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The partyless wonders: where Shekhar Gupta loses the plot

The partyless wonders.: The Indian Express, 2nd May

Shekhar Gupta has argued the case against Independents in our political system. For the full article, published in the Indian Express, follow the link above.
To start with, I am a little perplexed why Shekhar is so excercised by the sight of independents like Sanyal and Gopinath. Hasn’t he seen independents contest before? I remember ballot papers bigger than newspapers and even now, most constituencies have more than 10 to 20 candidates contesting. So, what gets Shekhar’s goat, this time? Could it be that some of these independents could queer the pitch, while not winning themselves, for some of Shekhar’s friends?
Let us look at the arguments made by Mr. Gupta. The basis of parliamentary democracy is the party system. To quote:  “…fundamentally, the notion that you can invent a new politics where independents displace parties is not only fanciful, it is also undemocratic. The essence of parliamentary democracy is the party system. All democracies are built around competing parties, ideologies, mass leaders, manifestos. Imagine a Parliament of 543 individuals, or where even 10 per cent of the members have no party affiliation. Imagine the incoherence, the sheer anarchy.”
Brilliant! 
At least Shekhar does not call this unconstitutional. Because it certainly is not. The constitution gives us the right to contest elections upon reaching the age of 25. So, Shekhar’s point is that our constitution is permitting undemocratic things. Good lord!
Why bother imagining a parliament where 10% or more members have no party affiiliations, Shekhar? Are you saying that the current Lok Sabha, split as it was along party lines (in how many parts, Shekhar?) was orderly, conducted itself with decorum and above all, was a model of behaviour that the incoming Lok Sabha should aspire to follow? A certain Mr. Somnath Chatterjee would certainly disagree!
In this Lok Sabha, we have parties with fewer than 5 MPs; quite a few have less than ten seats. We have parties with 1 member. Not so long ago, Mr Chidambaram was one such MP. How different is a  “single MP-party” from an independent?

 Shekhar goes on to say: “The other fallacious notion is that the world of politics is filled with stupid, uneducated, lazy and corrupt people, usually of a criminal bent. That comes from an unquestioning acceptance of the Bollywood caricature of the neta.”
No Shekhar, Bollywood has not even scratched the surface. Here is a slightly old story, datelined 13th Feb, 2006 in TOI headlined 115 MPs have criminal backgrounds. This was not the fertile imagination of some “bollywood type”. This was the then CEC, Mr. BB Tandon speaking. In his opinion, published in the newspaper, “the existing laws were inadequate to stop criminalization of politics”.

More vitriol from Shekhar: “This argument won’t go much further than Malabar Hill living rooms, and not merely because most of these angry “we the people” were most likely not seen among the 40-odd per cent who turned out to vote in South Bombay, preferring to escape to Alibaug, Madh Island or Goa: who wastes a four-day weekend for a mere vote?”
Read your own newspaper, Shekhar. In today’s Indian Express, in a story headlined : Day After, how low and why , the area-wise voting percentages in all Mumbai constituencies are published. In Mumbai-South, the highest voting percentage of 43.28 was recorded from Malabar Hills. In Mumbai South Central, it is Dharavi which records the lowest percentage. Who is guilty of generalizing/ caricature now?

Drawing a parallel with the corporate world, ranting against the entry of independents into politics seems like arguing against startups and saying the only people qualified to do business are Tata, Birla, Singhania, Mafatlal and Modi. We are glad, 40 years ago, one Dhirubhai Ambani said, “to hell with status quo”. Also, is there just place and space for the professional politicians in the system? All those so called highly educated MPs: Sachin Pilot, Deora, Rahul Gandhi, Jitin Prasada, Hooda.. would they have managed to get anywhere in the Congress hierarchy unless their fathers were well connected? Let us say Meera Sanyal wanted to join the Congress. What would you have her do? Fight the elections in her apartment blocks first, as a means of gaining experience?
BJP does not, unlike the Congress, treat entry to politics as a birthright. However, what if Sanyal or Gopinath did not wish to join BJP for whatever reason?
Meera Sanyal and Gopinath, like many others could have sat at home or gone out to light candles. That they chose to do something which I did not have the courage to do, has my admiration. Whether you should vote for them or not (I unfortunately vote in East Delhi), is your call based on whether you think they can deliver for you, dear voter.

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6 thoughts on “The partyless wonders: where Shekhar Gupta loses the plot

  1. the issue with most of the middle class is that we neither have a caste, nor a religous, nor a lingusitic base. And, we are dispersed. So there is no such thing as a middle class constituency. While our numbers have grown in the last 20 years – for us atleast to get heard – the way the elections are structured, the politicians can ignore us totally and still get in . systemic change is sometime away …

    for us, the middle class – we need to get involved. At the constituency level. Looking at issues, looking at how to solve them – without an us v/s them attitude. Look at the UK – at the community level, look at how much work the middleclass does, for example police charities, or raising money for state hospitals, or monies for state schools. We don’t 😦 . the day we get involved, the day we start doing things for the community that we live in, that is the day we can start influencing the system. And, we can reject a corrput/criminal candidate with the knowledge that the rest of the constituency is doing the same. because, we have taken over the constituency work that they are doing 🙂 it is a long drawn out process …..

    Which is why my willingess to work with the gentleman. i realised that i can’t just have virtual involvement. It has to get real. But, i have to earn a living 😦 and India is a full time job 😦

    • anindyac on said:

      “….we neither have a caste, nor a religous, nor a lingusitic base..” yes, and no. Don’t assume everyone is like you or me )-:
      Citizens’ groups, activism, voluntary work.. I think those naturally come to a culture/ people who bring up kids to be fairly independent at an early age… and of course with a sense of responsibility to the world around them.
      More power to you.. at least you are doing something. And, yes, “India IS a full time job )-;” I certainly know how true that is.

  2. thank you 🙂

    Though, it can be argued that “by virtue of your achievement” is probably a stronger “birthright” than “birth into a political family”.

    actually – i have a difference of opinion here.
    most guys who get a seat on virtue of birth -have the party mechanism at their disposal and backing them.
    it is the party that has done work at the ground level. otherwise people like Milind Deora would never be able to make it.

    which is why the Independent has to work harder -they have no party infrastructure that does work at the constituency level ! which is why people like you and i have to get involved to help them win. and, it is a lot of unpaid time committment 😦

    • anindyac on said:

      Oh, not disputing that at all (party backing for the 2nd generation..).
      I guess I am struggling to find a mechanism where some seats as now go to professional grass-roots politicians, some to “2nd generation” politicos (no escaping that; happens all over the world, even in the US. Why not here?) and some to so called meritocratic candidates- if Congress/ BJP/ CPM.. have a formal scheme whereby they identify talent outside the system and fast track her/ him into a powerful position.
      The parallels are in the corporate world; companies do not necessarily always look for people to promote from within.
      I know CPM in West Bengal has been periodically doing this; it attracted Ashok Mitra as a FM after getting him to contest the polls as an independent candidate supported by the left. Their current power minister, Shankar Sen is also from outside the system. I would suggest (of course with tongue firmly in cheek) that SP’s recent few nominations are also in line with getting “talent” into their party.
      It is tough work; what you are doing with your independent friend is an interesting experiment. Both of you have to stay the course for five years. Think you can do it? Think he will stay committed that long?

  3. my problem with the independent is different from mr.gupta’s.

    a friend’s friend was standing from one of the mumbai constituencies. wanted help on his campaign. i will share what i told him:
    a) you have to nurture a constituency. be part of the community. work with the large masses to solve their issues
    b) learn the local language – more than one in a metro
    c) help people manouver the system and get what is due – the government has good schemes, make sure that it reaches the people
    d) create a base

    the problem is that everyone wants to be a MP. without working for it. it seems to be a birthright – either by birth into a political family, or by virtue of their achievement.

    Obama mastered the Chicago system, clinton the arkansas system, brown his constituency. these guys have no political base – and are not working towards creating it. and, it is sad, because they can really serve.

    i have promised to work with this gentleman over the next 5 years to see if he can be a stronger contender…. :0
    maybe all of us who believe that there needs to be an alternative — need to start helping out. because an ordinary independent will not have the infrastructure to do this on their own…..

    • anindyac on said:

      That’s more like it. Yes, definitely better reasoned. Though, it can be argued that “by virtue of your achievement” is probably a stronger “birthright” than “birth into a political family”.
      You are absolutely right when you want the candidates to not only be local but act a little local as well. I was surfing the net the other night and came across websites of candidates. Meera Sanyal has good company in Tathagata Roy (BJP) in Kolkata. The websites are all in English. At best they read like well done up resume’s in “Visualcv” 🙂

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