Sourajit Aiyer - www.MarketMoving.Info, UK - India Elections Anti Corruption Party AAP faces First Test - Nov 2013, Article 2


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Sourajit Aiyer - www.MarketMoving.Info, UK - India Elections Anti Corruption Party AAP faces First Test - Nov 2013, Article 2

  1. 1. Market Moving News and Views What moves stock prices, bonds, currencies and commodities. News and commentary. India Elections: Anti-Corruption Party Faces First Test By Sourajit Aiyer The battle to prove one’s worth is always challenging for the “new kid on the block”, and it is not different for India’s Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party). India’s youngest political party was a result of the anti-corruption movement initiated by civil society activists in 2011 for a citizen’s ombudsman bill against corruption. That movement was essentially “apolitical” and saw popular support from common Indians. A couple of members of that team branched out in 2012 to form their own political venture with the aim to clean the governance system by jumping into it themselves, instead of just activism from the outside. This venture, the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal, has set an honorable mandate for itself – corrupt-free governance while empowering the common man. Nevertheless, a political outfit is always a topic of debate, more so in developing countries, where the perception of politics and political leaders takes on various hues. This political venture has also raised its share of skepticism from the voting public, whether Kejriwal and the leadership team can really live up to its mandate, while being politicians themselves. The AAP might succeed, and many Indians who are disgruntled with the existing mainstream parties do hope it will win significantly in India elections. The fledgling outfit faces its first test in the Delhi state elections on December 4. Winning the polls is only half the battle, the other half consists of five years of actually delivering while in government. The road ahead is tough for its leadership team and they face some challenges which could well prove decisive for the fortunes of the party and also, of the common man. Scrutiny is always high on the challenger, especially where funds are concerned. Allegations regarding the foreign origin of some contributions were answered by saying they came as per the law – from overseas Indian nationals. The former software pro leading its treasury has admirably set the systems and processes in place for monitoring. But running a party will cost more money and there is a critical need to ensure its legality is not compromised, even in future. POLITICAL NOVICES Let us come to human resources – candidates, volunteers, dissent and delegation. Having the right people at the right places is always advisable. But most of the candidates whom the leadership has chosen in the various constituencies of Delhi state are actually political novices. Are novices capable of fighting dirty political battles and effecting its mandate? They might, since experience does not seem to have made some existent politicians the right ones either. However, voters might hesitate if
  2. 2. they see only inexperienced novices. Activism was one thing, running a government is another and experience might add weight. The leadership’s retort is that the freshness of its candidates is, in fact, its unique selling point to capture voter belief. The underdog can triumph, but the inexperience factor is making a lot of voters think. Kejriwal is balancing the candidate strength effectively, by inducting some formerly with existing mainstream parties. There might be sense in fielding the inexperienced novices in constituencies whose population is disgruntled with existing politicians, to capture the anti-incumbency. Involvement and interactions by its leadership brass in as many constituencies as possible during campaigning might add weight and tilt voter belief in its favour. Where the candidate’s persona cannot pull voters, the party’s persona might do so. Its leaders are already doing so in some. The other aspect of human resource is its volunteers. Many are middle-class people working out of sheer motivation for what it stands for. That is what makes this special, since it has been rarely seen in developing countries where the common citizens jumped into active politics themselves. However, these are also family people who need to earn their daily bread. Though nobody has asked the party leadership to provide for them, the call of the domestic duties will be inevitable. There is a severe need to induct a full-time workforce. If it wins, it probably will. But if it loses, then how will it manage its manpower strength? Moreover, a slow volunteer leakage, largely disillusioned that its mandate did not woo voters, might add to woes. This might be a thought bothering its leaders right now. Manpower retention and motivation might be enabled by adding more responsibility and recognition. Even in companies, money and designation are not the sole motivators. Additional responsibilities due to meritorious performance and recognition for that responsibility through an Internal Recognition/Appreciation system might often work wonders. Pages: 1 2 3 This entry was posted in Views and tagged Asia, democracy, economy, emerging markets, India elections, politics, voting on November 28, 2013 by Antonia Oprita. Market Moving News and Views What moves stock prices, bonds, currencies and commodities. News and commentary. India Elections: Anti-Corruption Party Faces First Test On hierarchies, let us talk about autocratic vs. democratic styles of leadership and dissent. Democratic is always favourable, but this young organization has a tough mandate to prove and the time it has is extremely short. Ideally, a situation like this might indicate an autocratic style might enable ensuring work gets completed fast, rather than a “too many cooks spoiling the broth” situation under a democratic style. But autocracy spawns dissent; dissent can turn friends into foes, and friends it needs now when a tough mandate is in the calling.
  3. 3. Dissent just fragments the party, which fragments the voter interest. Triggers for dissent often involve an individual angle. In more cases than not, the individual is a prime feature. For instance, a company executive feels dissent against his manager owing to a friction, rather than the department as such. Is there a way to institutionalize the leadership functioning, wherein it does not showcase an individual? Where the instruction, itself made by a democratic process, is sounded by a medium which is not an individual? Instruction placed by a medium which uses a degree of autocracy to ensure adherence, but might not be perceived as such because it has a more impersonal face as compared to one individual. A detailed Policy Manual might be one, which would talk about the party’s objectives and motives, and would also include a code of conduct, what its opinion is on public issues, what its replies should be to critical issues, what it seeks members to do etc. This medium of instruction, itself made by democratic process of discussion and opinions, can be a tool to push an autocratic style to manage the workforce, but yet in a more institutionalized way. This suggestion is debatable since dissent can still occur against the medium, but frequencies might be fewer since it reduces the individual aspect. One is following an organizational rule, not an individual’s order. The AAP does have a Vision document in place, hopefully that should cover many of these aspects. However, the objective here might be to go even deeper. Another equation is delegation. The leadership must have the comfort to know that each candidate walks and talks on the same page, and a detailed policy manual might work for that too. REMOVING CORRUPTION Another key challenge is its mantra of removing corruption from governance. An alleged form is crony capitalism. Nexus between businesses and politicians to manage deals for mutual gains (or avoid mutual loss) are a bit akin to “you scratch my back and I scratch yours”. Everyone accepts breaking the back of such ingrained nexus is tough and time consuming due to incentives not to change. Let us use the term incentive. Is there a way to work with these elements by creating a legitimate, lawful incentive to convert resistance into support, rather than antagonizing? It is a tricky aspect to manage for any leadership team, and a thin line as such. But the motive is to ensure that the AAP’s mandate is achieved in the end, and in a clean manner. This takes the mind to setting a Compulsory CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] Policy for companies combined with targeted Sops – incentives to generate and promote interest in various projects. In other words, defining a specific CSR policy by which businesses participate in meaningful projects for the local communities’ benefit, especially in local infrastructure development and vocational skill training. This might not address the AAP’s agenda on food and energy issues, but improved local infrastructure and enhanced job opportunities due to training the workforce can still reap long-term benefits. Additional costs for CSR will not excite companies to invest in its region, hence the need to offer some Sops as an attraction. Sops might seem unattractive for government finances, but the benefits they would end up yielding would have been part of the development agenda the party was aiming for anyway. Is that something the AAP leadership might want to implement, or think as doable? More importantly, will that really compensate those who gained disproportionate pecuniary benefits from crony capitalism? Maybe not, but at least it might be an attempt. Pages: 1 2 3 This entry was posted in Views and tagged Asia, democracy, economy, emerging markets, India elections, politics, voting on November 28, 2013 by Antonia Oprita. Market Moving News and Views What moves stock prices, bonds, currencies and commodities. News and commentary.
  4. 4. India Elections: Anti-Corruption Party Faces First Test Regarding the development agenda, let us talk about populist measures. AAP leaders have raised discussion on food and energy schemes for the common man. Such populist plans might win votes, but it can be a sure way for government bankruptcy. We are in fiscal deficit, this would make us fiscally insolvent. One would have expected Kejriwal to know better. The solution to current problems is not going back to socialist-era populism packages, a method which has already failed. If there is a way to address the financial outgo with some inflow of additional receipts, yet combining the development agenda for local communities, I will suggest the CSR-for-Sops alternative. Job creation and vocational training are also critical aspects, given a key component of people (also voters) is dependant for its livelihood from the “grey” economy which thrives due to the inherent corruption in the system. They might fear their future given the AAP’s mandate, hence the need for greater formalization of the economy and arranging alternatives. While it is advisable to start small and AAP has done rightly by taking the first plunge in Delhi state rather than India, Kejriwal has apparently stood in the same constituency as incumbent Sheila Dixit. It might be a blazing battle, but was it an intelligent move given all the possible outcomes? A triumph if he wins, but what if he loses? Who will be the face of the party? Are their chances of leadership squabbles between the AAP’s representatives inside the parliament and its chief outside? There can be leadership crises in such situations, depending on the profile of the candidates. In today’s age of T-20 cricket, people in India have high expectations and low patience. Whether AAP can achieve its mandate in its first term in office or whether it needs the time of a second term, is only to be seen. There might be some thought of the leadership brass to ensure constant communication-flow for transparency sake, if only to convey the reasons for delay or failure in projects where the obstacles faced proved beyond its capacity to handle. One-sided communications like party newsletters and press updates might seem biased. The motive is two-way communication. ALLIANCES DILEMMA The AAP plans to involve itself with the Panchayat, the grassroot-level decision body in local communities, where it can convey the progress on its local development agenda to the actual ears that matter, and discuss the challenges and obstacles. Often, challenges are local, and the best way to work out solutions is to involve the local community in the process. Publicists might suggest debates on TV news channels. But excuses, biases and allegations can often confuse the viewer there, though accepting credible opinion and reasoning might be possible for intelligent viewers. In conclusion, these elections are as much a test for the AAP as for the Indian voters. Time will tell what the voters decide. AAP has largely attacked the mainstream parties, while being silent on smaller, regional parties. If absolute majority is impossible, the need for coalitions would demand alliances with such smaller outfits, many of whom have been mired in controversies of their own.
  5. 5. This raises the issue of whether the AAP leadership can maintain its clean image while aligning with not-so-clean partners in a coalition. The time for AAP to prove itself is now. Even if it loses, the strong challenge it has given might force the existing mainstream parties to roll up their sleeves and deliver better productivity. That, in itself, might be a better deal for common Indians. Sourajit Aiyer is a finance professional currently based in Mumbai. Views and ideas expressed are entirely personal. Read also: Is Modi the Best Choice for Prime Minister for India?