We, the middle class, must take to politics

dir="ltr">The low polling percentage in MCH elections – about 50% – has raised many eyebrows. Elections are the very lifeblood of a democracy. Honest and capable citizens freely chosen as their representatives in a fair election process constitute the essence of good governance. An election is therefore about ‘who’ get elected, ‘how’ the election is conducted and ‘what’ they do after the election. Elections involve organization of political parties, evolving a platform, mobilizing public opinion, campaigning to convey the message to the voters, and obtaining support to get elected.

Pitfalls in Political Funding Reform

dir="ltr">As Mark Twain said, nothing concentrates the mind more beautifully than the knowledge that one has only fifteen days to live. As the political and economic crisis is worsening, and as illegitimate and unaccounted election expenditure is skyrocketing (there are instances of candidates buying votes in village panchayats spending Rs 1.5 crore!), parties are showing belated but welcome signs of eagerness for political funding reform.

A Time to Applaud and Follow the Lead

The gruesome tragedy in Nepal and the excitement of the Indo-Pak summit have pushed other potentially far reaching developments from the front pages.  The 9-member committee report on Congress Fund Raising by Dr Manmohan Singh is of fundamental importance to the polity.  The Singh Committee recommended raising a corpus of Rs 50 crore to meet the recurrent party annual expenditure of about Rs 5 crore.  The Congress Working Committee accepted the suggestion and decided to raise money only by cheques hereafter.

The Real Lessons of Tehelka Exposes

Tarun Tejpal, Aniruddha Bahal and Matthew Samuel of Tehelka.com have done a great national service by exposing the pervasive corruption in the establishment. But it will be a great national tragedy if these exposes are regarded as a juicy scandal to embarrass the ruling combine or promote the prospects of the opposition. That was how the political establishment responded to the Bofors revelations in 1987. Fourteen years later the system reeks of corruption, and none of the culprits have been brought to book. Jain Hawala and other scandals followed the same pattern.

Election Expenditure and Corruption

The problem of corruption enters every citizen’s daily life. Almost every interaction with the government — be it for a birth certificate or ration card, electricity connection or water supply, for filing a police complaint or approval of a building plan – requires a bribe. All the eloquent sermons on the scourge of corruption by every party seeking power have provided no real relief to citizens. If anything, both the scale and spread have escalated.

Agriculture: Short-term Sops vs Long-term Solutions

The beauty of a democracy is that every election gives us an opportunity to reexamine policies and change course. The agriculture sector which was untouched by economic reform, is now in grave crisis. The recent electoral reverses in most states has forced governments to focus on agriculture.