Wednesday, August 19, 2009

SRK Incident - A national malice of VIP Culture ?

The demigod status accorded to Bollywood stars, Cricketers and popular politicians seems to reflect a mindset shaped by centuries of colonization of India. We firmly believe in 'Hero Worship' and 'VIP Status'. Many value their own status and standing by their perceived closeness to these so called VIPs and Stars.

No wonder then that these VIPs expect to be treated like Gods and see no reason to follow the rules or abide by the laws of this nation. Unfortunately, to their dismay, most other countries follow the simple philosophy of - "laws are same for all".

So when SRK got the treatment of a commoner in the hands of US Immigration officials, all his friends and followers were up in arms.
One of our overenthusiastic minister even proposed a tit-for-tat strategy for visiting Americans. Our national dailies and TRP hungry News Channels ran it as the headline story for days altogether.

Lets look at the facts -
Thousands of Indians visit US every day and millions live in the US. Given the US paranoia post 9/11, many would have had similar experiences, but neither the Indian government nor the media bothered to make it an issue. But all the hell broke loose when the "Global Icon" (we may have redefine Global)was queried at Newark Airport for over an hour.

May be it is the US paranoia and strict vigil, with no VIP exceptions, which has spared US any terror attacks post 9/11.

In our VIP infested nation, which provides no-security-frisking privileges not only to the VIPs but to even their relatives, terrorists strike at will. We only pray and hope, as we can not rely on the abilities of our government and security agencies to tackle the terror.

I completely sympathize with SRK when he says that he was irritated and angry for being made to wait but the accusation of racial & religious profiling and resulting media hoopla was completely unwarranted, given the fact that even senior US lawmakers like Edward Kennedy and former Vice President Al Gore have had the similar experiences. It goes to prove that US does not believe in VIP culture, when it comes to national security. So why such hue & cry?

This shows our immaturity as a nation which can not get over our fixation with VIPs and STARs.

SRK would have done a great service to himself and the nation by reporting this incident to the media and also telling them as to how gracefully he cooperated with the US authorities who were doing their job of securing their nation. This could have sent a positive message and might have done some good to change the attitudes of our VIPs and Stars. However, by crying foul, he not only has made himself look small but also has lost an opportunity to become a Real Hero ....

I hope that our VIPs learn some lessons from our beloved former President Dr. Kalam, who despite being frisked in his own country by an US Airline staff, as per US Aviation Authority rules which are certainly against Indian Laws, just laughed away and let the matter be handled by concerned authorities.

Well SRK is no APJ...



Friday, July 3, 2009

BJP needs to put it's house in order & do it fast!

Though these are still early days but UPA (which essentially means Congress) is seemingly doing better on policy and governance front than most expected, after securing better than expected electoral mandate in May elections.

There seem to be a resolve on part of the Congress to convert this still uncertain and short of majority electoral mandate to a secure majority in 2014 by delivering on good governance and inclusive growth & development agenda. This is a well thought out plan leading to a winning electoral strategy as it appeals to both educated urban middle class (good governance & reforms) as well as rural masses (social welfare and inclusive growth).

UPA (Congress) has been very systematic and consistent about this agenda and have made their intentions known, first by way of Presidential Address and yesterday through Economic Survey report. A follow-up of this strategy and developmental agenda by way of budget provisions is expected on 6th.

I, as a citizen, am happy about it as no one can fault and argue with this approach as this is the best possible development model for India, provided they deliver on their intentions and promises given that delivery systems are in shambles and leaky.

Now coming to the political ramifications of success of this agenda. Some of my friends in Congress are so confident of their strategy (a BJP in disarray is a bonus) that they have been talking about return of pre-1977 days when Congress ruled for decades without a break.

Tome met this does not sound too good given that Congress did not do a good job of economic and social development during first 3 decades post independence. The reason for this poor performance could lie in the absence of a credible opposition and fear of loosing an election.

A credible opposition is as important as a good government to ensure that enough checks and balances are there. We all are witness to a lackluster performance of Rajiv Gandhi government despite having 3/4th majority.

Current state of affairs in BJP, though disheartening, is not unexpected. Every defeat results in heart-burns and finger pointing but this needs to come an end soon. A strong and united BJP will provided much needed checks & balances and should play the role of a constructive opposition to build it's credibility among Indian electorate if they expect to have a fighting chance of coming back to power ever again.

A Right-of-Center political formulation led by BJP will be in the best interest of the country and for the Congress too, as Congress would prefer to deal with the predictable opposition (BJP), rather than deal with the mercurial left led by unelectable comrades and regional satraps who are completely oblivious of economic and social developmental challenges facing the nation.

Let's all wish us luck and hope that BJP puts its house in order and does it fast!!


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Congress must not waste this mandate!

I was happy to see the possibility of a stable government which is essential to provide a clear direction to our country in these times of economic uncertainty. Though my party has taken a beating in this election, but I was happy nonetheless and hoped that Congress will use this mandate to push forward the economic and inclusive development agenda, given that they will not have worry about the left and opportunistic allies.

However, the drama which unfolded prior to and during government formation is worrying me. DMK washed their dirty family linen in public and shamelessly jockeyed for ministerial births for family members. They also made brazen attempts to include inefficient ministers who had serious corruption allegations against them. Balu and Raja were amongst the worst performing ministers in the previous government. National Highway program was brought to a halt under inefficient Balu and Raja gave away GSM spectrum causing huge revenue loss to the exchequer.

I had hoped that Mr. Manmohan Singh will not relent to pressure tactics of DMK and will keep such non-performers out of the cabinet, but that wasn't to be. Raja is back with a bang in the same ministry. We all can only hope that PM will make him perform this time around.

Another disturbing aspect of this cabinet is it's dynastic nature. One in every 4 minister comes from a political family and has been accommodated to placate the father, uncle or mother. Nothing wrong in having capable MPs as ministers who happen to come from political families, but making them ministers because they come from political families certainly does not augur well for efficiency and accountability.

One family inclusion, which I am happy about, is young Agatha Sangma, daughter of NCP leader and ex-speaker Mr. P Sangma. A 28 year old becoming a minister is a good first step towards inducting young and energetic MPS into the government. As MoS in Rural Development Ministry, I sincerly hope that she performs well. I would like her pay special attention to the development of the North East and set a good example for other young MPs who aspire to become ministers.

Arjun Singh and Shivraj Patil's exclusion are certainly worth mentioning and PM must be congratulated for doing the right thing.

We hope that HRD Ministry under Kapil Sibbal will bring about fundamental change in the mindset of HRD ministry mandarins. Access and Quality continue to be the major challenges as far as Primary Education is concerned. In higher education, we have been trying to maintain the quality by controlling the supply side, which is counter intuitive in this era of open and competitive economy. Hope Foreign Universities are allowed entry to India and are encouraged to offer quality education given that huge number of our bright students struggle to go abroad for education putting tremendous financial strain to their parents.

Another area of concern has been stalled infrastructure projects. Under Kamalnath, we hope that this sector get required policy direction and time-bound delivery of infrastructure projects is ensured.

Finance ministry has got an able administrator and hopefully they will be able to push ahead with pending reforms given that left will no longer be breathing down their neck.

Judicial reforms, police reforms and internal security overhaul are other areas of concern.

Overall, Dr Singh has done a reasonable job of picking his ministers and now we look forward to results. First 100 days will give a fairly good idea on where they are headed. Lets hope they deliver and don't disappoint the electorate who have voted for a stable and performing government.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Long Live Indian Democracy!

Now that elections are over and we will have a stable government in place, it is a good time to do some analysis of national mood and trends - what worked and what did not work for various political parties and alliances.

First of all, I would like to talk about the victor - The Congress.
Rahul Gandhi is being credited for this victory and rightly so, as he led the campaign from the front. Everyone in Congress is celebrating the arrival of Rahul. He is being hailed as a visionary and an astute political brain. All this praise & jubilation is also a result of long wait and frustration of Congressmen, who had been waiting to offer legitimacy to Rahul's leadership and stature in the Congress party.

I wish him luck, as I believe that he is genuinely trying to bring a change in the Congress party. I would also credit him for legitimizing the genuine need for young and fresh faces in Indian politics. Though most young congressmen are sons and daughters of politicians but that's no reason to complain, they are young nonetheless. His much publicized effort to induct and promote young people in Indian politics are specially laudable as it is forcing other parties to think on similar lines.

I also congratulate Indian electorate for a brilliant performance by giving a clear mandate to a national party. By doing so, they have saved this country from vagaries of regional parties, the opportunistic political outfits disguising themselves as various fronts and alliances.

Congress however needs to look deeper and realize that this victory is not necessarily a national mandate in favor of congress but a combination of several factors, alliances and sheer luck in some cases.

Lets look at UP, which is the most talked about turnaround story of these elections. The decision to go alone was not a considered strategy but a forced consequence of SP's reluctance to part with seats. Kalyan Singh joining SP was a lucky break as minority community strategically voted for Congress in areas where Congress had winnable candidates. Rest of the congress candidates in UP could not even save their deposits. Moreover people in UP are really fed-up with SP-BSP misrule for the past 20 years. The real test will be 2012 assembly polls and I wish both national parties luck in UP as UP must be developed. Hopefully BJP would have got it's act together by then.

Bihar too was supposedly the part of the same 'Go Alone' strategy of Rahul Gandhi(though we all know that Lalu-Paswan duo forced it). No such electoral dividends accrued here, because people voted for good governance and inclusive agenda of JD(U)-BJP government.

So while Rahul is and should be given credit for working hard and leading from the front in UP (which boosted the morale of cadre and brought discipline), UP victory can not be solely attributed to 'Go Alone' strategy, as it wasn't a strategy but forced consequence.

Delhi & Rajasthan victories of Congress comes on the back of successful assembly wins in the recent past. 0-7 wipe out of BJP in Delhi is most disheartening for the only national alternative to Congress. BJP had not learned from it's defeat and mistakes in assembly polls in these 2 states and paid a heavy price. Hope they put their act together before 2014.

UPA's WB and TN victories should be attributed to allies. Rejection of left policies in WB and Mamta's Singur triumph were solely responsible. Congress just retained it's tlly of 6 in WB and in fact dropped to 8 (from 10) in TN. Vijayakanth's DMDK played a spoiler for AIADMK led alliance in TN as most anti DMK vote ended up going to DMDK. Mamata made spectacular gains in WB by cloaking 19 seats (from just 1 seat in 2004). BJP made a blunder by not being able to forge an alliance with Mamta, the erstwhile partner of NDA.

Left will be in real trouble in assembly elections in 2011, after 30 years of political supremacy in WB. This may not be a bad thing for people of WB who have suffered underdevelopment and violence by left cadre for decades now. Though Mamta too is not a good news for industrial development of WB after her tantrums in Singur.

In AP & Maharashtra, MNS and Chiranjeevi's PRP came to UPA's rescue. YSR's development and welfare schemes were also positives for Congress in AP. BJP/Shiv Sena got it completely wrong in Maharashtra by underestimating MNS effect. Their 6-0 tally in Bombay is really something to worry about.

BJP did well in MP, Gujarat, HP and Chattisgarh, primarily due to good governance of incumbent BJP governments. Though 16-10 tally in Gujarat is worrying for BJP. MP victory too wasn't very convincing. Jharkhand victory of BJP must be attributed to the mess created by Congress, RJD and JMM combine. BJP needs to really work hard to hold these states as anti-incumbency will be the main factor in all these states when they go to polls in next 4 years. Hence BJP can not count on these states for 2014 Lok Sabha elections as given.

Karnataka needs special mention as it gave maximum (19) MPs to BJP. Incumbent BJP swept the polls due to it's organizational strength and committed grass root cadre. Congress camp was chaotic with too many top leaders. Rahul effect was absent in Karnatka.

Kerala voted for UDF and LDF was routed, as they do every 5 years.

Coming to the under performers -

BJP was not able to perform to it's potential. While Congress exceeded it's own expectation on the up-side, BJP did the same on the down. BJP highlighted UPA's failures but failed to communicate their agenda effectively. This wasn't appreciated by the voters, as they did not want to take chances with the unknown. BJP did not talk enough about their progressive manifesto as well, which itself came very late. Some pre-poll incidents and speeches also hurt BJP's prospects in several constituencies, primarily in urban India. While Rahul Gandhi symbolized and projected youth agenda of the Congress, BJP could not counter it effectively.

Overall, it would seem that in the case of BJP, there was a disconnect from the expectations of the electorate. This is the second time in a row and needs serious thinking and remedial measures.

As far as other parties are concerned- Left, SP, BSP and other regional parties, this election has clearly demonstrated that only thing electorate cares for, is the DEVELOPMENT & GOOD GOVERNANCE. This is a great change in post Mandal politics of India.

Left paid for it's opportunistic politics, which believed in enjoying the power without shouldering the responsibility. This was a fitting reply to the arrogant & non-electable red brigade which controls the power strings sitting in cool comforts of Delhi while preaching supposedly pro-poor agenda.

Poor governance and under performance of BSP government in UP paid rest to the Prime Ministerial ambitions of Mayawati, who believed that being Dalit-ki-Beti is the necessary and sufficient condition for being the Prime Minister. This will be a fitting lesson to other non-performing regional Satraps of Indian politics. Similarly Lalu ji is still paying for his sins of keeping Bihar poor for 14 years.

This result has done good to our democracy and country. It showed that non performing regional outfits which survive only on caste and social engineering will not survive, while performing will be rewarded, as in the case of Bihar and Orissa. It would seem that Post Mandal caste politics is on it's last leg.

Overall, these elections are a victory for our democracy. The electorate has given a decisive verdict and expects the government to perform. Indian democracy is maturing much faster than our political parties. In all recent elections, the electorate had been wiser and has voted only on development & governance agenda. We must salute our electorate for displaying this discerning ability to make the 'Right Choice'. Our democracy is in safe hands.

Long live Indian Democracy!

CREDITs- Outlook has made this argument - Please see the link below-

Friday, May 1, 2009

"Low Voter Turn Out" - No longer an urban aberration - It reflects nation's apathy towards 'Opportunistic Politics'

May-1st, The proverbial heartland of Indian democracy, UP polled just 45% in the 3rd phase of polls on 30th April. It seems that most politically active and significant state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha, is slowly but steadily loosing interest in politics.

The high profile constituency of Lucknow voted just 34.5%. I spoke with few friends and family in Lucknow, who went to vote early fearing long queues but were surprised to see empty polling booths. Second largest city of UP, Kanpur voted just 39%.

The ssituation is same in neighboring Bihar where average polling in the first 3 phases has been 44%, 45% and 49% respectively. Compare this with average 58% in 2004 Lok Sabha elections. This is despite all round praise for Nitish Kumar who brought Bihar back on developmental map of the country.

Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat which went to poll on development & good governance agenda of their respective chief ministers too failed to excite the electorate with MP polling just 45% (48% in 2004) and Gujarat 50% (45% in 2004).

Maharashtra too is averaging 45% compared with 48% in 2004. Greater Bombay (10 seats) was 43.5%, even lower than 47.5% in 2004. This is really shocking given high decibel celebrity campaigns, voter awareness programs and emotionally charged environment post 26/11.

The above trend shows that in all large heartland states of the country, voters have lost interest in elections due to their apathy towards political class, which pursues corrupt and criminal brand of politics devoid of issues which concern the average citizen.

Political parties are responsible for this apathy as they field criminals and moneybags as their candidates, as these are supposedly winnable candidates. Party loyalists on their death bed are give tickets, sons and daughters of political families are other favorites apart from cine stars and venom spitting religious blokes. These worthy souls might win the election, but political class looses the respect and confidence of genuine voter who wants to believe in democracy and cares for the nation.

Current election distinctly lacks focus and debate on pressing national issues of worsening economy,crumbling infrastructure, security threats and most importantly governance and development.

Instead of educating and informing electorate about their manifesto and development agenda, political parties are busy snapping at their opponents and digging their past. They are more interested in highlighting what their opponents have not done, rather than discussing what they will do, if elected to power.

In my opinion, media is the biggest culprit, given that people expect them to be the voice of the civil society. In the race to garner TRP ratings, they have resorted to highlighting only sensational and meaningless issues.

Late evening talk shows (they call them debates) on national news channels have become a joke where anchor seems to believe that his decibel level is directly proportional to the TRP rating of his channel. Developmental and governance agenda is rarely discussed in the media, which is obsessed with quotable quotes from Varun, Priyanka, Maya and Modi.

Media has let civil society down and has completely failed in its responsibility to highlight pressing issues and force the debate among political class.

Low voter turnout is no longer an urban educated elite phenomenon, it is a reflection of all pervasive apathy of voters across the country towards political class. This is the biggest threat to our democracy which relies on the participation of the informed electorate to choose the best among available options. People have lost faith in the elections because they don't see any merit in the process.

Political parties need to work at the grass root level, engage with the civil society, grow their cadre and practice internal democracy if they want to regain the faith and confidence of the electorate.

Media too needs to introspect and stop insulting their viewers/readers by dishing out sensational and silly make-believe stories in the garb of the news.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A deafening silence on funny money - S Gurumurthy - 03-04-2009

It was unthinkable six months ago. Switzerland, once a pet of Western capitalism, is now its hate object.

During World War II, the tiny nation was the common love of both the Allied and Axis powers, at war with each other. But neutral Switzerland, a friend of all since Napoleonic days, is friendless today. Its prime attraction, financial secrecy secured by law, has become its nemesis.

Germany first, France next, the US later, with the UK joining last, have, individually and together, declared a war against secret banking and tax havens like Switzerland.

It is a crusade by the West against the Swiss, says the media. Tax havens ask for no income tax from non-citizens and their banks ask no questions about their money. Modern capitalism had all along winked at secret banks and tax shelters; even nicknamed secret money ‘funny money’. But now the West chases secret money like it targets al-Qaeda.

Why this miraculous shift? The short answer: ‘financial crisis’. The Guardian of UK wrote (March 4), “European leaders grew increasingly agitated at how tax havens have fostered secrecy that has contributed to the collapse of banks the world over”. The newspaper’s Tax Gap Series estimated the unaccounted global wealth held in secret havens, including Switzerland, at $13 trillion. The annual tax evasion on the dirty fund, estimated at $255 billion was, the newspaper said, twice the global budget for poor nations. Der Spiegel, a German magazine, reported (March 3) that “Cash strapped governments around the world see the opportunity to finally put an end to bank secrecy” to access the money concealed by their nationals. It added “British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are now joining forces” and “they have set their sights on Switzerland”.

The crusade against Swiss banks was started by Germany in early 2008 when its intelligence bribed — bribed? Yes — an informant in LGT Bank in Liechtenstein and got a CD containing the names of some 1,500 tax dodgers, and raided half of them, who were its citizens. It also offered, free of cost, the names of citizens of other countries. Many accepted the offer gratefully.

Thereafter, in the third quarter of 2008, Germany pressed the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to blacklist Switzerland for protecting tax dodgers.

Switzerland is an OECD member and twothirds of the Swiss speak German. Yet Germany couldn’t care less. Soon, France joined Germany. “We want to put a stop to tax havens”, thundered Sarkozy.

At the preparatory G20 summit in Berlin early February, European leaders vowed to launch a globalcrusade against tax havens at the G20 meet in London, said the Irish Financial News. Europe’s anger was explicit in its refusal to allow the Swiss plea to be presented before the G20 in London.

The US moved even more menacingly. On February 18, the US Inland Revenue threatened the largest Swiss bank, UBS, with a lawsuit — that would have bankrupted it — unless the bank disclosed the names and accounts of some 300 American tax dodgers. A frightened UBS forthwith surrendered the secret data to the US before the account holders could stall it by a Swiss court order. Later, the Obama administration told the US Senate that it would bring laws to prise open the world’s most secretive tax havens.

At this point the UK joined the crusade.

Switzerland wilted under the pressure. Spiegel wrote that, for generations, the Swiss had held bank secrecy as “not negotiable”, and added that it was “no longer” so. The magazine quoted Swiss finance minister Merz as saying that they would have “to compromise”. The Swiss justice and foreign ministers, the magazine reported, had hinted that the country might have to stop protecting tax dodgers.
Subsequently, a nervous Merz met Gordon Brown on March 14 with a deal to prevent any move in G20 to blacklist his country. The deal was that Swiss banks would adopt the bank transparency rules of OECD countries. Brown claimed that it was “the beginning of the end of banking secrecy”. Yet, the US is pressing ahead with a law to punish banking secrecy.

When the crusade of the West against Swiss banks is succeeding, here Dr Manmohan Singh and his government, instead of celebrating, seem to be worried at their success. Three bits of evidence expose the Congress-led government’s not-so-well-hidden worry. First, when Germany’s finance ministry offered the LTG bank secret data to any country that needed it, the government would not ask for it despite reports that it contained some 100 Indian names. When in April last year, L K Advani wrote to Manmohan, requesting to him to ask Germany for the data, the then finance minister responded evasively.

Transparency International noted India’s “stoic silence over the issue” and that it “has not approached the German government for the data’’ (Economic Times, May 25 2008]. More, the revenue secretary in Delhi has reportedly advised the Indian ambassador in Berlin not to push Germany for the details as Germany might not like it – clear proof that the government is scuttling, not getting, the details.
Second, when, in the G20 preparatory meeting at Berlin, Germany and France were threatening to blacklist Swiss and other secret tax shelters, India’s silence at Berlin was deafening.

Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the PM’s righthand who, along with Dr Rakesh Mohan, represented India at Berlin, did not utter a word in support of Germany and France. India, a principal victim of banking secrecy, should have been leading the war cry against it. But it did not even morally support those waging the war.

Third, when on Sunday last L K Advani told Manmohan Singh that India should join in the G20 effort to break banking secrecy, the PM did not respond. The spokesperson of the Congress Abhishek Singhvi responded that G20 was not the forum for that, being blissfully ignorant of the fact that it was a main agenda of G20 meet. In fact just ahead of the meeting, Sarkozy had threatened to walk out unless the G20 decisively acted against secret banks and tax havens.

No need to strain further to understand Manmohan’s compulsions. The fear that drove the ruling family to abort the 1987 probe into Indian monies secreted abroad is still evident. But Advani’s threat to turn the recovery of Indian wealth secreted abroad an election issue has got the PM and his party off guard. The party has blundered, saying G20 is not the forum, when it is precisely that. Now the prime minister cannot remain silent. He has to do something. At least make a show of doing. But can he? QED: Dr Manmohan Singh stands between the devil and the deep sea — between his party and L K Advani.

Secret Indian Wealth Aboard - S Gurumurthy -02-04-09

Switzerland has been accused of giving shelter to black money and there has been a lot of inflow of such wealth from India and other countries of the world.” This is not L K Advani, on election mode, speaking last Sunday, but the Swiss ambassador to India briefing the media in Delhi last year.

The occasion was the 60th anniversary of Indo-Swiss Friendship Treaty. Admitting that Indian black money gets hoarded in his country, he added that the new law in Switzerland would, not stop it, but control it “up to a certain limit”.

The Swiss diplomat authentically answers the first of the FAQs, that is, whether a lot of Indian money is really stashed away in Swiss banks. Swiss banks are not the only secret destination. There are 37 such shelters in the world, says US Inland Revenue. The secret owners of the secreted monies operate in secrecy — venal businessmen, corrupt politicians, public servants, drug lords, and criminal gangs like the D-company. The slush monies are the financial RDX for terror, besides weapons of mass destruction of national and global finance. That there is secret money is no more a secret. Only the amounts and persons are secret. But how much of India’s stolen wealth could be stashed in Switzerland? Specific estimates of this later. Before that, here is a sideshow, but a relevant one.

In the late 1980s, at the behest of The Indian Express, while investigating the Reliance scam, I had attempted to trail the Indian monies secreted abroad. In the course of the probe, I had contacted Fairfax,a US investigative firm, to uncover the Indian wealth stashed abroad. Impressed by their skills, I persuaded the Government of India to engage the firm for the task. Fairfax agreed to work for a slice of the black wealth uncovered by them as fee.

According to Swiss sources then, the Indian money secreted in Swiss banks was some $300 billion. That was enough to excite Fairfax to go for the kill. But, soon my efforts landed me in jail on March 13, 1987, when the CBI arrested me on charges that later turned out to be bogus, but were enough to stop the probe. The whole nation knew then that the real reason why rulers struck was their fear that the probe had targeted the Bofors payoff and secret money of the ruling family abroad. Rajiv Gandhi, who was the prime minister then, moved honest and bold civil servants like Vinod Pandey and Bhure Lal out of the probe and eventually sacked V P Singh who, as finance minister then, had authorised the efforts.

The chain of events that followed led to corruption emerging as the major issue in the 1989 polls in which Rajiv Gandhi, who had wiped out the opposition in 1984 elections, was defeated, and V P Singh became the prime minister. But there is a great lesson in these developments that often goes unnoticed. And that is, the way the bold national interest initiative to unearth the Indian black wealth abroad was aborted clearly confirmed that the ruling family was mortally afraid of any probe into secret money abroad. This fear haunts the family-led Congress party even today. That is why the 1987 episode is relevant now.

Now back to the main story.
Illicit money is the dirty outcome of modern capitalism. But, after 9/11, the US realized that not just the buccaneers in business, but Osama bin Laden could also hide his funds in secret havens and use them to bomb the world. Campaigns against dirty money as high security risk commenced with the path breaking research done by Raymond W Baker, a Harvard MBA and a Brookings scholar. He published his research as a book Capitalism’s Achilles Heel: Dirty Money and How to Renew the Free- Market

The book was published in 2005. This set off intense debate in the US as the exposure linked dirty business and dirty money with terror and national security.
Raymond Baker had estimated, using authentic data, tools and reasons, the dirty wealth secreted in banks at $11.5 trillion to which, he found, one more trillion was being added annually. He added that in the process the West was getting an annual bounty of $500 billion from the developing countries, India included.

Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a global watchdog headed by Baker to curtail illicit money flows, has recently brought out detailed estimates of the black wealth hoarded in secret havens from different countries. GFI research shows that during the period 2002 to 2006, annually $27.3 billion was stashed away from India, making a total of $137.5 billion for the five-year period. That is, in just five years, Indian wealth amounting to Rs 6.88 lakh crore has been smuggled out of India. This gives a clue as to how much Indian money would have slipped out of India in the last 62 years, particularly during the Nehruvian socialist regime when the income tax (97.5 per cent) and wealth tax (almost equal to the income earned on investments) together constituted double the income earned.

It is undisputed that the Nehruvian socialist model forced huge sums out of India. So the amount of Indian black wealth secreted away in the last 60 years — estimated at from $500 billion (Rs 25 lakh crore) to $1400 billion (Rs 70 lakh crore) — does not seem to be wide off the mark. Economists call it flight of
capital. This is the people’s money stolen from them.

See the consequence even if part of it is brought back. A portion of it would make India free from all external debts which is now over $220 billion; India will transform into an economic superpower; some 10 or 15 Indian rupees could buy a US dollar which today 50 Indian rupees cannot; a litre of petrol on our roadside would cost Rs 15 or even less, against today’s 50 plus; the cost of imports in rupee terms would be down to a third or half; India’s entire infrastructure needs can be funded; India will become so energy efficient and cost competitive that exporters may need no sops at all; India will lend to — not, as it does now, borrow from — the world; Indian housing can be funded at affordable cost; rural poverty can be wiped out... The list is endless. But, then, is it possible to bring back the secreted monies? What are the roadblocks to such efforts?

Continued …

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Congress deserves to lose India’s elections - Financial Times - London

An Article in Financial Times of London

By Razeen Sally
Published: April 15 2009 21:55 | Last updated: April 15 2009 21:55

Indians will from Thursday begin heading to the polls in a month-long election for a new government. The Congress party is standing on the record of the government it has led since 2004. But polls are taking place when the Indian economy has taken a sharp turn for the worse, in a climate of global economic crisis. This exposes the do-nothing, zero-reform record of Manmohan Singh, prime minister, and his government. More generally, it lays bare India’s huge reform gaps and its brittle, decaying institutions. Finally, it deflates the “India hype” peddled by smooth-talking upper-caste politicians, ambassadors, businessmen, management consultants and some academics.

A word about India hype. It highlights high-end services, and now manufacturing sectors, with their globalizing, world-beating companies. But it overlooks reform deficits in agriculture, services and manufacturing. It talks of “Chindia”, the notion that India plays in the same league as China as an emerging superpower – which is pure myth. Not least, it glosses over the record of the present Congress-led government.

There have been practically no market reforms since 2004, save for the opening of domestic civil aviation. Nothing has moved on privatization, the reduction of government equity in banks and insurance companies, pensions, competition regulation or the administration of subsidies. Industrial tariffs have come down, but otherwise external protection has not been reduced. India remains the most protectionist large emerging market.

Worse, there has been reform backsliding and reversal. Fiscal restraint, written into law in 2003, has been thrown to the winds. Now, with an economic downturn, the consolidated government deficit is projected to rise above 10 per cent of gross domestic product. Funding for much-needed infrastructure projects will suffer. Controlled pricing of petroleum products was reintroduced in 2008. Off-budget expenditure has increased significantly, especially through populist measures to support rural employment and the energy sector.

The government’s response to the present global economic crisis was to introduce further market-distorting restrictions, including higher tariffs, anti-dumping duties and assorted non-tariff import barriers.

Finally, the Congress party entered the general election campaign with pledges to expand its hugely wasteful rural employment guarantee programme and increase food subsidies.

The government has squandered the boom years, left the country more vulnerable to malign global economic conditions and compromised prospects for a healthy recovery. But Manmohan Singh and his “dream team” have been given an easy ride: they have escaped blame, especially outside India. The conventional excuse is that their hands are tied by Sonia Gandhi and her Congress coterie, and by coalition politics.

This explanation just does not wash. Mr Singh has impeccable academic credentials and is by all accounts incorruptible. He deserves credit for his performance as finance minister in the 1990s – although credit should also go to Narasimha Rao, then prime minister, who took the tough decisions.

But Mr Singh has proved a hopeless decision-maker as prime minister. Sadly, he proves the rule that academics should generally be “on tap” but not “on top”.

The whole reform programme relies on the prime minister himself. Mr Rao and A.B. Vajpayee proved their mettle, despite heavy political constraints. Mr Singh has failed; he should bear much of the blame. The Congress party does not deserve to be re-elected and the dream team does not deserve to continue in office. An alternative BJP-led government may do better if it has a decisive leader with a core of able reformers. It will not if its leader follows the dictates of short-term opportunism and messy coalition politics.

Nevertheless, the failures of the Congress-led government should be put into a larger institutional context. The Indian state, led by a venal political-bureaucratic elite, remains unreformed. State institutions – the political class, political parties, parliaments, the bureaucracy, the judiciary – have got worse at both national and state levels. Since the late 1980s, “stealth” reforms have taken place outside the state. But India cannot be expected to grow fast with such shaky foundations. The upshot is that much-needed market reforms cannot continue to skirt round the reform of the state itself. Politically, that is the hardest nut to crack.

The writer is director of the European Center for International Political Economy

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

RK Walks the Talk - Enters active Politics - Joins BJP

RK Misra, founder of Change India, has always been advocating that educated civil society must engage and align with the political class to remain relevant and meaningfully contribute to the issues of policy and governance.

Following his own advice and conviction, RK decided to enter active politics and has decided to join BJP on 21st March in Bangalore in presence of Mr. Arun Jaitley & Mr. Ananth Kumar, National General Secretaries of BJP.

RK firmly believes that to get competent and committed political leaders, we, the educated civil society, must align with the political parties and give them the confidence that GOOD candidates too are winnable because the middle class, youth and working professionals will come out and support the good candidates. This will motivate political parties to give tickets to honest and committed individuals, who are genuinley interested in public service and good governance.

"Failure of governance and lack of development are the two most important issues which our elected representatives and bureaucrats need to focus on. But if educated people who understand and are concerned about these issues do not engage with the political class, they will continue with the vote bank politics of caste, religion, favours and appeasement.This is the primary reason for me to join active politics", said RK Misra.

He added, "we have chosen parliamentary democracy system of government and are proud of being the largest democracy. An educated and well informed civil society making the right choice of political leadership is the foundation of a robust democracy. Unfortunately, given the much maligned image of our political class, educated civil society has chosen to stay away and disengage, which is unfortunate. We need to have role models among our political leaders, which our educated civil society can look upto and engage with, and I hope to work towards this objective."

"There is no ideal option in today's political system but I chose BJP for it's Nation First approach and focus on development and good governance, both during NDA rule and in the states run by BJP and their allies. I will work towards making BJP more inclusive and acceptable to all the sections of our society. I will strive to regain respect and admiration for our political class with utmost sincerity and commitment", added RK Misra.

RK can be reached at

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Don’t Just Vote, Make it Count - Become the SWING VOTER

There is a myth that the Educated Civil Society, being small in numbers, can not influence the electoral outcome. Consequently majority of us are not motivated to engage with the political class. Many of us abstain from voting because we believe that we are too small in numbers to change the ways of Indian politics.

However, a closer analysis will reveal that in this age of coalition politics, with so many parties and candidates, victory margins are very small. In fact, most MPs in urban centers win by margins of just few thousand votes.

4 out of 7 seats in Delhi were won by narrow margins in 2004 Lok Sabha elections - New Delhi – 12784, South Delhi-16005, Delhi Sadar – 15974 & Karol Bagh 37,629. Mumbai also had similar figures, 3 out of 7 seats were won by less than 25,000 votes - Mumbai South-10246, Mumbai – South Central-22188, Mumbai North Central – 13,329.

This is not true only for Metro, even smaller cities across the country have witnessed similar trends. Victory margin in Kanpur was just 5,638 votes, Nashik – 15,058 votes, Ranchi -15,421 votes, Allahabad – 28,383 votes and Bangalore North – 30,358 votes.

Another myth is that Indian politics is decided by rural India. Hence issues relevant to the city dwellers and educated civil society are of no relevance to political parties as they do not need urban votes to come to power. The fact is that 2009 Lok Sabha will have 120+ MPs (out of 543) from Urban Areas.

Just concluded delimitation of constituencies has dramatically increased the number of urban constituencies, which will further grow as India urbanizes. 120 is a huge number, given the coalition politics where Mrs. Mayawati, with potentially 50 MPs, will have the real possibility to stake the claim for Prime Minister’s post.

We also need to note that in 2009 elections we have more than 10 Crore First Time Voters, majority of them in urban areas. Compare this with the vote difference between two national parties, Congress and BJP in 2004 Lok Sabha Elections, just 98 Lakh votes of total 38.99 crore votes polled.

In 2004 Lok Sabha polls BJP got 22.2% and Congress – 26.7% of the total votes polled – 38.99 crores (58%) of total 67.15 crore registered voters.

ELECTIONs-2009 are DIFFERENT in many ways. Post 26/11 people are willing to get out and get counted. We have the real opportunity to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, this time around. So how do we do it?

Each major party and candidate have their own committed vote bank based on ideology, caste, religion, region or language which they nurture and hold by giving sops, favours, appeasement and promises.

However, during the elections, what all political parties need and fear the most are the SWING votes, which usually decide the winner. This number is not very large, specially in urban areas and presents an opportunity for educated civil society to come together and elect the candidate and party of their choice.

It is certainly not difficult to bring together 10,000-25,000 educated people in each urban parliamentary constituency as SWING VOTE BANK, who will vote based on the issues of “Good Governance & Economic Development”. If this happens, these ‘Educated Swing Votes’ will make every political party reach out to them and ask for their issues to be included in their agenda.

Now the question is, how do we organize these educated people, analyze & interact with major candidates/party and make an informed decision to VOTE with a real possibility of having a winner of our choice.

Use of technology will make it possible, Obama has shown it working. We are technology savvy and quick to adapt.

"Change India" –, has created a CHANGE platform, which you can join by sending an SMS - START CHANGE to 575758.

The target should be to get around 30,000 people in each of the constituencies across 25 cities of the country, accounting for around 60-80 MPs. Details of the candidates/parties will be shared via SMS and website and a deserving consensus candidate will be decided using a web & sms POLL.

We can make a BIG impact in the next Lok Sabha election and hold our winners accountable.

‘Choice is Ours’. Opportunity is NOW, as nation wants to bring a CHANGE in our political system.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Coalition ‘Tamasha’ – Are Two National Parties Losing the Plot ?

Tumkur (Bangalore) - 12th March-2009, The launch of Third Front.

This could be one of the most important and decisive day for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It may be the first step towards our suffering in the hands of Opportunistic Coalition, conveniently disguised as the 3rd Front. This is a group of desperate political parties, with no ideological commonalities, coming together with only one agenda – how to control Delhi and serve their own vested interests.

Most comically, every constituent of the so called Third Front has a prime ministerial candidate. It seems the only reason, these parties are coming together, is the chair of the Prime Minister. Left being the only possible exception, as they have mastered the art of enjoying power without sharing the responsibility.

Left parties are a desperate lot, having been thrown out of power by UPA and with a real prospect of loosing heavily in West Bengal & Kerala. They are at the forefront of this Third Front ‘Tamasha’. Left leaders are accumulating frequent flier miles at an alarming rate running from one state capital to the other, begging regional satraps to put together this ragtag coalition with no common ideology or an agenda for the governance.

Both national parties and their respective coalitions, namely NDA and UPA, may not get enough seats to form the government on their own on May – 23rd. If so, this so called Third Front, whose constituents have mastered the art of opportunistic politics, will come to power and take this nation downhill.

This is not the first time that we are faced with such a dire situation. We have a short memory, and history may be about to repeat again.

In 1977, a coalition in the name of the “Janata Party” came to power but it disintegrated in just 2 years despite people’s disdain for congress and Mrs. Gandhi for imposing the emergency from 1975 to 1977. She was back in power in 1979 with a majority.

1984 was the last time when this nation gave a clear mandate to a national party when Rajeev Gandhi came to power with an absolute majority on a sympathy wave in the wake of the assassination of his mother, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. But he was done in by the Bofors scandal and his confidant, Mr. VP Singh.

1989 saw our first experiment with the coalition politics. Mr. VP Singh, who became the prime minister in a coalition government, ended up creating unimaginable social unrest in the name of “Mandal and Mosque”. He also succeeded in bringing the nation to the “Brink of Bankruptcy”. VP Singh was defeated and now long gone, but we are still suffering the scars of “Mandalization of Indian Politics”. We also had to pledge our Gold to avoid the payment default to international lenders, due to the economic mismanagement of Mr. VP Singh and his coalition partners in the preceding 2 years.

1991, people were fed-up and they gave congress the mandate to rule. Mr. Narasimha Rao ran the government and initiated economic reforms. The period from 1991-1996 was reasonably stable except for the episode of JMM being bribed to buy their loyalty to support the congress government.

1996, the nation again suffered the unstable coalition governments. We endured 3 Prime Ministers in 2 years including Mr. Devegowda who was ousted before he could settle in the power seat. Mr. I K Gujral followed as he was no threat to anyone and he departed without doing much, as was expected from him. Ms Mayawati brought down Mr. Vajpayee’s government when he lost the no-confidence motion by just one vote.

1999, people, fed-up with the coalition drama, gave NDA, led by Mr. Vajpayee, a decisive mandate. He ran a successful coalition government. This was the first time after 1989 that a coalition government completed full 5 years and credit goes to Mr. Vajpayee’s statesmanship and acceptability among the NDA partners.

2004, it was "India Shining" which got NDA out. But this time UPA coalition government had to use the crutches of the wily left parties. All through, left played truant and held the government to ransom. They enjoyed the trappings of power without sharing the responsibility of governance. This coalition did more harm than good as governance, development and reforms took a back seat while the government was busy managing coalition partners.

As we can see, ragtag coalitions have not worked in this country but unfortunately since 1977, we have to suffer them after every 5 year stint of a stable government. We seem to be heading in the same direction this time around too. But Indian electorate, especially the so called educated middle class seems to be apathetic and blissfully unaware of the looming danger.

But why only blame the electorate? What choices does he have?

I feel the blame for this dire situation lies with the National Parties too. They have been steadily loosing their vote share (BJP had 22.2% and Congress 26.7% in 2004 election) and they may loose even more this time around. But national parties have done precious little to stem this decline.

They have behaved like regional parties raking up emotional and religious issues, which no longer pay dividends. They practice dynastic and caste politics fielding candidates based on their caste and religion. They are devoid of a national agenda, a slogan which will appeal to the majority of this nation. They have no fresh ideas. They do not have role models who will appeal to the youth and the middle class.

National parties have failed to acknowledge the fact that the economic resurgence of India has created a class of society, a large potential vote bank, which believes in the politics of good governance & development. Since national parties do not have what appeals to this class of society, they have chosen to ignore them.

This has alienated their largest potential vote bank – the Middle India, 40 Crore strong and growing, which is educated, secular and wants good governance. This Middle India has lost faith in the current political class and thus have chosen to disengage. This explains the shrinking vote share of the national parties as they are not adding any new voters and at the same time they can not compete with the regional parties which survive and thrive on opportunistic local agenda including caste, region and religion.

Whichever of the 2 national parties chooses to reform itself and is able to engage with this Middle India by having an agenda and role models who appeal to them, will have the last laugh. If they don’t, soon they may no longer remain national parties.

The possible setback in 2009 elections may make them deliberate on a strategy to engage Middle India. Lets hope that having lost the plot, old thinking politicians of national parties will make way for the new generation with new political ideas and ideologies, which will appeal to the 40 Crore strong Middle India. That’s the only route to survival for the 2 National Parties.

I have seen traces of this realization in the BJP and am witness to their openness to engage with the 'Middle India.' Lets hope and pray that this tribe grows and succeeds, both within the BJP and the Congress, as "India Deserves Better"!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Economic & Governance Blunders of UPA

Some of us always knew and said this in various forums, but excessive focus of our finance minister to stock markets high and intoxication of masses with imaginary wealth kept the lid tightly closed on the can of worms of economic mess which UPA government has led us into.

I am no economist and I do not run a businessman anymore, but I interact with various sections of the society, political leaders, business friends and most importantly, the common man. I can feel the state of despair and hopelessness among masses, educated elite and business community. We all are worried about our economic future, if we have one left.

Recently I came across several articles by eminent economists, industrialists and opinion makers and it will be worthwhile for us to analyze the current situation and evaluate UPA’s performance. This is crucial evaluation as we head in to the polls in the coming months .

We hope that you read these articles and give your comments.

Outlook – Economy : Report Card – ‘How A slips to B Minus’

Book of Blunders – Pratap Bhanu Mehta – UPA squandered the opportunity to deliver on good governance

The Inertia of Motion - Outlook

No Head for Numbers – Rajeev Chandrasekhar – Rajya Sabha MP and Chairman FICCI

Thursday, February 19, 2009

5 most IMPORTANT issues for Election-2009

To choose your 5 most important issues for Elections-2009 please go to - Change India has access and has put-in resurces to work with and make these issues the agenda of 2 national parties - BJP and Congress.

My 5 most important issues for Elections-2009 are Economy, Terrorism, Rural Poverty, Infrastructure & Reforms.

Economy -
UPA inherited a boom economy from NDA and all the hard work and reforms during NDA regime yielded 4 years of unprecedented economic growth. UPA did not make use of this unprecedented opportunity to reduce revenue and fiscal deficits, create a safety net for unorganized sector and given a thrust to infrastructure.

Unfortunately none of this was done. Now we are in an unprecedented global economic slowdown with fiscal deficit reaching around 12% of GDP (Center & States Combined) and we have no money left to pump prime the economy without causing a debt trap. UPA has completely mismanaged the economy and wasted the golden opportunity it had.

Terrorism/Border Security-
UPA's record on terrorism and border security has been a disaster and we need not say much about this area. Intelligence agencies have become puppets in the hands of politicians to spy on opponents, defense agencies do not act on intelligence inputs, no one is held accountable (I have not hard of any official being fired or suspended post 26/11, of course Home Minister was a non-entity anyway) and weak laws have made it impossible to punish terrorists.

Rural Poverty -
NREGA scheme, a good initiative has failed miserably with only 16 days of actual work being provided where money was spent for 100 days worth of work. This is as per the CAG report - a Government of India oversight institution. NREGA anyway is just a temporary measure to give rural poor some work of digging some pits and ponds, just to keep them alive. No effective steps have been taken by UPA to revive rural economy to provide long term sustainable employment and non-agri income generation opportunities in rural India.

Infrastructure -
NDA had visionary infra initiatives of Golden Quadrilateral and NHDP programs in road sector. Telecom reforms, airport and port privatization were the most visible infra initiatives of NDA.

UPA slowed all these programs. GQ is still incomplete. In fact a 'very capable' Minister of Surface Transport has changed 5 Chairmen of NHAI in last 2 years as they did not (could not) comply, since NDA had drafted NHAI act, which does not allow the minister to do what he feels like (?), so he tried changing Chairmen and when that also did not work, he just stopped the work.

Compare this with Mr. Khanduri (NDA Minister), the cleanest politicin you will ever come across and a task master. He was Mr. Vajpayee's choice.

We all know what UPA ministers have done in Telecom. Selling precious GSM spectrum at throw away prices to their favorite companies. 3G is still a dream.

JNNURM was a good initiative to improve urban infrastructure, but here again UPA miserably failed in delivery. No effective oversight mechanism was put in place.

Political/Economic/Judicial Reforms -
UPA has not been able to carry out any reforms, economic or political. They blamed left for economic reforms but there was no desire to do anything on political reforms either. Congress's own leader Mr. Veerappa Moily has drafted a wonderful report on administrative and political reforms but it just remains that, a report.

Judicial reforms are a crying need. Crores of court cases are pending, judges have come under suspicion and we have executive and judiciary clashing so very often. This is not a healthy situation. No party or coalition has spoken openly about this, but we must address this issue.

I give my VOTE to BJP/NDA for this election.

Mr. Advani is the most experienced leader in the country today. He is simple, approachable and is willing to listen. He has grass root understanding of the country, acquired over 70 years of political activities. He has visited and interacted with the people from every nook and corner of the country to understand our nation of great complexity and diversity.

All BJP/NDA Chief Ministers (Gujarat, MP, Orissa, Bihar, Chattisgrah, Uttarakhand & Rajasthan) have done great development work with good governance in their respective states and have got re-elected (except Rajasthan where in-fighting let BJP down).

BJP has internal democracy where even Mr. Advani can be questioned. There is no high command culture and there is no sycophancy. You don't need to be loyal to a family to be recognized nor do you have to have a fancy surname to become a leader.

Though chaotic at times (all democracies are chaotic as all are allowed to express their opinion), BJP/NDA had done a great job during their 5 year tenure from 1999-2004. They brought about visionary ideas (GQ, Privatization, PGSY, River Linking, Telecom & Insurance Reforms) and implemented them with vigor and sincerity. They lost in 2004 because of their city centric election campaign and poor electoral alliances.

So for me, it is BJP/NDA this time.


We Must Engage with the Political Class to Remain Relevant

It is a common belief that 'Educated Civil Society' no longer matters to politicians and policy makers.

Outpouring of public anger post 26/11 in the form of rallies, marches and candle light vigils highlighted the frustration and helplessness of educated middle class. Unfortunately such protests are neither sustainable nor do they provide long term solutions to problems and issues facing our nation.

Failure of governance and lack of development are the two most important issues which our elected representatives and bureaucrats need to focus on. But if people who understand and are concerned about these issues do not engage with the political class, they will continue with the vote bank politics of caste, religion, favours and appeasement.

We have chosen parliamentary democracy system of government and are proud of being the largest democracy. Over past 60 years we have evolved as a robust democracy, which many nations of the world can only hope for. We just need to peep into our neighbourhood to realize as to how fortunate we are to have enjoyed a credible and popular democracy from our birth as an independent nation, except for a brief period of emergency during 1970s.

Democracies depend upon citizen’s participation, to make an informed and collective choice every few years to choose their leaders and the governments which they hope and believe will serve them with honesty and sincerity.

An educated and well informed citizen making the right choice is the basic tenet of a robust democracy. Unfortunately, given the much maligned image of our political class, educated civil society has chosen to stay away from exercising this fundamental right. While we criticize them, we don’t want to be even remotely engaged with the politics or political leaders.

This is the reason why political class ignores the educated civil society and focuses on rural, urban poor and marginalized sections of the society. Politicians entice these sections with favours, appeasement, money and muscle power. They become the vote banks, based on caste, religion, region and language.

This has resulted in a chicken & egg situation. Since we don’t like the current day politicians, we do not engage in the political process. But since we don’t engage in the political process we don’t get politicians of our choice. This vicious circle needs to be broken.

It is obvious that politicians would care only for those who vote for them. Disengaging has only done us harm by producing criminals and thugs as politicians. Time has come for us to engage with political class and make our VOTE count.

Let’s start not just engaging but aligning. If we align with a party or a candidate and assure them of our vote, they will be happy and willing to look into our concerns and issues.

We often hear that educated people are so few that their vote won’t matter. This is a myth.

Post delimitation, 2009 Lok Sabha will have 120 urban constituencies (out of a total of 543), which decide their winner by a margin of just few thousand votes. So a determined and informed educated middle class, voting as a block based on issues of governance and development, will become the swing vote bank, which will be courted by every party. So lets not underestimate the power of SWING VOTE of determined educated civil society.

More on SWING VOTE in the Next Article.

Don’t Just Vote – Make it Count - 'Become SWING VOTE Bank '

There is a myth that the Educated Civil Society, being small in numbers, can not influence the electoral outcome. Consequently majority of us are not motivated to engage with the political class and even abstain from voting because we believe that we are too small in numbers to change the ways of Indian politics. However, a closer analysis will reveal that in this age of coalition politics, with so many parties and candidates, victory margins are very small. In fact, most MPs win by margins of just few thousand votes.

Another myth is that Indian politics is decided by rural India. Hence issues relevant to the city dwellers and educated civil society are of no relevance to political parties as they do not need urban votes to come to power. The fact is that 2009 Lok Sabha will have 120 MPs (out of 543) from Urban Areas. Just concluded delimitation of constituencies has dramatically increased the number of urban constituencies, which will further grow as India urbanizes. 120 is a huge number, given the coalition politics where Mrs. Mayawati with potentially 50 MPs will have the real possibility to stake the claim for Prime Minister’s post.

We also need to note that in 2009 elections we have more than 10 Crore First Time Voters, mainly in urban areas. Compare this with the vote difference between Congress and BJP in 2004 Lok Sabha Elections – 98 Lakh.

ELECTIONs-2009 are DIFFERENT in many ways! Post 26/11 people are willing to get out and get counted. We have the real opportunity to MAKE A DIFFERENCE, this time around.

Each major party and candidate have their own committed vote bank based on ideology, caste, religion, region or language which they nurture and hold by giving sops, favours, appeasement and promises. So during the elections, what all political parties need and fear most are the SWING votes, which usually decide the winner. It is not difficult to bring together 25,000-50,000 educated people in each parliamentary constituency as SWING VOTE BANK, who will vote based on the issues of “Good Governance & Economic Development”. These ‘Educated Swing Votes’ will make every political party reach out to them and ask for their issues to be included in their agenda.

Now the question is, how do we organize these educated people, analyze & interact with major candidates/party and make an informed decision to VOTE with a real possibility of having a winner of our choice.

Use of technology will make it possible, Obama has shown it working. We are technology savvy and quick to adapt.

"Change India" has created a CHANGE platform, which you can join by sending an SMS - CHANGE to 575758.

Our target will be to get around 50,000 people in each of the constituencies across 25 cities of the country, accounting for around 80-100 MPs. Details of the candidates/parties will be shared via SMS and we will also interact with the candidates. Decision will taken via an sms POLL to VOTE for the CANDIDATE/PARTY of our choice.

We can make a BIG impact in the next Lok Sabha election and hold our winners accountable.

‘Choice is Ours’. Opportunity is NOW, as nation is UNITED and wants to bring a CHANGE.