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One way of looking at it

Saturday, February 18, 2012

NOW that it has been established that we have, partially by not voting in large numbers, handed back the city to those who have already run it pretty much into the ground for the next five years, we can sit back and enjoy the thought of another Rs.100 crore, give or take another ten percent, passing through some of the stickiest hands in the country. It is a depressing thought, and automatically, we find our thoughts going out to those brave people lumped together as “others’ in this election – candidates of various people’s groups, independent candidates – and the Lok Satta Party.

And we like the way party national general secretary and Maharashtra president Surendra Srivastava has urged the cadres “not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory”. Here is why he said what he did.

The Lok Satta party was contesting the elections in Thane and Mumbai from 16 constituencies.  Thousands of people have voted for them, and this is a miracle because they spent virtually nothing. “The so-called top leaders of all the traditional parties had to buy votes even in their own BMC/TMC constituencies.”

Getting more than 2,000 votes in four wards in Mumbai was a very good beginning for them here, and evidence that a foundation had been laid for transforming the nature of politics in both cities.

It is established that there is an enormous reservoir of goodwill in at least the 16 wards where Lok Satta had its candidates. All it needs is that this be converted into political strength. At all times, the emphasis would be on maintaining high ethical standards, restoring public confidence in politics and putting the nation above the party.

Average expenditure of each of their candidates was less than Rs.1 lakh. Average expenditure by traditional party candidates was anywhere between Rs.2 and Rs.3 crore. Volunteering made the difference. For 17 candidates, Rs.10 lakh. For the rest of the candidates, with money in envelopes, biryani, saris, Rs.1000 crore. We could be wrong of course, it could be less, but not by much!

It is, however, cheering to note that Srivastava stoutly asserts not a single party candidate had resorted to unethical practices. We are tempted to believe him.

But it is a sobering thought. The Lok Satta Party has been around for 15 years, working doggedly towards change, and change is excruciatingly slow in coming.

The flavour of the moment is “naked opportunism, family rule, corruption, absence of a real agenda and bankruptcy of ideas, unethical and illegal practices and lack of demonstrable commitment to public good.”

Three days ago, his rallying cry to tired candidates was that this was yet another war for Independence, that they were the Tatya Topes and Maharani Laxmibais of this century. India is going through a crucial phase of transformation – the recent stirrings in civil society, the unrest among youth, growing corporate and media interest in governance are harbingers of changes for the better. We have five years to check

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