Viplav Versus Democracy

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This paper presented and published ICEG 2006, IIT Delhi: 15-17 December 2006

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Viplav Versus Democracy

  1. 1. Linking Vested Interest of Politicians with Common Interest of the Masses by using Software Technology: A Case Study on the People-Politician Interface in Uttar Pradesh Pallav Pandey, Naveen Kumar Research Division, Viplav Communications (P) Ltd 84 Lal Singh Building, Vasant Kunj Road, Mahipalpur New Delhi 110037 Abstract Better People Politician Interface is required for a stronger democratic framework. The ideal situation is where political leaders reach out to the masses and work for them and in turn get their votes. However in a society where the caste identity is one of the key drivers of the voters, the politicians are wary of experimenting and looking at options of innovation. Understanding the existing mechanism of interfacing with the electorate gives insights on its limitations and repercussions on the political career of the leaders. A software solution designed keeping in minds the priorities of the leader is not only more acceptable to him but it goes a long way in aligning the political interests with the interest of the Common Man. Keywords: People-Politician Interface, Constituency Management Software, Vested Interest, Common Interest, Uttar Pradesh. 1. Introduction For making India a developed country in 2020, there is need to focus on the standard of Political processes and the output coming out of it. Without making the effective machineries of democracy, it is erroneous to think about developed India because the process of development in our country is not dependent upon one centre of power and authority but on the entire decentralized Political system. Since Political system is most important mechanism in democracy to cause economic and social development, before thinking over the other problems, the course of politics and delivery mechanism of political system must be corrected otherwise the people will loose faith that will hamper the process of becoming a developed country. In democracy, political system decides the quality and the quantity of output and, people decide the relevant input. However, this relationship in India is very weak. There is a relationship between people and politicians but it has not been directed towards mutual benefits. Within the framework of an open society and an open economy, the empowerment of people and the battle against poverty, ignorance and disease depend upon the People’s representatives who decide the policies and direction of development. Political representatives must be responsive to the people so as to ensure the good governance and in turn get benefited by winning the mandate of the people in subsequent elections. 2. People-Politician Interface In the age of growing awareness of people at every level, it is much more relevant to talk about close relationship between government and people. However, it is a crude fact that governments in their regulatory role have not been proved effective to solve the basic problems of human society. It is worthwhile to quote former US President Ronald Reagan from his first inaugural speech in January 1981: “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Nowhere in the world has this held truer than in India. Therefore in most of the liberal democratic states including India, the minimal state concept has come into vogue but still the state has a challenging task in its hand to remove the poverty, unemployment, etc. or to develop the social and economic indicators. In a democracy, this responsibility depends upon the political system which must be out of the clutch of bureaucratic red-tapes.
  2. 2. However, the public discourse is littered with the paraphernalia of redemption. The worst aspect of the redemption paradigm is that it perpetuates “the culture of poverty.” In this backdrop, it is need of our age to correct the process of our Political System rather than criticizing it while watching T.V. news. To correct the delivery mechanism of government, the measures of E-governance, citizens’ charter, dissemination of information, right to information and decentralization have been taken up. Similarly, the people should come closer to politicians and vice versa to improve people-politicians interface that will bring out gradually the era of more responsive political system to peoples’ concern without which the government-people interface will be confined to bureaucracy-citizen interface. The people-politician interface can be improved only by the means of linking the vested interest of politicians with the common interest of masses. It can be achieved when politicians will understand the electoral importance of works of development in their constituencies. If the politicians graduate to this level, the ultimate gain will reach to the people, and political system will get more stability. In this situation, when electioneering will largely depend upon development works and redressal of peoples’ grievances, the more educated, energetic and dedicated persons will enter into politics. It will replace the criminalization of politics and politicization of crimes. In absence of better people-politician interface, criminalization, caste and religion have become the basis of winning the election. Criminalization of politics has become an acknowledged reality of contemporary politics. According to an estimate, “of the 4092 representatives in our legislature, as many as 700 have a criminal background”, reflecting of the growing interplay between crime and politics. Moreover, communal and caste based strategy has been used successfully as a tool to sideline the importance of development issues. It is reported that a sharp rise of the BJP support base in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have shown the maximum polarization on caste and communal lines in the past few years (See Appendix I and II). In an attempt to garner caste based support for electoral purposes, political parties have widened and strengthened the age old divisions in Indian society. This is obvious at the state level. UP is divided between Yadavs, Lodhs, Rajputs, Brahmins and Scheduled Castes, while Bihar is divided among Rajputs, Yadavs, Kurmis and Bhumihars. These caste fragmentations have hampered the civic culture of Indian society, which ultimately takes its toll on India’s political culture. The obvious outcome of social fragmentation is political instability. This is evident from the emergence of regional parties in state politics and the coalition politics at the Center. Many Indian states are going through a phase of political uncertainty as no party finds it impossible to gain a clear majority. UP is perhaps the best example of this uncertain situation. Thus the present situation calls for a pragmatic shift to accommodate the concerns of the common people who are suffering the brunt of bad power politics. The remedy lies in the use of technology which promotes people- politician interface and, finally make the democracy vibrant. 3. Contemporary Strategy A polling booth level analysis of the election results and caste composition in UP indicates a very strong correlation of the caste composition of an area with the voting pattern. Over the years Political Parties have split the total electorate along the caste identity. The success of the political parties in UP working solely on social engineering at a macro level has impressed the political leaders at the local level so much that they do not subscribe to the notion of working for the electorate anymore. There are two major problems in the way the Politicians interface with the Electorate. Firstly, the politicians are dependant on a group of people who comprise of political workers of the same party, influential businessmen or elected post holders of the local self-government. These people are driven by their self-interests and they try to develop a coterie around the leader to shield the leader from the masses and derive benefits of power-by- proximity. The position was worse before 1998, when in the absence of Electronic Voting Machines, ballot papers were mixed before counting and it was not possible for the leader to know definitively the mandate of the people at the micro-level. The leader had no recourse but to rely on the inputs of the political workers who have vested self interests. Secondly, since the leaders are not inclined to work for the masses, the sense of helplessness engulfs the voters which results in lesser turnout of supporting castes and tactical voting by non-supporting castes, a phenomenon which is more commonly referred to as anti-incumbency.
  3. 3. In order to make its legislators more organized and efficient, the Government of Uttar Pradesh released an IT Budget of Rs. 0.15 million per legislator through which a laptop and other computer hardware was given to them. However poor educational background, little or no computer literacy and cynicism towards use of technology proved to be an insurmountable barrier. The defeat of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) front in 2004 General Elections, in which BJP invested massively in technology based campaigns, is seen as a failure of technology in Indian Political scenario. The typical politician has grown cynical of the benefits of technology in creating a better People-Politcian interface and therefore has no option but to rely on his political party workers. 4. Work done by Viplav to improve the interface Viplav Communications Pvt. Ltd, is a company that is working on the concept of Voter Relationship Management since 2003. Starting in March 2003, the company’s proposals to various individual elected representatives were continuously rejected for 9 months. The company realized that advocating technology solutions for efficient People-Politician Interface will not be successful unless the politician, who is both the beneficiary and buyer of the solution, sees benefits directed towards furthering his political career. The company then approached the problem from client’s perspective and demonstrated that it is in the interest of the politician to implement a system that works for the betterment of the people, by giving the leader feedback on needs of the people, names of important and influential people, demographical constitution. The data points for this feedback is gathered by field work done by the organization in all polling booths (pockets of 1000 voters) across the constituency of the Politician. The data on elections are super-imposed on the map to give a micro-level understanding of weak and strong areas within the same constituency (as shown below). The research work is done much before the time when the elections are scheduled. The input-output relationship between people and their standing or aspiring representatives is facilitated. Even though the organization does not take any assignment involving extra-constitutional means, the politicians feel benefited because they get unbiased feedback on their position in the constituency and a comprehensive action plan on how to improve it.
  4. 4. By aligning the self-interest of the Politician to the betterment of the common masses a practical reward-based people-politician interface has been established, wherein the Politician is informed by the company on the area and the nature of development activity to be done. The dependency of the leader on the party workers and vested interest groups is minimized and anti-incumbency is tackled by working for the electorate. The Software gives input to the level of where to conduct tour programs (shown below) in the constituency to reach out to all pockets of interest and how to use election analysis to identify these pockets (shown further below). The Company has worked with politicians across the party lines. The clients include Stanford graduate on one hand and high school dropouts on the other. The response to the work of the company also has been quite varied. For instance, Bharatendra Singh, (Graduate from St. Stephens College, Delhi) the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Bijnor (UP), after using the software developed by the company had realized that in 4 years of winning the election he had not visited the area which had voted as much as 90% for him in the election. The company highlighted that the development works that were allocated from the MLA Local Area
  5. 5. Development (LAD) Fund were used mostly on building approach roads or installing hand-pumps in villages of close aides. By using the software, the MLA decided to re-allocate the LAD fund for the final year based on genuine needs of the people and has started visits to ensure that all areas, especially those which had polled well for him. The interest of the MLAs was also sparked in using the software supplied by the company when they realized it will help them in improving their election performance. For instance, Anoop Gupta (son of the sitting MLA from Misrikh-UP Om Prakash Gupta), who is a High School dropout learnt how to use the software to know his constituency better. Anoop Gupta, who manages the constituency affairs on his father’s behalf, used his LAD funds to develop 70% of roads mentioned in the report prepared by the company, irrespective of the caste of the people who got benefited by it. Another MLA, Ram Pal Yadav from Biswan has asked his son to learn computer and assist him in micro-management and election planning of the constituency. Most of the clients are incumbent MLAs and they use the services of the company to fight against anti- incumbency. They use the database prepared by the company to know in which parts of constituency there is severe need of works like drinking water supply, electricity supply, roads, schools, health etc and more importantly the number of voters affected by each problem. The clients get inclined to work on these problems because they see a direct impact of non-performance in terms of the votes lost. In this way the politicians serve their interest to maintain power but in accordance with the company’s objective of the ultimate gainer being the people of India and particularly those who are at the bottom of society. In other words, the vested interest of politicians is linked with the development of people and vice versa. On the other hand, those politicians who are aspiring or have lost prior elections are also using the service to increase their chances to win the next election. In this course, they are helped to go for constructive programs which infuse competition among politicians to serve the people in better way rather than manipulating the voters. In this way, a constructive opposition in the political system is created, which further strengthens the democratic framework. The work being done by the company however is not removed from challenges. Certain MLAs and MPs do not wish to acknowledge the true picture and prefer to be in the comfort zone created by their coterie. For instance, Devendra Nagpal, independent MLA from Hasanpur, refused to believe that there is a possibility of his loosing the election. Infact he was so disturbed by the inputs of the company that instead of working on the findings he refused to fulfill the monetary commitments to the company. 5. Further Work By mitigating the anti-incumbency factor, stability is introduced in the political system. It helps the educated and dedicated persons to come into politics and helps them to survive longer. At the stability level, typically a large number of elections in India, both for the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies, are decided by a very small margin. As a result the political party suffers a lot of avoidable losses in elections at all levels. The parties manage to get the votes from their political niches but the votes are divided between the parties such that in many seats there is no clear winner. There are a lot of seats nationwide that are decided by a small fraction of voters. 120 seats (22% of 543) are decided by a margin less than 4% and all the efforts of the political parties notwithstanding these seats have remained marginal (decided by a small percentage of votes). The result on these seats can be changed by a little systematic effort and this in turn will change the political landscape of the country. At the level of quality of politics and Political standard, the election process and the campaigning have become so haphazard that a righteous person, even with the best of intentions, is afraid of contesting an election. Even if he/she manages to gather enough strength to contest an election, his/her chances of winning it are very slim. As a result the young and the bright are running away to land of better opportunities, leaving it to others to do the dirty job of politics. Other than the fact that the good people are missing from the political playground, the major reason for the rampant corruption is the inherent insecurity associated with the job of an elected representative. Considering the amount of money one has to invest in order to win the election, and with no guarantee that he will be re-elected the next time, one tries to get rich as quickly as possible. Without worrying about the implementation, the solution is simple. Create a mechanism by which people start taking interest in the political process and start making their political choices judiciously. This will simplify the political process tremendously. On one hand it will eliminate the job insecurity from politics, in the sense that if a candidate
  6. 6. performs well, people will recognize him/her and his reelection is guaranteed. On the other hand righteous people will find it easier to contest election, because the new mantra shall be “if you work you win”. Further work is required both in terms of replicating the work in other parts of the country as well as with political parties at national and state level. More dimensions need to be added to the work to benefit the politicians who are not able to afford the professional services to build a better people-politician interface. About the Authors Pallav Pandey Is a BTech from IIT Kanpur and Co-founder of Viplav Communications Pvt Ltd. Naveen Kumar Is an M. Phil from JNU and is heading the research team at Viplav Communications Pvt Ltd. Acknowledgements The authors are grateful to the Viplav Communications Pvt Ltd, for allowing them to use proprietary software and client feedback for public domain. Appendix I Vote share (%) in national elections 1984-1991, for Congress and BJP in the major states where the BJP vote has increased STATE YEAR CONGRESS BJP Bihar 1984 51.8 6.9 “ 1989 28.1 11.7 “ 1991 23.6 15.9 Gujarat 1984 53.2 18.6 “ 1989 37.0 30.4 “ 1991 29.0 50.4 Karnataka 1984 51.6 4.7 “ 1989 48.9 2.6 “ 1991 42.1 28.8 Madhya Pradesh 1984 57.1 30.0 “ 1989 37.7 39.7 “ 1991 45.3 41.9
  7. 7. Maharashtra 1984 51.2 10.1 “ 1989 45.4 23.8 “ 1991 48.4 19.7 Rajasthan 1984 52.7 23.7 “ 1989 37.0 29.6 “ 1991 44.0 40.9 Uttar Pradesh 1984 51.0 6.4 “ 1989 31.8 7.6 “ 1991 18.3 32.8 ALL INDIA 1984 48.1 7.4 “ 1989 39.6 11.4 “ 1991 36.6 20.0 Appendix II Support for BJP by caste and class hierarchies, 1999 Very High High Medium Low Very Low Income Income Income Income Income Hindu Upper 47 42 44 39 22 Caste Hindu Dominant 37 33 36 21 12 Peasant Caste Hindu Upper 23 27 19 20 14 OBC Hindu Lower 28 18 19 20 14 OBC Scheduled 26 23 17 11 7 Caste Scheduled 53 44 22 17 11 Tribes References • V. Eshwar Anand, “Will Ordinance check criminalization of politics?”, The Tribune, 1 September 2002 • CSDS Post Election Survey, 1999 • Arun R Swamy, “Hindu Nationalism – What’s religion got to do with it?”, Occasional Paper Series, Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, March 2003

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