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.