Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Living the life

Its a pity that I haven't blogged about things in a long while. Isolation doesn't seem to help, with anything.


In recent years, I have read few biographies. I enjoyed Steve Jobs' biography by Walter Isaacson and the auto-biographies of Stephen Hawkins and Vinod Mehta.

Few weeks back, I started reading Abraham Lincoln's biography by Ronald C White. There are quite a number of authors who have written biographies of Lincoln. I chose this one based on a recommendation. But I'm not finding this version very interesting.

A chronicle of events in Lincoln's life is not as interesting as knowing more about Lincoln, the person. I wish he had a written his autobiography. The contemplative, storing telling Lincoln portrayed in Spielberg's movie was the one I was looking for.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
Or so Lincoln apparently said. Power perhaps could be replaced with Responsibility for the common folk. Having been in a position to withstand adversity and bear responsibility, in the past year or so, I didn't find the former any easier. Lincoln himself withstood quite a few adversity. But not sure, if there is direct account from him, on how he managed to do that.


I don't have much to say on withstanding adversity or bearing responsibility myself. I don't think I managed either well. But if I have to offer a strategy, it'll be to trust one's instincts. Its possible that when under siege (not stress) our perspective is reduced to the most important things and hence our instincts more useful. Even otherwise, following one's instinct helps deal with regrets later.

Another useful strategy, surprisingly, I remember from a movie by Kamal Hassan. In Virumaandi, the character played by him will say something to the effect.
We don't seem to realize happiness, when we actually live it.
This is ofcourse looking back, when things have turned worse. It might be a good strategy to do more, say splurge, during moments of happiness and make it more memorable. Because, such moments may not come back and in hindsight, we may regret not enjoying those moments to the full.


Not sure, if I'll complete this biography of Lincoln. I hope to read more though and perhaps write more here too.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Beer Post

I have returned to trying beers for the past few months. I mean, try a new beer every week or so. This post is to rate and to remember what I have tried in the past.

4 stars for those i really liked.

Tsingtao - ? - China ****
Corona - ? - Mexico ***
Bierra Moretti - lager - Italy **
Budwiser magnum - ? - US? ***
Peroni - lager - Italy *
Asahi - lager - Japan ***
Baltika - ? - Russia *
Estrella Dumm - ? - Spain *
Bira - wheat bier - Belgium ***
Krombacher - pils - Germany ***
Angkor - ? - Cambodia **
London Pride - ale? - UK ***
Erdinger - wheat beer - Germany ****
Hoegaarden - wheat beer - Belgium ****
Heineken - ? - ? **
Budwiser - ? - US ***
Miller lite - ? - US *
Foster - ? - Australia *
Kingfisher Premium - ? - India *
Indus Pride? - spice beers - India **

Sunday, May 18, 2014

On the Liberal path ....

In summary, I think this election has been good for the Indian Republic.

The Conservatives have got a clear mandate from the people. An extremely corrupt and cynical party, Congress has suffered its worst defeat in history. Many political dynasties have been rejected. A nascent party arising out of a civil society movement has been given the best feedback possible from the electorate. That its heart (bringing in good people to politics) is in the right place, but irresponsible behavior (49 day bhagoda govt, silly contests in Varanasi/Amethi) will not be rewarded.

Having been a supporter of the BJP in my younger years, I have always felt the resentment of the Sangh towards outsiders who didn't agree with their Manuvaadi and later Hindutva ideology. With the ascent of Shri. Mohan Bhagwat, the purge of the outsiders began. I'm glad I took the cue and left the party in 2009. In hindsight, this clearing of the house and the determination to stand by their ideology has paid of. The tamasha of RSS not taking responsibility for the actions of its political wing, is no longer possible. This can only be good for our polity.

I admire (and hence fear) the steadfast loyalty of Shri. Narendra Modi to his beliefs. I have written about it in the past, but I think we now know for sure, what Modi stands for. It takes lot of courage to stick to one's ideology even when the stakes are extremely high. A silly example of this is Modi's refusal to wear a skull cap when he has no qualms wearing a Sikh pagadi and a tribal head dress in Arunachal. Hindutva doesn't accept Muslims and Christians as Hindus (Indians), while Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Apatani religion are 'unorthodox' Hindu (Indian) religions. We may not agree with this Conservatism, but not understanding this thinking can only be our fault.

On the Left, CPM model has completely collapsed in Bengal. For many years now, the movement left has deserted the parties and identified with Maoists, student unions and the likes of Ms. Medha Patkar, Ms. Aruna Roy, Ms. Arundhati Roy and Mr. Udayakumar. Now they see a ray of hope in the Aam Aadmi Party. I desperately hope that AAP gets better consul and takes a principled left-liberal turn, instead of being mired in ideological confusion. Anarchy is not a sustainable ideology. Swaraj (village self rule) and standing up for the downtrodden, to protect them from Corporate excesses and deliberate crony capitalism, is a worthy endeavor. Left liberal people have something concrete (AAP) to work on.

And finally, the (right) Liberals. We have always remained divided and hence paid for it. Considering Liberal parties have almost never won any election anywhere in the world, not willing to cooperate is a weird choice. Swantatra Party had 44 MPs in 1967. I just wish those who want to emulate Swatantra (Mr. Jaswant Singh who was a member, Loksatta Party which adopted the 5 pointed star, Swatantra Bharat Paksha) and the nascent Navbharat Democratic Party, all work together to provide a credible Liberal alternative to the Indian electorate.

On my part, I'm determined to continue supporting all Liberal forces in the country. I voted for Mr. Nandan Nilekani (who I think is Liberal, though somewhat left), campaigned for Mr. Jayaprakash Narayan in Malkajgiri (Loksatta President) and Mr. Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi (because he was taking on Narendra Modi).

I'll continue to be a member of the Loksatta Party (still the only viable Liberal party in India) and support Takshashila Institution, Center for Civil Society, Center for Public Policy, Liberty Institute, India Enterprise Council and Freedom Team India in their activities.

As I said above, if there is one thing that we can learn from Mr. Narendra Modi, its his courage to stand by his beliefs. My belief in Liberalism (as a means to human organization and happiness) only became more resolved this election season. Looking forward to the future, with hope.

Pamphlet distributed by Together with Nandan team during their door2door campaign in our apartment complex, Bangalore South constituency. April 05, 2014.

Loksatta Party's Malkajgiri candidate Jayaprakash Narayan campaigning for the party's nominee in Jubilee Hills assembly constituency. April 19, 2014.

Aam Aadmi Party's Varanasi candidate Arvind Kejriwal campaigning in Sarai Dengri village, of Rohania assembly constituency in Varanasi. May 03, 2014.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

To prevent further sexual harassment, press charges.

Risking accusations of misogyny, I want to write about recent victims of sexual harassment.

1. Supreme Court interns allegedly harassed by a retired SC Judge don't want to press charges.

2. A journalist working for an organization which specializes in public exposes, was allegedly raped by her Editor but didn't press charges for a week and despite a national outrage and absence of a Sexual Harassment Committee in her office, still won't go to police herself.

3. A woman allegedly snooped/stalked by Gujarat govt officials at the instance of a 'saheb', is allegedly asking her father to write to NCW and GCW to claim that snooping was infact protection given to her and that there should be no investigation in this regard.

4. A senior executive of a IT services company which employs tens of thousands of high-skilled women, was accused of sexual harassment but was allowed to settle instead of being prosecuted. He went onto become the CEO of another company which also employs thousands of high-skilled women and was again accused of sexual harassment ... and again allowed to go without charges being pressed.

Now, I think about a quote allegedly from an accused in the Mumbai journalist rape incident. Apparently they had gang-raped 4 other poor women and warned them to never tell anyone and that this gave them the confidence to attempt again with this journalist. To their credit, the journalist or her male friend (i'm not sure), reported the incident to police.

What does this tell us? If victims don't want to go to police, what is the point of protesting or blaming the police who somehow have to protect women and children from half a billion men?

Sure, police stations are not known to be safe places for victims of sexual harassment. And I would like to see, among other things,

1. establishment of all women police stations with provision for women medical examiners and prosecutors,

2. online FIRs so that its registered before we go to a police station go give testimony/evidence and

3. More women operated transport (auto-rickshaws, taxis and buses) to reassure women of their safety.

But if SC interns won't press charges and a whole bunch of feminists keeping telling us that its up to the journalist to press charges or not against her editor, in an office which doesn't have SHC, I don't know what kind of progress we are expecting.

ps: The discussions and laws on this subject mostly seem to disregard men who get sexually harassed as children and in relatively less instances as adults.

Friday, November 01, 2013

A Statue to shame us all

Dams are built at a terrible cost. Thousands of poor people lose land, livelihood and their way of life, for a compensation. Eminent Domain by which we authorize the state to take over private land, to serve the greater common good of the country, must be used with great caution and respect.

The dams built across Narmada have been especially painful. Thousands of people in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra lost their villages to irrigate Gujarat. Hundreds of activists are protesting the callous way in which compensation was distributed and still hasn't reached some. I have been vary of Narmada Bachao Andolan but have never been unsympathetic to people's demands for just compensation.

Now, some people are building a statue of Sardar Patel on the bank of Sardar Sarovar Dam. I mean, a dam already named after Sardar Patel. Why the State is involved in such a statue building exercise is beyond me. How do we tolerate 2500 crore rupees being spent to build a freaking statue when thousands are still protesting to get compensation for terrible personal sacrifices? And why do we remain mute spectators to one man's misuse of the statue to further his political ambition?

Its quite depressing.

ps: I took the above photo while visiting Bhakra dam which is celebrating 50 years this October. I'm sure our statue builders will also begrudge this portrait of our then Prime Minster who was instrumental in building that dam.

My visit to Bhakra was quite a learning experience. A photo essay here:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Onion Price kerfuffle

I briefly looked into the Onion Price kerfuffle and this is what I found.

1. Onion does not come under the Essential Commodities Act 1955 and hence the union and state govts cannot per se stop hoarding or storage by farmers or traders. The Union govt can control export of Onions by increasing the Minimum Export Price (MEP) which it did recently.

2. After a similar inflation in December 2010, the Competition Commission of India asked the Bangalore based Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC) to study the Onion markets. The report was published in 2012. It found no smoking gun and hence no quick fixes possible.

3. Maharashtra, Karnataka, MP and Gujarat seem to be the major onion producing states and ISEC study in MH and KA finds collusion between traders, commission agents, wholesalers and some farmers, to control the supply of Onions to maximize their profits.

4. ISEC study's major recommendations are,

a. try and prevent secret biddings (illegal under Regulated Market act) which help some traders to get most of the onion produce,
b. empower APMCs to punish intentional hoarders,
c. break the cartel of commission agents by removing entry barriers.
d. discourage export control using MEP (affects farmers).
e. educate farmers on prices and procure directly from them.

Fixing the wrong machines: EVMs instead of ATMs

Early this evening I went to an ICICI bank ATM to withdraw some 'change'. Instead of entering 400, I entered 500 and pat came a single note!! I took it to a nearby medical shop and got a candy (tamarind flavor) instead of 1 rupee change!

I fail to understand why RBI and the govt have been unable to force retail banks to ensure liquidity in proper denominations. Why can't banks be forced to issue 20, 50 rupees denominations for say 500 rupees, per account per month on their ATMs?

When I was still in high school, my dad used to go withdraw money from a bank every month and will bring a bundle of 10 rupee bills (1000) and a packet of 1 or 2 rupee coins. I did that too from a Wells Fargo branch in Santa Monica (quarters) or the university quarter machines for my laundry.

But I wonder how easy it is for us (and the customer facing businesses) to get such change from an Indian bank. One of the last few times I went to a bank (HDFC Koramangala), I ended up carrying my bicycle inside the branch as a protest against their security not allowing my two wheeler to be parked in their two wheeler parking space.

While bank ATMs remain in their -5.0 version or something, some professional litigants and the equally indulgent judges are forcing the Election Commission to create a paper trail of some 250 million votes cast in our elections!!

No one except the most cynical politicos, have had a problem with our voter machines. Since these paper slips are not going to be issued to voters, wonder what is going to prevent Dr. Swamy from continuing to claim that EVMs are preset to vote for his opposing parties and print the paper slip likewise too?!! And as one former election commissioners observed, giving these paper slips instead to voters will be a constant nuisance with usual suspects protesting that they didn't press the button as recorded in the paper slip. Oh, well.

An Odd Republic: Supreme Court adventurism

Are you, like me, alarmed at the rate at which Supreme Court is putting pressure on the Executive, based mostly (according to me) on the whim of the presiding judges?

1. Declaring an amendment to Representation of People's Act enacted by parliament in 1989 as unconstitutional (which is ok) but simultaneously interfering with the Parliamentary privilege to decide when a convicted member can be disqualified.

2. Declaring AICTE as an advisory body and creating a regulatory vacuum for Engineering colleges. Messing with the Medical council before that.

3. Dictating that NOTA and Paper Trail are mandatory just because the Election Commission is pliant? Shouldn't political parties and Parliament have a say? At the very least, such measures cost money.

4. And dictating to the Executive what identity measure (Aadhar) it can or cannot use for welfare programs?

I myself think targeted welfare is wrong and will never work (like most economists say). I have written at length how Nandan's biometric card is a foolhardy exercise and will positively result in excluding the needy from getting welfare (as Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey have been arguing). I believe Direct Cash Transfer is immoral and will make welfare even more harder to reach the excluded poor (because of competition from undeserving rich people like the ones - most of them - lining up at their LPG distributor).

Its perhaps not even Government's fault that the bill to legitimize UIDAI was stuck in the standing committee. However for the SC to order the govt on whether Aadhar can be made mandatory for receiving welfare, seems clear misadventure in the domain of the executive and legislature.

But then our Supreme Court appoints food commissioners (?!!). We better learn to live with this odd republic.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

When Jayalalitha was convicted and became CM two times later.

I feel like a voter of a previous generation. I remember campaigning for DMK in 1996 (in 10th std, i was 14) in the infamous election to oust Jayalalitha. 4 years later she was convicted in the TANSI land deal case and sentenced to 3 years rigorous imprisonment.

Jayalalitha's conviction was in 2000 and just before the 2001 assembly election. A mob led by ADMK activists burnt a agricultural university bus in Dharmapuri and killed 3 girls to protest against this conviction. They await hanging in death sentences awarded later.

Because of her conviction, Jayalalitha could not contest the 2001 election. To save face she deliberately filed nominations from 4 constituencies and got them rejected by the Election Commission. In that election ADMK won in a landslide and Jayalalitha was sworn in as CM despite the conviction and her not being a MLA.

Supreme court declared her appointment as null and void. O Panneerselvam was made Tamilnadu's CM. (a friend used to call me Panneerselvam in college because of my political activities!!).

Then in 2003, Jayalalitha was acquitted by the High Court which quashed the trial court verdict in the TANSI case. She went on to become CM couple of more times including her current term.

Now, as people croon about Laloo Yadav and Rasheed Masood, I merely want to point out that trial court judgments can be erroneous. These politicians were elected by people. Its utterly immoral to unseat them before appeal, and undemocratic to render their constituencies unrepresented. This is not a Platonic republic. Democracy means accepting other people's opinion and patiently making our case so that a majority accepts our views.

ps: oh, yes. I too believe Jayalalitha, Laloo Yadav and Rasheed Masood are corrupt. But even as a 14 year old, I used democratic means to try and unseat one of them.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Rebutting Mr. K. Parasaran's claims of unconstitutionality in Bill LXII of 2013

As I have written before, I believe the Ordinance/Bill to suspend disqualification of legislators until their appeal is heard by a High Court is both constitutional and morally the right thing to do. Reading a learned lawyer like Mr. K. Parasaran's weak claims of unconstitutionality, further vindicates my support for the Ordinance/Bill.

My rebuttal of Mr. K. Parasaran's claims made here:

1. K.M. Nanavati vs State of Bombay (AIR 1961 SC 112):

The Order of the Governor to suspend the sentence and allow the officer to continue serving in the Navy, is not at all comparable to this ordinance. A convicted legislator starts serving his/her sentence and any relief in terms of bail or stay of conviction/sentence is entirely up to the trial or high court judges. In fact this ordinance stops a convicted legislator from taking part in parliament debates or drawing salary. Both these restrictions are in addition to the sentence imposed by a trial court. The convicted legislator cannot attend parliament unless the trial or appeal's court allows the prisoner to do so. To say that the Speaker should also disqualify the legislator, and render a constituency unrepresented in parliament, all before his/her appeal is heard, is arbitrary and judicial overreach. Mr. Parasaran's claim that this ordinance/bill interferes with the judge's power to set conditions while on appeal is totally false.
2. Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain (AIR 1975 SC 1590):

The case against Ms. Indira Gandhi was about her election to Parliament. If the court rules her election void, she obviously is disqualified from being a legislator. This case cannot be compared to conviction of legislators in cases unrelated to their election or work in parliament. If the trial court doesn't even have the power to disqualify a convict from being a elector (only temporary inability to vote because of being in jail), how does it have the power to disqualify a serving legislator and render his/her constituency unrepresented in Parliament?

To summarize, no judge has the right to dictate to the Speaker/Chairman of an elected body on whether or not to admit a elected legislator from participating in the proceedings of Parliament. The court's right to impose punishments or restrictions on the movement of a convicted person remains unaffected. If the High court in Ranchi rules that the bail condition for Mr. Laloo Yadav while hearing his appeal is for him to stay in Ranchi, he cannot attend Parliament irrespective of what the Ordinance/Bill proposes to do.

I'm sending this post to Mr. Parasaran at his official mail id as a Rajya Sabha member:
My earlier post on why I support the above discussed bill/ordinance:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why I support the bill/ordinance to undo SC judgment on disqualifying convicted legislators

Being a Libertarian is hard! I find myself isolated in supporting both the bill and the ordinance to undo the SC judgement on disqualifying convicted legislators.

1. Parliament should not give in to populism and unseat a convicted legislator without giving him/her a chance of one appeal. We can ensure that the appeals in case of convicted legislators are heard and decided within a month. Automatic and time bound appeals are common in many countries. The bill's provision that a convicted legislator cannot vote or draw salary while appeal is pending, is a reasonable measure.

2. An amendment to Representation of People's act has been in place since 1989 which was undone by SC. The SC has every right to interpret the constitution to say that there can be no discrimination between a sitting legislator and ordinary citizen. However SC judgement that a convicted legislator should be unseated before the appeal is decided is a violation of first principles and a case of legislating from the bench. Parliament has every right to pass a law to undo the judgement on disqualification. I don't think even a constitutional amendment is needed as some people suggest.

3. And just because its Laloo Yadav, doesn't mean that there is no need to pass an ordinance to prevent a later constitutional crisis. The crisis being a disqualified legislator getting acquitted on appeal and by then a new legislator getting elected and both fighting it out in the court. The parliament has a right, and in my opinion a duty, to pass a bill undoing the SC judgement (on disqualification, not contesting). 
While that parliament is asking citizens their opinion via a standing committee, why should some legislators be singled out to lose their seats because of potential erroneous convictions? Scores of other convicts are continuing to be legislators, one is infact a minister in Gujarat because of non-retrospective nature of the measures. Bringing the ordinance was a right thing to do.

4. Anyway in the hurry to be populist, we seem to be losing an opportunity to clean up politics. Making appeals automatic and time bound in the case of convicted legislators will infact lead to them actually serving their sentence. Current long appeal process, ensures convicted legislators stay away from jail or worse enables a change in government to sabotage the case with pliant public prosecutors.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why I support Run off Elections

I couldn't attend the discussion on Electoral Reforms organized by Loksatta Party Karnataka today because of a bad cold.

While Electoral Reforms have several aspects, on the main issue of the voting system, I'm steadfastly opposed to the Proportional Representation (PR) System and instead support the Run-off Election (ROE) model. Let me explain below. Also find a video of my talk on Electoral Reforms at a Takshashila Shala.

What is ROE model?

In ROE model, people will vote for candidates in the first round like they do currently in the FPTP (First Past the Post) model. If a candidate secures 50% percent of the votes, he/she will be elected. If however, no candidate gets 50%, a run-off election will be called between the top two candidates to select the eventual winner.

Advantages of Run-off Elections:

1. Curb criminals and caste/religious fanatics:

The ability of criminals and caste/religious fanatics to win elections will be greatly reduced, since a majority of voters can be expected to vote out such candidates in the run-off round.

2. Encourage good candidates to contest elections:

People can vote for a good candidate without wondering if their vote will be wasted, since they might get a more decisive say in the run-off round. There will be a lesser need for 'strategic voting' by certain communities to prevent a candidate/party from winning.

3. True representatives, not Dynasties:
In PR system, family members and cronies of party leaders will become our representatives without having to directly face the electorate. In ROE, the family members of leaders also have to contest the election and win 50% votes.

4. No Appeasement:

In FPTP model, all major parties field candidates from the caste/community influential in respective constituencies even if better candidates are available. In the ROE model, the electorate can be expected to vote against such appeasement if someone outside that community makes it to the run-off round.

5. Unlike PR system, ROE doesn't give representation to fringe elements:

The biggest advantage of a FPTP model is the opportunity it gives for fringe elements to contest the elections and stay within constitutional methods, and not take up arms for example. A PR model might give representation to fringe elements even if they are a small minority in all constituencies. ROE model moderates the influence of fringe elements on the polity till it reaches a critical mass in atleast one constituency.

6. Moderate Coalitions:

Opportunistic pre-poll, post-poll and hidden alliances among political parties are a bane of our current system. In ROE model, all parties can contest elections on their own and based on their performance, decide to support other party candidates (whose ideology they are comfortable with) in the run-off round.

Video streaming by Ustream

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Why I support the Food Secuirty Bill

Yesterday, I participated in a Social Audit of the Public Distribution System organized by the Bommanahalli unit of the Loksatta Party. It reinforced my support for the Food Security Bill passed by the Loksabha.

Being a right liberal (libertarian), let me explain my support for this welfare measure.

1. PDS is already implemented by States. NFSB merely provides more funds from the Union. I agree with left-liberal economists that the increase in spending because of NFSB is close to about 30000 crores per annum and that food is an investment on India's work force and not a freebie.

2. The poor contribute a very significant portion of the Union's tax kitty by way of Indirect taxes (sales and services). I believe tax revenue from such consumption based sources must necessarily be spent on welfare or not imposed at all. A program to nourish those taxpayers and their children, to the extent of ~60% of the population at about 1.2 lakh crores makes a lot of economic sense.

3. I have my own solution to fix PDS by adopting what works in states, namely universal coverage, tighter govt oversight on shops and govt owned transportation. There are about 5 lakh ration shops in the country mostly owned by individuals and few SHGs. My proposal is to allow FCI to open retail shops on a massive scale and encourage organized retailers like SHGs, Amul, HopComs, Karpagam, Food Bazaar, Reliance, Walmart etc to become PDS retailers. There is an incentive for private retailers to become PDS retailers because of volumes and sale of non-PDS items from their stores.

4. We need to make a distinction between,

a. public investments (public schools and hospitals, PDS, polio vaccine) which are necessary,
b. tax exemptions (IT parks, custom/excise duty waivers, income tax deductions, farm income) which are acceptable and
c. freebies (farm loan waivers, free rice, color tv, energy subsidies (electricity, petrol, diesel, LPG, kerosene) which are downright wrong and immoral.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Madras Cafe - Review

1. I have very rarely been disappointed by a Hindi movie in the last few years. Madras Cafe is once again a professional product. If you didn't know, the movie is about Indian involvement in the Lankan civil war culminating in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

2. The movie is entirely believable and not like some shitty Hollywood CIA trash. While the movie concentrates on the characters (many of whom we can make out in real life), a wider angle of how the events are seen by people is missing. Considering a journalist is available as a main character, they could have easily avoided the CCTV effect. They tried using TV news bulletins for this but that was clumsy. They could have gotten a real Doordarshan news reader from that time.

3. Casting is pretty good for most characters except perhaps John Abraham!

4. However, they don't seem to have made much attempt to get the costume and language of Lankan Tamils right. Maybe I'm looking for Kannathil Muthamittal type portrayal which may not be close either. However I did visit parts of northern Lanka few years back and this movie's costume designer could have tried a bit harder.

5. Finally, the story. This movie has tried to present such a balanced view that no one can complain. Infact this movie seems way more charitable to Prabhakaran than what even his apologists could have asked for.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dear Karnataka BJP voters, elect Loksatta candidates.

I was a BJP supporter for 17 years. One of my earliest memories being Nitish Kumar's speech in Parliament (c1994) that "a Bihari will become the next Prime Minister, Atal Bihari!". When BJP was voted emphatically to run the Karnataka Govt in 2008, after the betrayal by JDS leader Mr. Kumaraswamy, the entire state wished success for Chief Minister Mr. Yeddurappa and his cabinet. But what has BJP done with that mandate?

Operation Lotus, where the most opportunist of the MLAs were bought with Minister positions, was the initial shock. The way Bellary brothers went about amassing wealth and allegedly using that money to finance Operation Lotus, and hence were seen as bullying Mr. Yeddiyurappa embarrased every one of us. But we sympathised with the BJP for having to run a government under such circumstances.

Somewhere along the way, corruption seeped into BJP ranks. Landscams became the order of the day with several BJP ministers accused of denotifying land and handing them over to cronies, the lands that had earlier been notified for the greater public good. Many of those ministers ended up in Jail. Simultaneously the Bellary brothers were taking their multi-state, illegal iron-ore mining mafia business to levels, never seen in the history of this country. It took an incredible amount of work by Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde and the Honorable Supreme Court to bring the Bellary brothers to justice. Do you remember the days when the most respected man in the Karnataka public life, Justice Hegde was pleading for the safety of his staff and witnesses in the forest department? BJP government responded by decreasing his powers, and later wrecked the Lokayukta institution with questionable appointments, which left the office vacant for more than a year.

On December 11, 2010, Ashwin Mahesh brought several civic organizations in the city, led by Loksatta Party to the Corruption Saaku rally. We all marched from Cubbon park to Shantinagar playground to make ourselves heard. At the public meeting. Mr. Arvind Kejriwal thundered from the stage and asked us to go to the nearest police station and register an FIR against Chief Minister Yeddyurappa. He went on to form the Indian Aganist Corruption group and the rest is history. At the same meeting, Dr. Balasubramanium spoke about corruption in PDS that is affecting the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society. His extensive investigative report at the behest of the Karnataka Lokayukta further exposed the levels to which Karnataka had fallen.

After numerous shenagians, BJP finally sacked Mr. Yeddyurappa and installed Mr. Sadananda Gowda as Chief Minister, and we all heavied a collective sigh of relief. Within few months Mr. Sadananda Gowda went about fixing the extreme malice that had set in the government ranks. We saw some progress in infrastructure projects, flyovers and elevated highways were getting inaugurated, Sakala was implemented with enthusiasm and a Karnataka Chief Minister was talking about good governance and development after a long time. But alas!, the vested interests in the party, removed him in the name of his caste!! Yes, in 21st century India, a well performing Chief Minister of a progressive state was removed to accommodate the caste calculations of the BJP! The ordinary BJP supporters who had resumed introducing themselves as BJP voters, were again made to suffer this humiliation.

Now as the elections loom, BJP is heading for certain defeat. Party's central leaders are relcutant to campaign for their own incumbent government. What are you going to do? Vote for the BJP as usual, despite the nightmare of the past 5 years? Or vote for Congress (who's corruption leading the Union Government is far worse than the BJP govt in Karantaka?) or JDS which can only bring political instability and help unprincipled MLAs who'll put themselves for sale?

Why not vote for Loksatta? The party has fielded 24 candidates including 13 in Bangalore. The list is headed by Dr. Ashwin Mahesh, the incredibly experienced urban planner, climate scientist and former faculty at IIMB's Centre for Public Policy. If you have lived in Bangalore in the last decade or so, its very likely that you are the beneficiary of the tireless civic work done by Ashwin and his motivated bunch of volunteers. Don't believe this? See here.

Ashwin has been identified by Wired magazine as one of the 20 Smart people, who are going to change the world! We need to pave the way for him to do that faster! As a BJP supporter, why don't you support Ashwin4MLA and other Loksatta candidates this time around and hope that your party will mend itself for future elections?