A common man’s letter to Arvind Kejriwal

Dear Shri Kejriwal,

Congratulations on AAP’s spectacular victory in the Delhi Assembly elections! This victory has given all common people in India the hope that they can work collectively to change things for the better.

The whole country seems to be hailing AAP as the inventor of ‘alternative politics’. Most people are either unaware or have forgotten that the AAP today closely resembles the BJP when it was founded in 1980. Then, the BJP worker was a volunteer who worked during the day to earn his/her living, and worked for the party outside office hours and on holidays. There were no leaders. Everybody was a party worker, and some were elected office-bearers. All of them were “common men/women”. People joined the BJP to work for the nation and for the party, never for personal gain. They gave the party their time, energy and money, often at the cost of their personal and family commitments, and expected nothing in return. They led simple lives. To give an example, around 50,000 delegates attended the BJP’s first annual session in Mumbai in December 1980. Delegates from outside Mumbai either stayed with their relatives or with friends, or were accommodated in tents at the session venue in Bandra, Mumbai. Nobody, not even the seniormost office-bearers like Mr. A. B. Vajpayee and Mr. L. K. Advani, stayed at posh hotels. Sounds familiar?

However, by 2004, the BJP had become a clone of the post-Independence Congress. Whatever faults can be found with the Congress can also be found with the BJP: corruption, crony capitalism, VIP culture, High Command culture, dynastic politics, etc., etc.

I am sure the Congress in 1947 was also like today’s AAP.

The Congress and the BJP transformed the way they did because, to quote Lord Acton, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” I would go a step further and state that a political party and its members start becoming corrupt when power becomes approachable.

I sincerely appeal to you to remain constantly aware that whatever happened to the Congress and to the BJP can very easily happen to the AAP. One of your immediate and topmost priorities should be to create a set of mechanisms to ensure that power does not corrupt the AAP.

I am sure you, Dr. Yogendra Yadav, Prof. Ajit Jha, Prof. Anand Kumar and other political analysts in the AAP are eminently capable of identifying all risk factors, and that organisational experts in the AAP would be able to create mechanisms to prevent these risk factors from entering the party.

However, I would like to submit the following points for your kind consideration:

1. I hope you understand that corruption starts from the top. If the top leadership, or people close to the top leadership, is perceived to have zero tolerance to corruption, crony capitalism, ostentatiousness, etc., the party and its workers are less likely to become corrupt. However, if the top leadership is perceived to selectively turn a blind eye to corruption, the rank and file of the party gets a signal that corruption is acceptable, provided it is within limits.
For example, no free rides on private jets or helicopters under any circumstances. Also, every substantial donation must be proactively and stringently vetted. Sorry to say this, but when somebody donates Rs. 50 lakhs to you, please ask that person why (s)he is making such a huge donation and ensure that AAP is not compromising itself in any way by accepting such a huge donation. The fact that a donation of Rs. 50 lakhs was made by cheque and was accompanied by a PAN Card photocopy is not enough. AAP must make sure that the donor has earned the money by legal and ethical means, and that the donation is being made without any strings attached.

2a. Be extremely selective while admitting members. The current process allows anybody to join the AAP. Please have a screening process. I would suggest that membership be offered only to those who are recommended by existing office-bearers and/or active members. This may slow down the membership drive, but it will reduce the chances of opportunists joining the party.
2b. Set higher standards for election candidates than for members. ‘Winnability’ is extremely important, but it is less important than ‘cleanliness’.
2c. Set even higher standards for office-bearers and for ministers.
2d. Be extremely selective about alliances, electoral understandings, endorsements, outside support, etc.

3a. Be aggressive in your efforts, but be patient about results. There is a very heavy price to be paid for shortcuts. Be prepared for the fact that your noble goals may not be fully achieved during your lifetime. Please develop a second line of leadership, and create a process of continuous leadership development.
3b. Please develop the organisation in a state before you contest elections there. Elections can be won in Arvind Kejriwal’s name, but Arvind Kejriwal will not be part of the state’s government.

4. Avoid populism. Freebies win elections, but they also make the Aam Aadmi lazy. Remember the words of Rosalynn Carter: “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”

I apologise for having taken up much of your valuable time, and I thank you for having patiently read this communication.

Your admirer and well-wisher,

Proactive Indian

(Sent by email from proactiveindian@rediffmail.com to contact@aamaadmiparty.org)

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No ‘Shehzade’ or ‘baba log’ among BJP Ministers!

During the long election campaign this year and even before that, Narendra Modi, now India’s Prime Minister, had strongly opposed dynastic politics.

The BJP’s candidates’ list contained a few, but not too many, political dynasts. I had touched on this in my post The arrogance of inheritance? Of course, the presence of these candidates could be due to various factors governing realpolitik.

After the BJP’s victory in the elections, I, like many other Indians, was curious to see if Narendra Modi would walk his talk about dynastic politics while appointing ministers in his new government.

The first sign of things to come appeared on rediff.com, which said, “Narendra Modi enforces a new rule that no children of BJP leaders will get cabinet berths.”

After the names of all the ministers were known, I checked whether this ‘new rule’ had actually been followed. I found that almost all the ministers from the BJP are first-generation politicians. Some of them are children of BJP workers, but none of these parents were senior leaders in the BJP. Only 6 ministers could be said to have had the advantage of family background while entering politics, but each of them has a long track record that could have earned them ministerial positions even without the benefit of family background.

Najma Heptulla: grand-niece of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Dr. Heptulla was a Congress member of the Rajya Sabha from 1980 to 2004. In 2004, she joined the BJP.

Maneka Gandhi: wife of Late Sanjay Gandhi (son of Late Indira Gandhi). According to Wikipedia, “In March 1983, after falling out with her mother-in-law, Maneka founded her own political party, the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch …. In 1988, Maneka merged the Rashtriya Sanjay Manch with the main opposition party, the Janata Dal and became its General Secretary. … In 2004, Maneka joined the BJP. … She has won 5 out of the 6 times she has contested from Pilibhit.”

Ravi Shankar Prasad: According to Wikipedia, “His father Thakur Prasad was a senior advocate at the Patna High Court and one of the founders of the Jan Sangh, which is now the BJP.” However, Wikipedia also states, “Prasad began his political career as a student leader in the 1970s organising protests against Indira Gandhi’s government. He worked in the student movement in Bihar under the leadership of Jayaprakash Narayan and was imprisoned during the Emergency. He was associated with RSS & Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad for many years and held various posts in the organisations.”

Rao Inderjit Singh: According to Wikipedia, “…son of Late Rao Birendra Singh the scion of the Rewari dynasty who served as a second chief minister of Haryana.” From 1977 to 2013, Singh was a member of the Congress party. He was an MLA for 4 terms, an MP for 3 terms, and held various ministerial positions. In September 2013, he resigned from the Congress and joined the BJP.

Piyush Goyal: (son of BJP leaders Chandrakanta Goyal and Late Shri Vedprakash Goyal):According to Wikipedia, “ He has had a strong academic record – all-India second rank holder Chartered Accountant and second rank holder in Law in Mumbai University. He has participated in Leadership Programs at Yale University (2011), Oxford University (2012) and Princeton University (2013) and is currently pursuing the Owner / President Management (OPM) Program at Harvard Business School…. During his 27 year long political career, he has served on the National Executive and held several important positions in the BJP. He was also nominated by the Government of India to the Task Force for Interlinking of Rivers.”

GM Siddeshwara: According to Wikipedia, “His father Late Shri G. Mallikarjunappa was also an M.P. for two terms: 1996-1998 and 1999-2003. Shri G. Mallikarjunappa was affiliated to the RSS before joining the BJP electoral politics…. Shri G. M. Siddeshwara is one of the top unquestionable Lingayat leaders in Karnataka and a mass based leader in Central Karnataka. Shri G. M. Siddeshwara has been rated as one of the best MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha by various independent organizations based on his performance both in the Parliament as well as his efficiency in the constituency.”

It is refreshing to see no ‘Shehzade’ or ‘baba log’ among BJP Ministers! This is a good beginning to replace dynasty with meritocracy.

What about the Indian National Congress? Read The Hindu’s editorial Putting dynasty before party

The arrogance of inheritance?

The Hindu reported that Poonam Mahajan, BJP candidate for Mumbai North-Central, has said, “It’s not fair to say I benefited from dynasty. I have worked for the party for the last eight years. It has tried and tested me.”

As far as I could remember, other than occasionally appearing on Page 3, Poonam Mahajan has done hardly any work for the BJP or for the country. However, the Wikipedia page on her says that she “joined the BJP as a normal member of the party, with the encouragement of her uncle Gopinath Munde, himself an ex-Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra state. Now she’s national secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party.”

I asked a few people who generally follow politics, a question:
In your opinion, how much did dynasty (Pramod Mahajan’s daughter, Gopinath Munde’s niece) matter in BJP giving Poonam Mahajan a ticket?

Of the 15 persons who replied, 14 said dynasty was the ONLY factor in her party giving her a ticket. 1 person said, “No idea”. Please note that 11 of these persons live in Mumbai North-Central or have been living there till recently. At least 2 of them are staunch BJP supporters.

While this is not a large enough sample, it gives sufficient indication of the public perception that Poonam Mahajan got her party ticket mainly, perhaps only, because of dynasty.

Poonam Mahajan is not the only ‘young’ politician who has been air-dropped into politics by dynasty. All political parties have such persons in large numbers. One is also a Prime Ministerial aspirant.

After being given some position in their respective parties, most of these persons have done some work for their parties. However, very few have done sufficient work and achieved results that would enable them to claim that they have reached their present positions mainly on the basis of merit. If the ticket had been given only on the basis of merit, somebody else would have been given the ticket. To be blunt, the candidate’s ‘winnability’ is not really a factor in Lok Sabha elections. For example, even if Poonam Mahajan defeats sitting Congress MP Priya Dutt, it will be because of a combination of the anti-Congress/UPA wave and the Modi wave.

When Poonam Mahajan and others like her have clearly benefited from dynasty, why do they claim that it is their ‘work’ that has brought them to their present high positions? Are they in denial? Or is it merely their sense of entitlement or, in other words, the arrogance of inheritance?

All political parties put together cannot be bigger than our nation

Excerpts from a report in The Hindu:

‘Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos,’ Finance Minister P. Chidambaram ‘hit out at BJP terming its economic policies as retrograde and “blood-eyed” and asked why the Opposition Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi never fielded a Muslim candidate.’

‘Mr. Chidambaram also took dig at Aam Aadmi Party, saying there was no place for mob-democracy in India and the country was a party-based democracy where individuals can not be bigger than a party.’

‘Mr. Chidambaram said, “BJP does not represent all sections of India and it does not even have presence in many parts of the country. … It has got policies that would destroy the very idea of India. Theirs a blood-eyed economic model.”’

He also stated that, ‘“If Congress is called to form the government, I’m pretty certain in my mind that Rahul Gandhi will be the Prime Minister. … There was enough fire in his belly when he spoke at the AICC meeting”.’

‘He said that BJP is opposing multi brand retail on premise that it would kill jobs, while the fact was just the opposite.’

To the best of my knowledge, Chidambaram went to Davos as India’s Finance Minister, not as Congress member. The expenses of his visit were borne by India, not by the Congress party. At the World Economic Forum, he was expected to further India’s interests. (Even if he had gone to Davos as a Congress member and even if the expenses of his visit were borne by the Congress party, he would be expected to further India’s interests.)

Did he expect to further India’s interests by promoting his party and his leader and by speaking poorly about his political opponents?

Was Chidambaram trying to tell the rest of the world that they should not engage in trade with India if the BJP forms the next government and if Narendra Modi becomes Prime Minister?

Politicians may air their differences on all matters within the country, but when speaking at any international forum, these differences must be kept aside. They must remember that, in the process of running down their political opponents, they are also running down their nation.

Mr. Chidambaram correctly stated that individuals cannot be bigger than a party. He, and all other politicians, should remember that all their parties put together cannot be bigger than our nation.

Witty, or obnoxious, elitist and arrogant?

In ‘All the president’s cooks‘ on dnaindia.com, Venkatesan Vembu writes, “My all-time favourite story involving Indian politicians and food relates to Mani Shankar Aiyar’s dare, while campaigning for an election in 1991, to his opponent who was baiting him with anti-Brahmin rhetoric. Aiyar projected himself as a “meat-eating Brahmin” and even challenged his rival to a contest in the village square to see who could eat more chicken biryani. His campaign’s masala recipe went down well, and he won the election.” When I had read about this incident in 1991, I had wished that more people in public life should be as witty as Aiyar!

Today, I’m not so sure. IBNLive reports that, on January 17, 2014, the same Mani Shankar Aiyar, referring to Narendra Modi’s humble origins as the son of a tea stall owner, said at the AICC meet, “He can never be the Prime Minister of our nation, he can never be. However, if he wants, we could arrange a tea stall for him here.” He later claimed that he had been misquoted, but despite his longwinded explanation, it was clear he had displayed elitism and arrogance. The Congress has said that, “The party does not approve of the statement.”

Later that day, according to this report in The Times of India, Aiyar made a condescending statement against Delhi’s Hans Raj College. Earlier, in 2011, referring to a letter written by then Sports Minister Ajay Maken, Aiyar had, according to this report in The Times of India, said that he could not believe that a BA-Pass student from Hans Raj College could use words like ‘dichotomous’ in a letter. A few days later, Aiyar told a group of Hans Raj students that, “He (Maken) is a decent boy from a decent background with his only handicap being the college he went to.” He asked them to bring together BA-Pass students from Hans Raj and St Stephen’s and make them pronounce ‘dichotomous’. “I do not believe the student from Hans Raj will be able to do it,” he said. Aiyar also poked fun at Kirori Mal College by declaring that actor Amitabh Bachchan was the “sole achievement” of KMC.

All these remarks by Aiyar appear innocent when compared to a remark that, according to the report, ‘Don’t invite the likes of Mani. If you must, limit them to two pegs‘, Amar Singh claims Aiyar made in 2000: “We belong to the Oxford and Cambridge set… your leader can’t even articulate himself in English… Oh that bloody Mulayam — he looks just like me. It could be because my father visited UP at some point. Why don’t you check with Mulayam’s mother?”

After reading these reports, would you consider Aiyar witty, or would you consider him obnoxious, elitist and arrogant?

Unfortunately, he is not alone. Please read the second paragraph of the report ‘Kumar Vishwas jibe at Kerala nurses caught on YouTube’ about a comment made by AAP leader Kumar Viswas on nurses from Kerala. This comment was made by Kumar Vishwas some years back, before he entered politics and before the AAP was formed, and he did apologise on January 22, 2014, but the apology appeared half-hearted and certainly not unconditional.

ET reports that, at a public meeting on Sunday, Delhi’s Law Minister Somnath Bharti said, “I want to spit on the faces of BJP leader Arun Jaitley and senior lawyer Harish Salve to tell them to mend their ways… I warn you, the public is going to hound you and beat you.” AAP has reportedly warned Bharti to mind his language in future.

Many of us believe that the politics will become cleaner if educated people join politics. But, these 3 gentlemen are well-educated.

Does politics have a greater influence than education on a person’s character?

Or does education have little or no influence on a person’s character?