricket team, economic progress comes with a price—disdain for personal liberty.
The outstanding performance of the AAP in the Delhi elections is an indication of the common man’s frustration with vote bank politics, and their desire for true leadership. AAP’s gun blazing attempt to burst a racket in Delhi’s Khirki extension, and Kejirwal’s resignation after just 49 days of governance was political harakiri, but what remains unchanged is India’s need for corruption free and policy based politics.
Kejriwal looks to be like the best of the bad bargain available. He is the non-Modi/non-Gandhi option. He represents the “disempowered and disenfranchised” even despite his hasty resignation. Many religious minorities, including Muslims are looking for a viable alternative, other than the marginalized Congress party or the divisive BJP one. As Lakshmi Chaudhry a senior editor at Firstpost.com put it, “Unlike Modi, he [Kejriwal] has nothing to lose,” and therefore the most to gain. He is unlikely to win the elections, yet he will most likely make the most strategic advance, politically.
Ash Murthy is a software engineer at Google and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org