Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kejriwal’s political agenda is kiddish….

In what can best be described as unthoughtful and even immature grandstanding, Kerjriwal’s political promises look like what a rookie would pronounce. Most of them are impractical. At best, they can be  described as plain stupid.

Take the “no red beacon on vehicle” point. This is classic grandstanding; a point meant only to brag that his party wouldn’t treat its MPs/MLAs as being anything but ordinary citizens. Forget practicality, this point seems to be screaming. The way to prove a politician’s pro-people stand is apparently by him/her getting stranded in a huge traffic jam. This is akin to the Left parties’ ideology that all people must be equal; equally poor! It would be better if the “more important” people – as politicians no doubt are considering the role they have to play in building the nation – spent their time on meaningful activities rather than getting stuck in jams.

Then take the “will not move around with security personnel” point. Again, this is high level grandstanding, with a desire to appeal to people upset with the cavalcades of security vehicles that travel around with every VIP, affecting their own travel. But Kejriwal may want to revisit this slogan of his by remembering the number of politicians who have been killed in the line of their duty. Again, Kejriwal’s aim here appears to be to say that his politicians will be no different than ordinary aam aadmis and hence why should they get special treatment.

The crux of his political promise appears to be plain populism. Politicians will get no special treatment. In fact, politicians will be ground to mother earth and buried in the sands….simply because they are politicians. By doing this, Kejriwal’s party wants to become the antithesis of current political parties. Fundamental also to Kejriwal’s thinking is that politicians are worthless people. None of them deserve any special status. The PM should also travel without security, so what if he/she gets assassinated. If that happens, then that’s all right. After all, so many ordinary Indians get assassinated too. And if the PM has to prove that “he is one with the people”, he must be the first one to take the bullet in his chest!

Likewise, the “no more than one member from a family can contest an election” is stupid and bigoted. On what grounds can the son or daughter be asked not to contest if their father or mother is contesting? Does Kejriwal believe we are still a feudal society in which the father or mother decides the career choices of the children? Is what Kejriwal saying this that if a family member stands for election from his party, then another family member must necessarily stand from another party? Or should shun politics? This is naivete at best.

And “no land acquisitions if farmers are opposed” is an obvious statement and indeed the policy of the day. The problem occurs when a few farmers hold out and make the entire process of land acquisition untenable. That is why the new land acquisition policy suggests that if 70-80% of the land owners agree to the financial terms, the remaining 20-30% can be compelled to sell. Now, everyone understands that this cannot be easy on those who have to surrender their lands, but then does Kejriwal have a better policy to offer? Does Kejriwal understand that there are different lobbies at work here? The Congress is proposing to make land acquisition very expensive – asking for six times the market value to be paid and for a long term income generation plan for those who lose their land. Does Kejriwal agree with this? Because if he does, then he’s already lost the support of the industrialists. And he may want to remember – just as much as the Congress may want to – that a country cannot grow without the private sector growing. The private sector deploys capital efficiently; generates more jobs and makes growth more sustainable than any government ever can. But the point today is not whether private industry is good or bad; it is whether Kejriwal is not being too much of a baby in the woods in making such ludicrous policy statements.

At the end of the day, Kejriwal has only two things to offer. One, that the JLP will be passed. And two that the Right to Recall will be implemented. Both of these are unviable. The JLP is a draconian piece of legislation and if Kejriwal’s party was to be based purely on that, I for one would canvass against it. We surely don’t want a Lokpal Raj in this country – a body full of corrupt people who judge others who may or may not be corrupt as well. And the Right to recall? Well, even the EC has said it is unsustainable in our electoral system, in which even the winner usually gets less than 50% of the votes. These things are OK for small countries; completely impossible in a large one like India.

Net net, Kejriwal has floundered in his first step. What would I advise him to do? I would advise him to first and foremost announce his team; even before announcing his policies. For example, if he got Prashant Bhushan as his future Law Minister, I would have liked to know that. But if Prashant Bhushan was the Foreign Minister, god save this country. I would have liked to know who the Finance minister would be, and then I would like to hear that person speak about his/her priorities. Will he be socialistic or would he favor private industry? In short, I would build my team first, and then use them to talk about the policies. The problem with Kejriwal is that I only know him as an anti-corruption crusader. Unfortunately, that is not enough to run a country. Running a country is a complex, multi-layered task. We need Kejriwal to convince us he at least understands these subjects.

The real truth is that Kejriwal has floundered on his first step. Politics is not about one single issue; its about a raft of different matters. Kejriwal hasn’t shown us the gumption to embrace all of these. Like I said, he should build his team first, and then decide policies….

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