Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Politicians haven’t stopped catering to vote bank politics

The political season which usually surfaces after every six years in every Assembly segment of the country is at its full boom in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. All the political parties are shouting with high pitch in-front of the common man, making tall promises with an assurance to end their miseries to influence and attract them in their favour so they could get votes. But soon after these political leaders are voted to power they forget everything. Even it becomes hard for the general public to meet these leaders once they are voted to power. People having high hopes to get their problems solved are even deprived of to meet these leaders by the security personnel at the gates of political leaders’ residences by telling them that these leaders are either out of station or sleeping or busy in meetings or in the ‘bathroom’. Yet people are befooled and their eternal in compelled to caste votes as they are easily targeted by the politicians catering vote bank politics. Despites knowing that these leaders will not solve their problems, people trust on them and cast their votes with renewed hopes that this time their problems will be solved but their hopes are shattered by all the politicians (parities have no relevance as a politician after all is a politician), as being done for past several years. Why these leaders keep on betraying the voters’ despites knowing that they have to face the same public after six years and did not pay any attention towards the solution of peoples’ problems? Why the same promises are repeated after every six years? Should not these leaders take the problems of people seriously? So the trust on politicians could be strengthened. Infect the trust of voters on politicians is weakening day after day which is resulting in formation of coalition governments. As every individual electorate hopes that the new party or the new leader will his problem seriously but it seems a never ending practice. Politicians will continue their way and people will suffer.

The coalition patched up between the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress (I) in J&K following the 2002 elections, collapsed following protests over the Amarnath land transfer. Apart from the communal polarization and wave of anti-India protests that have preceded it, a repeated failure of governance in the past decade also make the 2008 elections crucial. The first elections in Kashmir held in 1951 catapulted the National Conference (NC) under tutelage of Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah to power. However the subsequent elections that followed were mired in charges of blatant rigging by New Delhi. One exception to this were the 1977 Assembly elections, held after the lifting of the Emergency imposed by the former Prime Minister (PM), Indira Gandhi, whose party was routed allowing the NC to emerge victorious. However the electoral process lay suspended from 1990 as insurgency gripped the state, only to be rekindled in late 1996. The 1996 elections, regarded as fair, once again catapulted the NC to power. The 2002 elections built upon this process were acknowledged as being 'free and fair' by the international community. Disillusionment with what was popularly perceived to be a corrupt and insensitive government led people to vote for the opposition PDP, which too soon failed on the governance front. Instead corruption and narrow politics, as revealed by the political opportunism of the PDP in the Valley and the BJP in Jammu, over the Amarnath land row, ruled roost. Unfortunately, it is shocking that our governments fail time after time and that even their so called corrective measures are deeply flawed. There is no competent minister to ensure good governance. It is even more shocking that politicians have not stopped catering to vote bank politics and are themselves orchestrating divisive politics.

What happened to the concept of the right person for the job irrespective of caste, religion or gender? Has the Congress forgotten, or maybe not even realized, that the Indian population does not care for divisiveness or our gender/caste/religious differences? And the greatest proof of that is that they voted a party to power that had a foreigner at the helm.
It is shocking that the ruling government will not only keep dabbling in divisive politics but will not even save us from the horrific fall out of it. The Shiv Sena and MNS claimed that north Indians are a menace to Mumbai but it is only them that have held the city to ransom.

It is only their political groups that have repeatedly over months and years vandalized the city, thrashed cab drivers, burnt hundreds of buses, hit and beat innocents on the street, brought the economic hub of India continually to a stand still with forced Bandhs and cost the tax payers thousands of crores in damages and loss of revenue. For years despite our cries for help, politicians did nothing about it and pretty much looked the other way.
It is shocking that despite Mumbai being the economic hub of the country and putting out over 40 percent of the country’s taxes that the city still lacks security and infrastructure.

It is shocking that 50 odd years post independence that as a nation we still lack infrastructure, accountability, transparency and a solid game plan to rid corruption, poverty and terror on our streets.

Our politicians take so much care about their personal security (paid for by our tax money) and care so little about the citizens of the country that elected them.
Despite mammoth budgets for our Defence fund we have ineffective metal detectors to protect the common man, ineffective bullet proof vests to protect our brave forces, and the use of NSG Commandos only for politicians.

It is taken so long for national outrage. However, better late than never and it is time to demand action.

It is time to listen to the people and care for them, because a democracy is ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’.

As observed the 2008 Assembly elections seems historic one because of the unexpected large turnout of voters but the terror attacks in Mumbai have overshadowed them. The Mumbai terror attacks have clouded the 2008 polls in Jammu and Kashmir. Surprising many, more than 60 percent voter turnout has been recorded in the first three of the seven phases of the election despite Muslim separatists' boycott call. The global attention turned toward the terror attacks. The elections, which attracted long queues at the places considered out of reach of the voters or where the electorates were seen as hostages to the will of the separatists and militants, were relegated to obscurity. Though there seems is a sea change in the attitude and approach of the people during the ongoing elections and this election could have made its mark in the world newspapers and media, the way people turned out to vote, voice their aspirations for development, road connectivity, bridges, water and electricity. Now it would be the responsibility of politicians to respect the sentiments and aspirations of people and they should focus on development, upliftment of the society and at the most ensure security of the citizens.

See the symbol of the Congress is the hand. The same hand can either caress and comfort the population or slap them repeatedly. The choice is theirs.

Politicians are accountable for what they do and also what they don’t do. Inaction is also action. If politicians don’t stop catering to vote bank politics and show the public visible change in their decades old strategies very soon, I am sure the public will make sure they change these leaders…. Their time to effect change starts…. now!

Basic problem; type of Govt. or the way it functions?

The basic problems like unemployment, lack of development, education, healthcare facilities and absence of representatives to hear the voice of those who are hoodwinked by a small section of opportunist people has not only affected badly the political system of Jammu and Kashmir but also of the entire country. These problems arise not because of the type of government, but because of the way it functions, the leaders we chooses and the lack of political awareness among the masses. Often, questions of ethics, morals, right or wrong, honest or favored, unlawfulness, crime, punishment and acquittal are highlighted, and automatically subdued under political pressure. Once elected to the Parliament or the State Legislative Assembly, the minister forgets his responsibilities and duties as a servant of the state; instead, his thirst for money and greed of power never quench. In this whole process, the tax-payer suffers. He neither gets justice, nor an honest account of the hard-earned money paid as tax. Another source of problem in the Indian democracy arises due to interference and interruption of different departments-the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. These political pressures and favors lead to lawlessness and injustice, only. Another issue is the inability of meritorious candidates to contest for elections. Parties find a huge source of income in selling their tickets at high prices to undeserving people who can afford them. Therefore, those with long records of crimes and offenses find their place in the political system. So, on a realistic note, most of the Lok Sabha represents criminals and goons are elected to power by unconstitutional methods of forced voting, illegitimate casting of votes by their own supporters, and voters who have no/little knowledge of the whole system, but vote in accordance to religion or religion or community. Thus, an analysis of the Indian politics leaves you surprised and shocked: “How is this system working? It should have collapsed way back!” It is indeed a wonder how things fall apart in our country, yet the system keeps on working. The general attitude of ‘Chal Jayega’ is very chronic, yet ironic, for India. For the vision, Vision India-2020, to become reality, the whole system will have to be revised and re-structured. We need to have new leaders. People who have the courage to stand, speak up and pin-point the wrong. We’ll need youth who have the courage to overcome all odds and emerge victor. Former President APJ Abdul Kalam rightly identifies today’s youth with tomorrow’s future. His book ‘Vision 2020’ is testimony to the power and capability of today’s youngsters. Let us not undermine our own potential and act audience. Let us take the stage and speak our minds out. For, leaders are not made, they are born. And, I believe that a leader is born inside you the moment you choose the path of right, honesty and welfare. As we all know, India is the world’s largest democracy. But do we live up to this high title? Are we honest enough to be called a democracy? Is it democracy or a dictatorship we are living in? Let us review our political structure first, and then find out where the problem lies, which prevents us from being proud when it comes to discussing our politics- the ‘Indian’ politics. India adopted the Federal system in 1947, and is therefore a union of 26 states and 6 Union Territories (UT), which together form the Parliamentary system of Government, governed by the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution on 26 November, 1949 and it came into force on 26 November, 1950. The Parliament consists of the President and two Houses- Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha (House of the People). Members to the Rajya Sabha are elected indirectly. Out of its total population of 245 members, 233 represent states and UTs and other 12 are nominated by the President. The Lok Sabha has a total of 545 members who are elected directly by the people of India and it represents the citizen population. The President is the Constitutional Head of the State. However, Article 74(1) of the Constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Members headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advice the President, who shall act in accordance with such advice. This Article makes the powers vested in the President of India insignificant and makes him a ‘rubber stamp’, while gives all powers to the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers. This Parliamentary form of government in India is different from that in America and England. These countries follow the federal system, where the President, who is the Head of the State, enjoys real powers. In such a system, the scope of conflict or pooling is much lesser than in Parliamentary form, although the Senate, as the Parliament in USA is called, is approached for final decision on both internal and external policies.

Changing paradigm of politics in J&K

Whatever will be the outcome of the 2008 Assembly elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, it is clearly emerging that contours of politics in Jammu and Kashmir are changing.

Though, this time it seems more dominated by the national party like Congress but as far as the leaders like Mufti Mohammed Sayed, Mehbooba Mufti, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are concerned, they are more important as they have numbers on their side.

Congress party’s compulsion would be to go out of the way to woo regional parties like NC, JKNPP, PDF & independents and the last option would be PDP to form the government in the state. Even these regional parties which are on the back burner at present having lost public faith are flexing their muscles and are trying to re-construct damages will certainly maintain a distance from Congress.

These developments clearly indicate that even if Congress gets more seats this time on the basis of developmental activity in the state yet the future of Jammu and Kashmir state politics will be decided by regional players.

Such a situation may not be bad for the state as after the last elections state has been ruled by a coalition instead of a single party and a lot of development was witnessed but that ended with a bad name (which seems will not put much effect on the electorate who are politically aware enough). The implications of new trends will be that regional players will have more influence and this will check authoritarian trends, but will also make it more difficult to resolve disputes or issues.

The progress under coalition governments has been positive but at the same time the gap between poor and rich, urban and rural has widened. The combination of parties which will form the Government will find it very difficult to take any firm action to reduce this gap.

There is however, a negative side to it as coalition rule means larger and larger ministries with comparatively lesser responsibilities. With every regional player seeking a place under the sun, any combination will survive only if representation is given to all.

Moreover, regional parties are vehicle for any national party to reach out to every nook and corner of the state. Regional political parties represent the aspirations of the regions, grow on regional issues and are vehicles for national parties to reach out to the people. When national interests are involved, these parties forget their political differences and work in tandem but it was unfortunate that in the recent past two of our mainstream regional political parties forgot national interests and came out with such a statements at different places, which resulted in worsening the law and order situation not only in the state but across the nation, causing huge losses to both live and property.

As a state having three different regions with distinguished cultures Jammu and Kashmir cannot be governed without existence of regional parties that act as safety valves. However, the coalition must confine itself to a limited mandate and not go beyond as such a venture can have serious eventualities.