AAP School of Politics*

 Everyone who has a pen, is writing about the broom and its impact on India Growth Story. I do not want to be the odd man out. More than that, it is time to use the seive simultaneously with the broom. The message sent out by AAP from Delhi is being deciphered by different people in different ways. Naturally, the responses have been diverse. From Rahul Gandhi who said ‘Congress has to learn a lot from AAP’(perhaps this one insight weaved some substance into his speech at AICC during the third week of January 2014!) which observation has been taken seriously by many political parties, to N R Narayana Murthy who said ‘What Arvind(Kejriwal) has done is that he has redefined what is possible’ and added that he would still ‘Bat for Nilekani’ the politically and financially wise who responded to the AAP challenge did not leave the Aam Aadmi wiser by their responses. But their quick comments and the current media discussions about the future of AAP, rather than the future of Aam Aadmi are, nevertheless, indicative of the churning Indian Political System is undergoing, post-AAP uprise.
The Indian Aam Aadmi has asserted his right to make his voice heard, thanks to the dias provided by AAP. It is not wise to compel AAP to show the results they apparently promised, if they are voted to power, without even giving a clear mandate. From now on, it is the turn of the common man(Famously referred to as “WE THE PEOPLE” in the preamble of the Constitution of India) to organise, wherever they are, and force the legislature, executive and the judiciary at all levels to uphold the spirit of the Constitution and bring back ethics and morality to governance.

If Aam Aadmi and the BPL(Businessmen-Politician-Lawyers) Combine which is managing the show in Delhi take the message sent out by AAP through the medium of broomstick seriously, and act in a proactive manner  during the short period left for Elections, 2014, several stages of pre-stabilisation experiments of India Growth Story can be skipped. Here, all political parties(Right, Left and Centre) have a responsibility to participate. Time is running out. There are positive indications. In one media interview Arvind Kejriwal made this observation: “I am aware that the status quoist parties will derail us because we have challenged the basic premise of their existence. But we are a party which is here to change the politics of all other parties. Very soon you will see how the other parties wll be forced to follow our agenda. By the time this article will be printed, clarity will emerge through visible changes in direction of governance in several states like Rajastan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarkhand where, though in small measure, aping of AAP practices of austerity and democratic functioning has started.

On December 23, 2013, an article in the print media asked: “Can Kejriwal’s team deliver the moon to Dehiites?” This writer’s honest and direct answer was ‘No, not possible in the given situation’. Answering the possible ‘supplementary’, ‘then, why AAP should form a government in Delhi?’ he had commented: ‘Because, with 30 per cent votes polled, if 30 per cent promises in the (AAP) Manifesto are fulfilled, still the entire Delhi population will be better off than during the previous regimes. Changes do not come that fast. If AAP has succeeded in making the outgoing CM to demand implementation of AAP Manifesto and promises support for efforts in that direction, one feels, AAP has won half the battle’.

Coming to details, Congress, of all political parties has lost its moral right to question delays in honouring commitments as the last 65 years did not see India through enforcement of important Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution. It would be a useful and interesting document, if some scholars go back to the Congress/UPA Manifestos from the first General Election to the last one and prepare a chart recording promises kept and ‘action in progress’.

In October 2012, in the context of an interesting interview given to Economic Times  by Arvind Kejriwal, this writer had commented thus:
“His diagnosis is spot on. This country’s problems, from day one, post-independence, can be sourced to centralization of power and resources. It does not start or end with government or governance.
Power and money are consciously centralised in India, right from central government to the smallest political party fighting elections. Perhaps Gandhiji knew this when he pleaded for the dismantling of Congress, as he was sadly becoming aware that his dream of ‘Gramaswaraj’ was not being shared by majority of congressmen. Success of any India-specific solution for improving major Human Development Indicators will depend on a decentralised approach.”

The kind of ‘THE BUCK STOPS HERE’ model of leadership may not be sustainable for democracies like India. Still, leadership is what will ensure survival of nations.

Walter Bagehot, the nineteenth century British journalist and businessman, who wrote extensively about government, economics and literature had this to say about leadership:
“By the structure of the world we often want, at the sudden occurrence of a grave tempest, to change the helmsman-to replace the pilot of the calm by the pilot of the storm.”

Let us be optimistic about the current turn of events by hoping that the message for change sent out loudly and clearly through the medium of AAP with the ‘sweeping symbol’, is accepted in a positive sense by the political leadership and in 2014 India writes the right preface to the country’s 21st century growth story, which helps Indians live a better life in the coming years.
If this optimism is to be sustained, Aam Aadmi will have to learn to use the sieve with skill to segregate corn and chaff from the abundance of information and misinformation being dished out to him through word of mouth, print and electronic media and other conduits of propaganda.

Research-oriented approach from the regulators, and to some extent from the legislators, towards
the reforms of financial markets and ensuring financial stability and financial inclusion which has been part of the reform agenda has helped diagnose the ills of the financial sector and definitely expedited getting right prescriptions for restoring and maintaining the health of the economy. The political leadership and the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs could think of promoting a similar R & D approach for the political system to take care of the diagnostic needs of the executive and legislative machinery which is waiting for an overhaul of processes and procedures including those relating to selection, training and placement of suitable individuals for manning various positions.

There are schools, colleges, institutes and even universities grooming candidates for different careers and providing opportunities to take up serious study/research in the area of specialization in which they have an aptitude. Time and resources permitting, one can reach an acceptable level of professionalism by undergoing courses of one’s choice before taking up any career, except politics. Time is opportune for India to think of establishing schools of politics, starting from graduation,  across the country, to take care of the educational needs of people  taking up politics as a career whether in political organizations or in legislative bodies or government.

Political education

This decade is finding politicians in India running for life (sometimes literally!) facing severe charges on moral, legal, ethical and financial grounds. What has gone wrong? It may be argued that the deterioration in the quality of political leadership has been a gradual process and no one noticed the decay till it reached the present terminal stage. This writer has always held the view that our country has an inherent strength to come out of catastrophes like the present one. The emergence of AAP and the enthusiasm it generated in the educated youth of India have reinforced this faith. Finance Minister Chidambaram’s call at the recent AICC meeting that fifty per cent of the Congress candidates fighting 2014 Election should be below the age of thirty-five strengthens the optimism. In this context, the need for formal schooling of people who take up politics as a career gets relevance.  

Historically, our political leadership owes its roots to freedom movement. Till recently, all political parties in India had a sprinkling of honest and patriotic individuals who had benefited from the guidance of leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Sirdar Patel, Vinoba Bhave and several others. Many of them had no formal university education or exposure to the kind of information deluge now available to political workers. But they knew what was good for the village, taluka or district they were working. Now, political parties are trying to make up for this class which is becoming extinct, by ‘recruiting’ businessmen, lawyers and individuals who have graduated from or spent some time around the premises of, Harvard, Cambridge, Delhi School of Economics or such other campuses. This article focuses on the need to provide political education to individuals across political parties an age-groups.

There are schools, colleges, institutes and even universities grooming candidates for different careers and providing opportunities to take up serious study/research in the area of specialization in which they have an aptitude. Time and resources permitting, one can reach an acceptable level of professionalism by undergoing courses of one’s choice before taking up any career, except one in politics. For a political career, with the exception of some small leftist parties, which have few career openings, major entry point considerations include family background, net-worth, public speaking skills and last but not least, organizational capabilities (read fund-raising or mob-mobilization skills depending on circumstances). Literacy or knowledge of the subject matter they are expected to handle seldom get the priority they deserve in political recruitment. Time is opportune for India to think of establishing schools of politics at all levels, starting from graduation,  across the country, to take care of the educational needs of people  taking up politics as a career whether in political organizations or in legislative bodies or government.

Industrial houses which are magnanimous in giving donations to universities and business schools and government which fund research and development efforts of IITs and IIMs will not find it difficult to find resources for financing this initiative.

To ensure that the benefits of political education reach the target group, a reverse reservation system through committed campus recruitment of cadre by political parties and transparent remuneration arrangement for full time political work will have to be thought of. A corollary would be a smooth exit route and rehabilitation scheme for the sick, aged, disabled, illiterate and tainted lot of politicians holding various positions in political parties, governments and legislatures. They should be paid pension to maintain the lifestyle they are entitled and they should be retained as resource persons to support and mentor the new generation entering politics and government.

All these, naturally will take time to materialize. In the interregnum, schools, colleges, professional institutions like IIMs and Law Colleges should hold short-term orientation programs both in-house and postal (with contact programs of convenient durations). The target group may include sitting legislators, office bearers and activists of political parties and youngsters intending to take politics as a career. 

* Also read the observations on the subject at Facebook by my good friend Jayaram Nayar(copied below) :

The management lessons from the 15th Lok Sabha
There appears to be a few lessons in management from the working and functioning of the recently concluded 15th Lok Sabha. It passed the least number of bills in the history of the Lok Sabha (177). Sixty eight bills lapsed. A full session transacted virtually new business. This Lok Sabha found a place in the annals of Indian history as an institution that failed to deliver. They indicated a situation of non performance among organizational leaders.
In the final analysis, parliamentary service is all about people expectations. The people perceive themselves as followers and Parliamentarians are leaders. There is a huge brand value attached to the institution of the Parliament. Maintaining that brand equity is a huge task before the members of the house
To meet these tradition driven expectations, members really needed to get familiar with the peer and group interactions besides knowing constitutional proprieties and procedural requirements. An induction programme may have helped. They should have been briefed on the virtuous cycle of an excellent parliament feedback leading to a renewed brand experience. Lower follower dissatisfaction would have helped image . It appears that the powers that be failed to evolve the membership groups into a cohesive and cooperative lot. They carried forward their confrontationist approach to the floor. The followers saw that as lack of mutual respect. There perhaps should have been more intensive induction sessions on professional etiquette and collaborative efforts at legislating for the good of the followers.
However successful they were prior to arrival on the floor of the Parliament, each new inductee needs to be mentored on to the practices of the house. Lok Sabha is not just about of politics it is also about understanding, appreciating and if necessary modifying the Constitution. Senior members could have been mentors. Successful debates (or even just debates) would have led to a better brand visibility.
Members seemed contrarians to expectations. They failed to evince quality in their actions of commission and omission. This perhaps came through to the electorate as a destructive mindset and a disregard for processes in the leader(s). With the innumerable disruptions in the house's functioning, the electorate saw the indifference among members to debates in the Parliament to a lack of a service mentality among members.
The lack of service discipline resulted in a cost - not so easily measurable - of a declining brand image. The visual media exposed the fallacies among the several people. This then had a multiplier among the population through word of mouth. People prefer to remember the negative aspects of functioning.
The consequence was an increase in levels of electorate frustration. The followers had expectations of the leaders. Levels of people satisfaction fell to abysmal lows; there are increasing signs of follower contempt which would lead to increasing levels of electorate disloyalty. The next LS has to regain ground with a truly great service culture that demonstrably pays the electorate back in terms of productive output.


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