Thursday, February 12, 2009

Changing politics not easy, admits Dr. JP

Anarchy and dismemberment will overtake India if the nature of politics is not changed in the next few years, warned Lok Satta Party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan here. “But the job is incredibly difficult”, he told a group of students from MIT School of Government, Pune, who called on him at the party headquarters.

Dr. JP explained the problem faced by an ethical party like the Lok Satta in fighting an election. Both the Democratic and the Republican parties spent $866 million over two years in the U. S. presidential election. It is roughly equivalent to Rs.866 crore taking the currencies’ purchasing power parity. In contrast, the mainstream political parties in Andhra Pradesh are getting to ready to spend not less than Rs.4,000 crore in the 2009 general elections to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha. In the first-past-the-post electoral system, parties which cannot and do not raise black money and spend fall by the wayside unless people who want change translate their wish into voting.

Dr, JP said the present day political process has become so decrepit that after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack the whole political class is being despised. “Simple despair and anger won’t help since the answer to corruption-ridden politics is politics built around an ethical platform like the Lok Satta Party.”

Dr. JP recalled that 500 princely States were integrated into the Indian Union not by the civil service or the judiciary but by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who enjoyed immense credibility and displayed outstanding competence.

Politics, Dr. JP defined, is the art of harmonizing conflicting interests more so in a vast and diverse country like India with the objective of promoting all-round happiness in every section of people, irrespective of their caste or religion, region or language. If interests are not aggregated and reconciled, the nation gets fractured and fragmented. However crooked they may be in many respects, large political parties in India have displayed maturity in attempting to harmonize conflicting interests. Sri Lanka has been going through an ethnic turmoil for more than three decades because its leaders had failed to resolve the dispute over the national language. The second prerequisite of politics is prudent use of limited resources to meet unlimited wants or needs.

Dr. JP pointed out that the Lok Satta as an NGO had accomplished a lot more than any other civil society organization in post-Independent India. It was largely instrumental in bringing about reforms like registration of voters at post offices, disclosure of criminal antecedents by contesting candidates, tightening of the anti-defection law, imposition of a ceiling on the size of Ministries, the law on political parties’ funding, the Right to Information Act, and the village courts Act. Yet the achievement was only 10 on a scale of 100. It took him 10 years to realize that real reforms could not be ushered in unless the nature of politics itself is transformed, Dr. JP added.

Dr. JP said in response to a question that the Lok Satta agenda envisaged provision of quality education, health care and employment skills to every one, making agriculture and traditional occupations sustainable and profitable and extension of social security to people in the unorganized sector. Empowerment of local governments and ensuring corruption-free governance are the other planks of the Lok Satta.

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