Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nav Bharat will alter electoral dynamics in India

Nav Bharat will alter electoral dynamics

With a plethora of elections looming on the horizon, citizen initiatives to bring transparency, accountability and most important, get good, clean people capable of delivery and good governance elected, is gaining traction. Political Action Committees (PACs) which will raise money - substantial amounts at that if the US example is an indicator - are being formed to aid the process. Nav Bharat is a national PAC that's been recently formed. The inaugural fundraiser by the PAC's Bangalore arm held on Saturday evening was attended by the creme de la creme of Bangalore, who listened to Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Mohandas Pai, RK Misra and K Jairaj on the need for a political action initiative. RK Misra spoke to TOI on Nav Bharat's plans. Excerpts:

What role will Nav Bharat play in Indian politics?
Nav Bharat is a national political action initiative to help committed and capable leaders of our society win and represent us in municipalities, assemblies and Parliament.
People are losing faith in our parliamentary democracy. Nav Bharat will engage the disenchanted voter by fielding credible candidates, focusing on issues and executing a transparent electoral campaign. It will provide voters with an alternative to traditional electoral process where candidate selection is opaque and voter mobilization techniques questionable.
Will Nav Bharat function like the powerful US PACs?
As opposed to US PACs, which are mostly pressure and support groups, Nav Bharat will directly engage in the electoral process by fielding and supporting candidates. In our country, electoral malpractices are rampant due to non-transparent campaign finance and dynastic politics. Nav Bharat's objective is to bring accountability and credibility to the electoral process. To that objective, we will engage both in advocacy as well as direct participation in the electoral process.
Will you be supporting political parties or individuals?
A. Nav Bharat's focus is on credible and capable candidates. We are working to see that our candidates win and bring about the desired improvements in governance. Nav Bharat will facilitate the formation of a new party or support an existing party which subscribes to our good governance agenda and transparency objectives.
Are there restrictions in India on how much an individual can contribute to a PAC?
Indian political donation laws are among the most generous. People can donate any amount to political parties and they get tax credit for their contribution. Then, there are political trusts to which people can contribute for political parties. Systems and laws for clean and transparent campaign finance already exist; we just need to follow them.
Given there's a limit to how much a candidate can officially spend in an election, and it's well-known that candidates need to spend in multiples of that, how will you ensure that the PAC's money will make a difference?
Electoral expenditure limits are not unreasonable. It's the electoral malpractices of buying the party ticket and then inducing voters and supporters, which costs candidates huge sums of money. Nav Bharat's voter will vote based on issues and the credibility of the candidate, not the inducement. Hence, we don't need astronomical sums of money to fight elections.
How much control will Nav Bharat want to have on the policy/politics of the candidate it backs?
Nav Bharat will be answerable to its voters and supporters. Hence, it's imperative that the candidate and party subscribe to the agenda of Nav Bharat.
How much does Nav Bharat intend to raise all-India and in Bangalore?
Nav Bharat will raise sufficient monies in a transparent manner as per the Election Commission guidelines. However, our resource mobilization is not limited to financial contribution alone. We will engage and help candidates with electoral strategy, campaign management, message and communication as well as voter mobilization. We'll alter electoral dynamics.
Do you see more such PACs emerging in the country?
Yes. Nav Bharat is working nationally and encouraging individual cities to put together their own PACs. Recently, Bangalore established B-PAC, which is focused on political and governance agenda for Bangalore. Similar initiatives are under way in Mumbai, NCR, Pune, Lucknow, Kanpur, Nagpur, Goa and many other places. Nav Bharat will coordinate closely with PACs across the country.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bangalore Requires Administrative Autonomy!

Bangalore Requires Administrative Autonomy!  Times of India - R K Mishra Jul 29, 2012, 02.15AM 
Expecting much from a lame duck government which has barely eight months left would be akin to living in a make-believe world. Given that the CM, though a good man, owes his post to his caste and blessings of an ex-CM, we cannot expect much from the current government. Every single government in the past 15 years has willfully ignored the interests of Bangalore and destroyed 'Brand Bangalore'. They have succeeded in killing the golden goose of Karnataka. We need to save Bangalore from caste politics of Karnataka and incompetent politicians.
1. Break the current monstrous and unmanageable BBMP into five independent municipal corporations with their own mayors with a five-year term. Each zone will be manageable in size, self-sufficient in resources with revenue collection from their own industrial clusters.
2. Merge utility agencies like Bescom and BWWSB with these municipal corporations. This will ensure efficiency, accountability and better service quality. Bescom and BWWSB are singularly responsible for haphazard digging of Bangalore roads and messy storm water drain network. They have no planning and maintenance coordination with BBMP. There's no reason to carry on with these administrative fiefdoms. No major city in the world has such a structure.
3. Establish Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) as mandated in the 74th Amendment to the Constitution and dismantle BDA. A mega city like Bangalore needs a centralized planning agency like National Capital Region. MPC should be the sole statutory planning agency responsible for planned development of entire BMRDA area including five proposed municipal corporations. BDA has miserably failed in its role as a planning authority.
4. Establish independent Bangalore Infrastructure Development Corporation (BIDC). The city urgently needs more than Rs 50,000 crore of investment to meet the basic infrastructure needs. Neither the state government nor BBMP has resources or ability to raise funds from the market. Infrastructure development, planned and approved by MPC, should be implemented by BIDC by raising funds from the market borrowings, government grants, JNNURM funds, multilateral lending agencies & municipal bonds. Repayment should be from municipal tax revenues, infrastructure user fees and state's budgetary allocations.
5. None of the above will happen with current political parties interested only in milking Bangalore. While Karnataka benefits from Bangalore -- with just 15% of the population, Bangalore contributes 60% to state's GDP, it gets very little in return. Broken roads, open sewers, extended power cuts and dry water taps. Corruption and poor governance have sucked the life out of this beautiful city once the showpiece of India's growth story.
This must change! Bangalore should get an autonomous administrative region status outside the clutches of state government. None of the three existing political parties have Bangalore's interest at heart. Bangalore voters must recognize this. The city needs a new political party with a development agenda to Save Bangalore.
(The writer is member, ABIDEe)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

My Loyalty is to my Conscience & My Nation!

R K Misra is a member of the ABIDe task force for Bengaluru and urban reforms campaigner. He's a card holding member of the BJP. And yet, here he is supporting a Loksatta candidate, Ashwin Mahesh, in the coming Sunday's Graduate constituency election. This support is part of his online campaign Bangalore28 that he has started on Facebook. Bangalore28 is a campaign to field ‘good candidates' for Bangalore's 28 MLC and MLA seats for the 2013 elections. He feels this will in turn impact the 2014 national elections. Citizen Matters asked RK (as he's popularly known) some hard questions on his campaign and his political aspirations.
RK believes in clean politics. Pic courtesy:
Your Bangalore28 campaign is attracting people who are in politics to change Bangalore and the country. But will a Facebook-based, feel-good campaign produce real political change on the ground during elections?
Facebook and other mediums of communication are no substitute for ground campaign with one-on-one connect and we are doing intensive voter connect programmes. However, we must realise that voter profile in India has changed dramatically. Young adults between the age of 18-30 years constitute almost 50% of Indian voters. These voters are technology savvy and connected. Power of social networking and endorsement is immense. In recent elections young voters have been seen exchanging notes on election & candidates on social networking sites. They proudly displayed their inked fingers after they cast their votes.
We will use the technology as well as on the ground campaign to reach out to the youth, educated professionals and middle class voters who have been neglected by mainstream political parties as they can not relate to these voters. Mainstream political parties are in for a shock in 2013 elections.
As a result of Bangalore28, even if good people come forward for next year's assembly elections, how will they find the money to promote themselves and become known as credible alternatives? MLA elections are fought with so much money.
We will reach out to the independent minded and socially conscious voters who can not be influenced by caste, religion and money. We will focus on transparent campaign finance, issue based politics and credible candidates. We would field candidates whom people can believe in. This will be an antidote to money and muscle politics.
We will use several methods to raise funds in a transparent manner from a large number of contributors. People are more than happy to contribute for good politics and credible candidate. Currently most of the election campaign money is spent in buying votes. Since we we won't be using these malpractices, our financial needs will be modest and well within the limits prescribed by the Election Commission.
You are a BJP party member and yet you are supporting Ashwin Mahesh of Lok Satta for the MLC seat in the graduates constituency race. Does your party not care? Will they not suspend you?
I believe that good candidate is the fundamental building block of a transparent and mature democracy. Unfortunately our democracy isn't transparent. Few people, mostly unelected, decide on the candidates and the voter is left with no choice. Unlike many other democracies, we do not have a primary system which allows party cadre to choose on best suitable candidate to fight the election.
My loyalty is to my conscience and my nation. I find Ashwin Mahesh a better candidate and that's what matters to me. I do not care for the consequences as I have moral conviction to stand by my decision.
Will you run for MLA next year from Bangalore? You are well known and respected in the city as a reform-minded and pragmatic individual.
Currently I am focussing on fielding good candidates for 28 MLA seats in Bangalore and five other cities in Karnataka in the next year's assembly elections. I will make a suitable decision for myself at the right time.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting things DONE!

HURDLES in getting Public Utilities, even at your own cost, in Bangalore?

Here is an interesting episode, worth sharing with you folks. This may be helpful, if you are trying something similar.

Here it is - I got a request from Local Area Residents of Whitefield in Bangalore, to try with the BBMP/BMTC to install TWO Bus Shelters in downtown Whitefield.

Neither of the above agencies had funds allocated for this. So a PPP model was found & work started. Soon local Corporator came calling as to how work has begun in his area without his BLESSINGS. Once he realized that I was instrumental in getting it started, he softened the tone but got the work stopped nonetheless. His men shooed away the workers & shouted at the officials. Once he realized that all the paper work is in order, he simply used strong arm tactics to stall the work.

The residents again met me and wanted a solution. In the meantime, another organization (socio-political) got involved saying that if RK is doing the GOOD WORK and all the Paper Work is in order, how can the corporator stop it. They argued that the Corporator could get it done himself, if he so wished. Logic was rational but the Corporator didn't budge.

I called all the parties to my office but to no avail. Finally this socio-political organization mobilized 10-20 of it's members & residents of the area, they stayed at the site day & night, requesting workers not to go home till the work was completed. They also organized food, water & shelter for workers who worked continuously over 2-3 days to complete the work. Corporator tried hard to stop it, rang officers but work got done.

Now, both the Bus Shelters have been operating without any trouble and 'THANK YOU' notes from residents have been pouring.

When I narrated this incident to some friends yesterday, they asked me to share this & other such incidents with larger audience to make others realize the potential of 'Collective Will & Common Good'. Hence this post.

Moral of the story -
Getting things DONE in Public Domain in this country isn't going to be easy. Our so called representatives, leaders and at times even officers won't let you do it. But if PEOPLE are with you, you will succeed.

To be in Public Life - You must win the confidence of the PEOPLE. It will take years of continuous & consistent efforts to win people's trust, but that is the most powerful weapon to win against vested interests.

I will share other similar experiences in coming days.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Urban India is craving for Good Candidates & Value Based Politics - Mission 2014!

While in UP, I had the opportunity to meet & discuss with many people from different walks of life. Most educated people, specially young professionals, felt the need for a new political platform, where focus is on identifying & fielding GOOD Candidates. Most parties in these elections have fallen back on time tested Formula of fielding a supposedly WINNABLE candidate irrespective of his credentials or abilities. Since they didn't want to abstain from exercising their franchise, people were forced to choose from among the candidates who have criminal & corrupt antecedents. Some symbolic EDUCATED professionals were also fielded, mainly in the cities by SP & other parties but majority of these were sons & daughters of tainted politicians & bureaucrats. Nonetheless people were exited about these EDUCATED candidates. Their logic was that parents of these candidates have made enough money so hopefully educated kids will focus on the governance. SAD, but people live on hope in absence of credible options. Cities seem to be ready & looking forward to a NEW POLITICAL provide VALUE BASED POLITICS.....with GOOD CANDIDATES...That should be Mission 2014!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

2012 - Will Bangalore be Better Off, Infrastructure-Wise!

Bangalore 2012 – Will we be better off, Infrastructure wise!! Though there has been lot of visioning & planning exercises but Bangalore has not delivered on any major infrastructure project in over a decade. There have only been mega plans with unrealistic budgets, corruption charges, protests & court cases. Consequently, Bangalore are loosing confidence in our government’s ability to solve perennial infrastructure problems of traffic jams, erratic water supply & power outages. So what can we realistically expect to achieve in 2012, as far as infrastructure is concerned? With the opening of Reach-1 between Baiyapanahalli & Cricket Stadium (6.7 km), Namma Metro seems to have picked up steam & 2012 should see the opening of Reach-2 from Leprosy Hospital to Mysore Road (6.4 km) & Reach-3 from Sampige Road to Yeshwanthpur (5.1 km). With the cabinet approval of Phase-2, Namma Metro seems to be on surer footing.
Another major infrastructure project which has realistic chance of completion in 2012, is “Signal Free Outer Ring Road”, the 31 Km stretch from Silk Board to Hebbal Junction. The first phase, launched in October 2008 at a cost of Rs. 93.94 Crore by BDA, included flyovers at Agara and Iblur Junctions. This work was completed in 2011. Second phase was launched in June 2009 covering 8 junctions at a total estimated cost of Rs 333.68 Crores. This work is expected to be completed in 2012, providing signal free ride on ORR between Silk Board & Hebbal, a major relief for South-East Bangalore & IT Corridor. Airport access has been a major concern. BDA is planning “East Side Airport Access Corridor” from Chandapura (on Hosur Road) to BIAL via Gunjur & Budhigere. This project needs to be expedited. Bellary road elevated corridor should also be completed in 2012, giving easy access to the airport.
As far as BBMP is concerned, it has failed to deliver on it’s promises. The assurance of new BBMP commissioner to complete languishing projects should see the completion of much delayed underpasses at Kadirenahalli, Tagore Circle and CNR Rao Circle. BBMP should focus on much needed pedestrian infrastructure, parking facilities & solid waste management instead of planning large infrastructure projects, which it can’t deliver.
Lakes & Water bodies, which were once source of drinking water, have all but died. In 2009 BDA took up the revival of 12 lakes costing Rs 105 Crores. Work on 10 of these lakes is nearing completion. The BDA will take up additional 29 lakes this year but the work isn’t expected be completed in 2012. However, two largest lakes, Varhur & Bellandur, remain highly polluted with sewage & chemicals. If rejuvenated, these could be used to supply brown water to industries in EAST Bangalore. BDA was entrusted with Bellandur Lake Rejuvenation, but is unlikely to be completed in 2012.

BWSSB has ambitious plans of supplying 500MLD of Cauvery water to Bangalore in 2012 from it’s Cauvery 4th stage scheme. Work is well under progress & we hope that BWSSB will deliver on it’s promise However what will not happen in 2012 includes, never ending traffic snarls at major Arterial Roads of Bangalore. Proposed 12 Signal Free Arterial Road Corridors are languishing. 5 of these 12, which were entrusted to BDA have seen some progress but the remaining 7 with BBMP haven’t progressed. These 12 Arterial Road Corridors are crucial to ease traffic congestion in Bangalore & the government should expedite their completion through BDA or KRDCL. So, while there is plenty to look forward to in 2012, Bangalore’s infrastructure will remain woefully inadequate unless state government takes a holistic approach & provides for necessary financial support. Brand Bangalore has taken a major hit. Our new Chief Minister has an opportunity to make a mark & leave his legacy by making Bangalore’s Infrastructure a priority, which will also give electoral dividends in 2013. Will he rise to occasion? We hope & believe that he will!