Monday, 1 October 2018

Rebuilding the Indian National Congress Party (a local report for a change)




Lions Club Hall, Parvatipuram Town, party-workers’ meeting, 29th September, Saturday, 2018




It was an excellent meeting, bringing together party workers from far-flung corners of District Vizianagaram, which extends across hours and hours of driving-distance.



The following are the highlights of (whatever I can remember) of my speech made in Telugu:



1.      Since Parvatipuram was the name of our local Lok Sabha constituency prior to delimitation, and is now very much a part of Aruku Lok Sabha, I welcomed everyone to Parvatipuram, and thanked them for having sent me as an AICC Member, and that it was clear, from the AICC meet at Delhi earlier in the year, that the situation (at least at the level of central politics), has changed drastically in favour of the Congress and opposition parties;



2.      I also welcomed the new entrants (ie., the Youth) to the meeting and to the political process;



3.      Pointed out that this was a party workers' meeting for two purposes: Party-building (that is, building up the party), and Election-planning, and that the party has planned a door-to-door, Intinti Campaign;



4.      Recalled and reiterated core values of the party, such as Satya and Ahimsa.



5.      Pointed out that it is (originally), and even now, an international party since its inception, gave examples of Mahatma Gandhi having been in South Africa, and mentioned England and other countries. Said that it is now topical to look at this aspect of our party's identity (it's International nature), because of prevailing trends in world politics and the wold economy, and from a futuristic perspective.



6.      Pointed out that Modi is travelling all over the world on our money but that even if its for legitimate governmental purposes, it is also serving to popularize the BJP internationally. I said it was therefore important for our party to also continue with its international networking.



7.      I said that I had noticed, in the circulars that had been recently sent out to us from the party by email, where tasks have been spelt out, there was a point on listing out Non-resident Indians (NRIs) related to members whose details we are to enlist. I pointed out that this would be for the purpose of fund-raising, and could extend to other co-operation, and is a good thing.



8.      I said that the Congress Party is THE party that can provide leadership in the area of womens' and girls' rights to property, and to their human rights.



9.      As far as election-strategizing goes, I said that we would like to listen to what all the responses to various aspects of governance are, and work towards consultatively formulating strategies for alliances and the like.



10.   As far as everything that was supposed to accrue to Andhra Pradesh after state-division went, I said that it had been demonstrated that not much headway had been made by any of those in power.



11.   I said it is not good for the system, for us to be forced to go to the Courts because of the shortcomings of the government.



12.   I pointed out that in the BJP-ruled state of Maharashtra, activists had recently been arrested, and even I went and sat in the Supreme Court out of concern when their matter came up there.



13.   I mentioned to them, that in Parvatipuram town, I knew Ramalingaswamy garu (Advocate), who is no more with us, and expressed my condolences on his demise, and mentioned that I also have met his friend, Ratnam mastergaru frequently over the years, but that I have, of course, spoken at the Parvatipuram Bar Association myself, walked and campaigned from ward-to-ward in this town, and that I have been full-time in Kurupam since the 2014 electoral defeat, and that we would meet again, very soon. (Off-stage, I mentioned to people, that I’m trying for the Aruku Lok Sabha party ticket for myself this time)

Saturday, 25 August 2018

(Very) Brief Observation on Rahul Gandhi's foreign tour speech(es) (specifically: LSE)

Regarding the London School of Economics event:

I agree with the point that Rahul Gandhi made, on how parliamentarians (in India) are losing their degree of control over the law-making process.

But I need to make a distinction, and suggestions: 

According to me, the strengthening of the committee system, over the years, has moved some of the legislative process to committees, and this has often ensured more wholesome participation in creating legislation than previous floor-of-the-house processes have (though there's room for a new wave of improvement there as well). 

There are a number of logistical improvements that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, and the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha could bring about, to ensure that draft documents are meant to reach (and do reach) a wide audience, including MPs of all parties, way before the papers are laid on the table of the house. 
And that the process of voting makes more space for step-by-step analyses by the members of parliament.

There is also much left to be desired when it comes to how the media reports these events, and Media will need to be to be trained further on how to report on legislative processes. 
No doubt, the fact that official TV channels for both houses were introduced did create transparency, but the fact that these channels exist ought not to drive the agenda of the house.

That said, I do agree with the view that MPs ought to concentrate on law-making, and their energies should not be diverted towards acting like local NGOs by having to practically 'oversee' Local Area Development Funds. That scheme should be cancelled.

Some of these points, I've touched upon in my latest book, EARTH REPUBLIC.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Brief note on elements of Rahul Gandhi's foreign-tour interactions

My quick comments on our party-president, Rahul Gandhi's current foreign-tour speeches so far, so as to improve the next interaction: 
1.
When asked about what he'll do for the cause of women, speaking (and rightly so), at the macro-level, he mentioned increasing the role of women in politics, and giving them an impetus in the area of business.
I'd give importance to:
a) improving how the criminal justice system works to protect and enhance their rights;
b) as well as to updating all personal laws (or, in any event, their implementation), to bring women's rights (this includes to property, inheritance etc.), on par with the rights of men.
2.
I think his response to Pakistan needs to be subtly updated.
I think we need to stop saying that we do not know whom to talk to in Pakistan.
In his 2nd day at work (today), a little while ago, there was a live speech by their new Foreign Minister (haven't watched the whole thing yet), but international responses need to be in the light of latest developments, esp in this day and age of technology.
My bet is we do, in fact, need to talk directly to the Politically Elected Government as represented by the new Prime Minister and his cabinet.
3.
I think we need to stop saying "when the British ruled India", and start saying "when the British ruled parts of what is now India".
4.
Tone needs to be less didactic at times, though diffidence not required.
5.
I think it's ok to occasionally take political stances vis a vis our domestic politics. However, all the criticism of what's going on now in India should, at each stage (and at the cost of repetition), be portrayed for what it is: temporal problems recently created by the present central government, and not a malaise.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

my view on "simultaneous polls" in India


My view on the ongoing discussion in India, about Synchronizing the Elections of all State Legislative Assemblies (Vidhan Sabhas) with Parliamentary (Lok Sabha) Elections (ie., General Elections)

1. The duration of the term of each elected state assembly (Vidhan Sabha) is five years.

2. The term of the directly elected house of the central government (Lok Sabha) is also a five-year term.

3. In the case of state governments, for various constitutionally provided for/accepted/recognized reasons, there can be a dissolution of the house prior to five years, leading to snap polls, or to 'Governor's rule', ...(usually) pending/until the date of the expected polls.

There are similar provisions at the level of the central government/Parliament, Lok Sabha, that could lead to snap polls or to 'President's rule'.

4. The timing of when to hold polls has evolved organically over the years according to this system, as a result of which some states have elections at the same time as the central government does, and many do not.

5. Of late, there seems to be much discussion regarding whether it would be a good idea to make it mandatory for all state governments and the centre to have simultaneous polls.

The primary reason being cited is the ease of carrying out elections from a point of view that perceives the nature of the electoral process as being mildly disruptive.

6. AS I SEE IT:

Making simultaneous elections mandatory will create a number of  'stalemate'-like situations, where a state could be thrown under governor's rule (ie., under the control of the central govt., but will not be  the most robust version of our democracy) within months of an election, and it would then have to wait for five years for a democratic election to take place.

Technically, this could happen in all the states of the country.

One then needs to look into the other motivations or reasons that might exist, behind such a move:

a) Some might approach this from the point of view of the onus of the burden of the funding of elections, and of running a campaign. The government's role in the funding of an election is set to gain new meaning/s with the ongoing move towards Electoral Bonds and (possibly) the eventual State Funding of Elections (election expenditure of candidates and political parties) as a move towards avoiding corruption in politics.

b) If state and central elections are held simultaneously, those standing for elections to the centre might calculate that the candidates fighting the state assembly elections are likely to bear the burden of the cost of running a campaign, or vice versa), and this consideration might influence their stand on what the system ought to be.

c) One cannot rule out the role of the promptings of governmental entities who are partial to the idea of a "strong" central command for various reasons, and who might even cite strategic reasons to bring about such a situation. (Reasons could range from dealing with border issues, to a bid at a general overstepping of spheres of influence via 'legitimate' processes, to imagined preparations for a futuristic presidential or two-party system, many of which may be described as ill-advised 'novelties' at best).

d) It is possible that the move is merely to gain political mileage (or to make the gamble for political mileage) from a very short-term/immediate political point of view.

As far as the forthcoming elections go, a few states are scheduled to have elections later this year (2018), a few next year along with the general elections (2019), and there are varying years during which all the other states have their elections expected.

As of now, WITHOUT this mandatory clause (or expanded version of a piece of law) for simultaneous elections being brought in, various state governments are entitled to dissolve their houses to synchronize with the parliamentary elections currently scheduled for 2019 if they wish (Karnataka, ruled by the Congress, has just won the state a few months ago, I don't think the state would want an election, albeit clubbed with central elections, so soon).

Furthermore, I would strongly recommend against making the states that are supposed to go to the polls later this year hang in limbo till next year's central elections.

Even the central government is entitled to dissolve parliament.

If the central government chooses to do this by the end of this year (2018) when a few states are also expected to have elections, then, in the immediate context, the only thing that might work for the argument of expediency is that the few states that are supposed to go to the polls in 2019 along with the parliamentary elections also bring forward their elections this time (through the legitimate democratic processes).

In which case quite a few states and the centre could have simultaneous elections this time without imposing (intentionally or unintentionally), the kinds of upheavals that have been described above.
















Tuesday, 31 July 2018

ASSAM; SUPREME COURT OF INDIA; WOMEN'S RIGHTS; CITIZENSHIP ISSUES

ASSAM; SUPREME COURT OF INDIA; WOMEN'S RIGHTS; CITIZENSHIP ISSUES

A register which renders approx. forty lakh people stateless is what the BJP-led govt. is moving towards finalizing these days.

The SC is said to be monitoring this.

I am glad that today, my party, the INC, is taking a just and humane stand against this kind of register.

If the present BJP-led govt. continues on this trajectory (of concretizing a register that creates approx. four million stateless persons) without adequate preparations, plans, dialogues regarding the recognized rights of these human beings, then we will be/are on the brink of utter chaos.

Look at the crimes against women that have been happening during normal peace-time.

As a Supreme court lawyer, a part-time legal consultant for three years for a past United Nations project, and a member of the INC Party since 1998, [ (the Assam Accord was signed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985), during which time i was in high school, but a supporter of the Congress (S) (which had a large presence in Assam those days), ] I think it is necessary to point out some of these connections, and to point out areas for caution.

The Forest Rights Act is also topical, and could provide a few solutions.

Many of these ideas come together in my latest book, Earth Republic