Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Highest number of women MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha

A record 59 women MPs have been elected to the new Lok Sabha – the highest since independence, and 17 of them are less than 40 years-old, reports The Hindu.

A record 59 women MPs have been elected to the new Lok Sabha – the highest since independence, and 17 of them are less than 40 years-old.

According to PRS Legislative Research, an organisation that aims to strengthen legislative debate, among the 59 women MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha, a majority - 23 - are from the Congress. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has 13 women members.

Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of 13 women MPs to represent the most populous state. It is followed by West Bengal with seven. … In all, 556 women had contested the 2009 general elections, of which 59 were elected.

The lowest percentage of women representations was in the sixth Lok Sabha (1977-80) when there were only 3.8 percent women MPs.

The first Lok Sabha (1952-57) had 4.4 percent women MPs. In the 13th Lok Sabha (1999-2004), the figure was 9.2 percent, the research group said.

The research group said that women representatives in the age group of 40 to 60 has gone down. Now, less than 57 percent of women fall in this category as compared to over 73 percent in 2004. But this time, women over 60 make a 13.80 percent, while it was a mere 9.8 percent in the 14th Lok Sabha.

According the PRS, the total percentage of MPs this time in the age group of 41-55 years has been the second lowest in the last 14 sessions with only 43 percent members belonging to the age group.

Read the original article here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

332 parties failed to open their account in the polls

A total of 369 parties, including seven national parties, had fielded candidates in the elections 2009. However, the winners are only from 37 different parties, reports Times of India.

The Lok Sabha elections have spelt doom for 332 political parties which failed to open their account.

A total of 369 parties, including seven national parties, had fielded candidates in the elections. However, winners in this year's polls are from 37 different parties, according to the list of winning candidates brought out by the Election Commission. Candidates from 38 parties had won the elections in the last general polls.

Eight parties, whose candidates had won the elections last time, have drawn a blank this year. They include, Pattali Makkal Katchi and Lok Janshakti Party.

Majority of the parties, which failed to open their account, had participated in the elections for the first time this year.

Over 1000 parties were registered with the EC before this year's polls. However, 369 parties had fielded candidates in this year's polls. A total of 8070 candidates fought the elections.

At the time of 2004 polls, there were 215 parties, including six national parties and 36 state parties. However, their number this year increased to 1027 including seven national parties, 40 state parties and 980 recognized unregistered parties.

Read the original article here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Calculating assets of politicians is difficult

Calculating the wealth of our politicians is far from easy. Firstly, it’s virtually impossible to collect information for all the 8,070 candidates who contested this Lok Sabha election, reports The Mint.

Calculating the wealth of our politicians is far from easy. Firstly, it’s virtually impossible to collect information for all the 8,070 candidates who contested this Lok Sabha election.

When Empowering India, an online initiative of New Delhi’s Liberty Institute, tried to compile this data, the organization found that there were about 470 candidates whose affidavits were not yet available on the various election offices’ websites.

Another 400 or so candidates had filed affidavits that were illegible or incomplete. Some of these didn’t declare any assets at all.

Check the "Assets Arithmetic"

But even if you leave out these 800+ affidavits, before calculating the average assets of our politicians, one thing is clear: Our politicians’ wealth points only one way—up.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Have Your Say

Dear Readers,
This is a space for all kinds of comments and suggestions. You can pen down, rather key down, your thoughts on democracy or Empowering India or any queries here and we will reply back to you.
Making Democracy Meaningful!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The example set by India’s greatest political party has been followed by many lesser ones too, who have treated their parties as family firms. The “greatest enemy of the Congress” is “Itself”, writes Ramchandra Guha in The Telegraph.

Inspiring Bhakti
Growing up as an only child, with a sick mother and a father frequently abroad or in jail, Indira Gandhi did not allow herself to easily trust anybody. Least of all, the Congress Old Guard. Thus, the very men who had helped make her prime minister were the men she broke away from, soon after assuming the top job in Indian politics. In 1969, Indira Gandhi divided the Congress. The faction that stayed with her was soon recognized as the real Congress, especially after it won an authoritative victory in the general elections of 1971, riding to power on the backs of the slogan of “Garibi Hatao”.

To retain control over party and government, Indira Gandhi adopted four different strategies. First, she built a core of loyal advisers outside the Congress. She increasingly took her counsel not from her fellow cabinet ministers but from civil servants and technocrats in the prime minister’s office, which was headed by her fellow Allahabadi, PN Haksar. Second, she disbanded the old, decentralized structure of the Congress — where district and state units had substantial autonomy — and placed individuals who were personally loyal to her at the head of Pradesh Congress committees. Third, at Haksar’s inspiration, she floated the idea of the ‘committed’ civil servant and the ‘committed’ judge, so that key positions in the bureaucracy and the judiciary were also now occupied by individuals known to be loyal and subservient to the prime minister. Fourth, at election time she appealed directly to the voters, asking them to place their trust in her as an individual rather than in her party or its programme.

The dangers of Indira Gandhi’s brand of politics had been anticipated by the chief draughtsman of the Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar. In his final speech to the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar warned his compatriots against an unthinking submission to charismatic authority. He quoted John Stuart Mill, who had cautioned citizens not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions”. This warning was even more pertinent here than in England, for, as Ambedkar observed, “in India, Bhakti, or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be the road to the salvation of a soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

From the time she split the Congress in 1969, Indira Gandhi worked systematically to dismantle the institutions and procedures of constitutional democracy. This she did by privileging loyalty over competence — in her party, in her council of ministers, in the legislative and judicial branches of government. Ministers, Congressmen, bureaucrats, judges, and in time even ordinary citizens — all were encouraged to lay their liberties at the feet of this Great Woman, the submission conveyed in the slogan, “Indira is India, India is Indira”.
When Sanjay died in an air crash in 1980, Indira Gandhi immediately drafted her other son into the Congress. When she was herself killed in October 1984, this son, Rajiv, was sworn in as prime minister. One of his first acts was to bring his old schoolfriends into politics. Like his mother, he could not bring himself to trust his own partymen...

Jawaharlal Nehru did not hope or desire that his daughter should succeed him as prime minister — a fact that is not as widely known as it should be. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi worked to make first Sanjay and then Rajiv her political successor. Sonia Gandhi has followed her mother-in-law scrupulously in this respect, for she has likewise ensured that her own son would head the party, and, perhaps in time, the government. The example set by India’s greatest political party has been followed by many lesser ones. Had Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi not acted in this fashion, perhaps Bal Thackeray, Parkash Singh Badal, M. Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would not so brazenly have treated their own political parties as family firms.

The novelist, Gore Vidal, once remarked of his adopted homeland, Italy, that it combined the worst features of socialism with the worst features of capitalism. The Republic of India goes one step further — it adds, to the worst features of socialism and of capitalism, the worst features of feudalism...

A Spanish journalist recently asked me what I thought the “greatest enemy of the Congress” was. I answered, immediately and instinctively, “Itself”.

Read the full story here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Congress needs to nurture Rahul: Not goad him on when he is unprepared

I believe that the Congress is loading Rahul Gandhi with some really unrealistic expectations. To be fair, there is nothing terribly wrong with Rahul Gandhi. But he is simply not capable of working out a new paradigm for the party or for Indian politics at large, writes Madhu Kishwar in DNA.

Rahul’s no least not yet
I believe that the Congress is loading Rahul Gandhi with some really unrealistic expectations. If you expect someone to wave a magic wand over what increasingly appears to be a moribund party and revive it with the sheer force of his personality or charisma, you are asking for too much. And remember that Rahul Gandhi is not a Barrack Obama. You need real genius to pull off that kind of a miracle.

To be fair, there is nothing terribly wrong with Rahul Gandhi. But he is simply not capable of working out a new paradigm for the party or for Indian politics at large. He is no doubt a good guy, but he is not competent to handle the enormous load he has been stuck with. There is a problem with this role that he is supposed to be taking on. On the one hand, he is under training — a large team of intellectuals is supposedly engaged in training him to take charge and become a good politician. On the other hand, he is supposed to be also playing a leader to the party and a potential PM. This is like some on-the-job-training and it doesn’t work.

It is clear that Rahul is only an average political talent. And he is incapable of dealing with the huge agenda the Congress has piled on him. Why just him? Any inexperienced young politician would crack under it. It is terrible to be brought into politics as though you were born to rule. Or to be told that one has to come to power because one is born into a certain family. Everyone in the Congress has to dwarf himself or herself in the public arena so that Rahul can appear tallest and can shine like no other. He is not treated like a young person who is finding his feet in politics. He has been invested with almost semi-divine powers to prop up the Congress’ sagging fortunes.

Read the full story here.

(Madhu Kishwar is a senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.)

Mayawati and the Middle class

Seetha has written the article below on her blog 'Beyond Labels'.

I am petrified at the thought of J Jayalalitha becoming Prime Minister. I am also petrified at the thought of Lalu Yadav becoming Prime Minister because of the way he ruined Bihar. And I am petrified at the thought of Mayawati as Prime Minister too.

I am getting a bit tired of all criticism of the idea of Mayawati as Prime Minister being attributed to urban English-speaking middle class snobbery and a class prejudice. I have seen several commentators take this line in recent months, the latest being Suryakant Waghmore in today's Indian Express.

I am quoting from his article (to which I have provided a link) only because I have it in front of me, but the points that he makes have been made by several others.

First he says "while the English speaking middle class largely opposes Mayawati because of her caste, they do not express this by hurling caste abuses. They try to respond (not react) through English politeness and thus create a new English speaking middle class caste-culture.

"This, surely, runs contrary to a truly liberal attitude that would have celebrated Mayawati's great success and recognised what she has done as a single Dalit woman without any family legacy, in a highly patriarchal and hostile environment."

Now this is patently ridiculous. I have a sneaking admiration for Mayawati for where she has taken the BSP. I am sure that she could not have done this if it were not for Kanshi Ram's patronage, but I concede that she could have wasted that patronage but did not. I fully agree with Waghmore that "Mayawati and BSP's growth represents the deepening of democracy in India."

But look beyond that. What else is Mayawati known for? Personal aggrandisement and corruption. Has she done anything for Dalits or for the state in each of her tenures? Or even the current tenure, when the BSP has a complete majority? Apart from building statues and monstrous memorials, that is? Waghmore comments on English speaking middle class obsession with her statues. But why shouldn't that be subject to criticism? Is that a measure of development of the state or the uplift of Dalits? When, in 2007, Mayawati came to power on the basis of a new social coalition, eschewing the upper caste hatred that had marked the BSP's politics till then, many expected that this would be a sobering influence on her and that she would behave in a more responsible way, focussing on administration and good governance. Two years on, can anyone testify that she has done that? She appeared to be making some right moves in the beginning, especially on the economic front. But she quickly backtracked. The counter argument is that the Mulayam Singh was equally bad. Sure, but the thought of Mulayam Singh as Prime Minister will also frighten a lot of people. Sure no government has ever done anything for Dalit uplift. But does that mean Mayawati should not be criticised for doing nothing for the group she claims to work for?

Arguments like Waghmore's precludes the possibility of the urban middle class reacting to issues like corruption and personal aggrandisement. Despite my cynicism about its apathy, I think this is an unfair charge. The middle class was quite accepting of a Dalit as president and now as Chief Justice of India. If it was reacting purely on the basis of prejudice, then there would have been equally sharp reactions to these appointments.

I am an English speaking urban middle class Iyengar Brahmin. I am petrified at the thought of Mayawati as Prime Minister. But I am equally petrified at the thought of J Jayalalitha (who is not a Dalit but an English speaking urban middle class Iyengar Brahmin) becoming Prime Minister. Because Jayalalitha's regimes have also been marked by rampant corruption and a highly personalised style of functioning. Just like Mayawati.

I am petrified at the thought of Lalu Yadav becoming Prime Minister. Not because he is a Yadav or because of his rustic ways, but because of the way he ruined Bihar. I am more comfortable with the idea of Nitish Kumar as Prime Minister, even though he is a Kurmi and though he is an engineer by education, he is not an English speaking urban middle class person. I am petrified of Ram Vilas Paswan becoming Prime Minister one day not because he is a Dalit but because of stories about his corrupt ways. But I am also petrified of Kamal Nath, an English-speaking urban middle class person, becoming Prime Minister (never mind that he probably doesn't have those ambitions) again because of his reputation for corruption.

Behind such insinuations of the kind Waghmore makes is the belief that Mayawati should not be opposed or criticised just because she is a Dalit. This is carrying the politics of victimhood a bit too far.

~ Seetha
(Seetha is a journalist and a committed liberal.)
For the full story click here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

EI Suggestion: Painting all with the same brush...

Here is a mail that we received from a reader – Mohan Menon. He has sent us a few suggestions on what we could include in more comprehensive information on
Similarly, we would like to urge our readers to let us know what they would like to know about their leaders, and we would make an honest attempt in providing the same.

The email:

Dear Sir,
I congratulate you for spreading awareness about the financial assets & criminal records of candidates contesting for the General Elections in our beloved country. I have read various reports published in news papers and magazines on these matters – wealth and criminality of MPs/ MLAs. However, I would urge you to consider the following suggestions and use your communication power to improve the presentation of facts so that it is easily understandable by the citizens.
There should be a parameter to distinguish the ill-gotten assets form those made by sheer hard work and professionalism.
(a) Many employees of Infosys are crore-patis. Let us call them Honest Professionals 'H'. This category could have employees of Wipro and its chairman Azim premji (honest tax paying business), Ratan Tata , Mafatlal (once a millioaire), Shaporji Pallonji, etc. – businessmen who are known for their ethical business practices.
(b) Then there are businessmen known to employ short cut methods like - bribing, political patronage, muscle power. They make money and hide incomes. They have both black & white money stashed away. Money was the end and the means did not bother them. These businessmen let us call them 'B'.
(c) The third category is professional politician known for honesty and integrity with or without family wealth who used political power to do good work for people. They did not amass personal wealth or curry favour for sons, relatives or anyone. Leaders like Sri Gulzari Lal Nanda, Indrajit Chatterjee, Sri K Kamraj, Sri Madhu Dandavate, Sri Vasudevan Nair, Sri AK Antony and Dr Manmohan Singh fall in this category.
They are known for their personal integrity and professionalism. Let us call them Model Leaders "M".
(d) Then there are professional politicians who rose as student leaders or trade unions leaders or local thugs /goodas with little or no family wealth and no professional achievement or high scholastic ability. They get elected and amass wealth slowly at first and at greater rates as their money-cum-political clout enhance. Many start legitimate looking businesses. These politicians are not genuinely interested in the progress of the country but usually create projects to get kick backs. They form sadly the bulk of the elected representatives. Let us call them “P”.

Among the hardcore criminals, there are many people who have with politically sponsored criminal cases foisted on them. Hence, we cannot categorise all criminals as one. Below are a few categories that I can think of:
(a) Student activists who get little bit of success in their altruistic struggle often get locked up by politicians. E.g. the recent agitations in All India Institute of Medical Sciences where students struggled to prevent erosion of its reputation. Some of the students were arrested and criminal charges of rioting were registered against them. They are the usual democratic agitators. Let us call them Democrats - "D".
(b) Then there are the professional politician's henchmen who agitate, indulge in all kinds of violence and goondaism. Let us call them Goons "G".
(c) The political rally is disturbed by agitators of opposite party – party in power – who uses official strength of Police to suppress the agitation. Criminal charges are filed. Often the leader of the opposition is implicated. It is a politically motivated criminal case. Let us call such politicians “V” (victims).
(d) The mafia Dons and erstwhile goondas who came to get elected by the corrupt political system. They have genuine criminal cases, rape & murder cases registered. Let us call them “C” (criminals).

In your published articles and news reports all the categories that I differentiated above are clubbed together under high asset ('A' above) rich candidates and candidates with criminal records ('B' above). Is it accurate to paint Rahul bajaj & Mayawati with same brush.??

Many CPI /CPM candidates have criminals charges filed against them. Factually they fall under category "D" democratic agitators. There are Dons & Goons who have committed murders (of subcategory "G" above). But candidates of both subgroups D and G are clubbed under one category in reports "Candidates with criminal records". Is it fair?

Please do consider the above submission and act honestly with integrity and no private agenda.

- Mohan Menon