Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sustainable Political Engagement

Throughout my life, I have never followed politics. Political people, regions, parties, portfolios were alien to me. The only exception was during Obama's first election campaign. There was something about his oratory that captivated me (like a billion other people probably). I watched a lot of his speeches, sometimes multiple times. It was unfortunate that my political interest in US at that time was exponentially higher than it had ever been for Indian politics. This will not be true for everybody but I have not engaged, or seen a lot of people engage, in political debate and discussions a lot. I have mostly seen political discussion done by a handful of my friends.

There is widespread abandonment of public systems in our country, especially by the middle class - education, healthcare, urban spaces, environment, water, politics. As we have moved from a market economy to a market society, the basic public services are now privatized and intersection of different layers of society is decreasing. 

Still, things have changed quite dramatically in the past few months when it comes to political engagement. I have not seen an election where everybody is so passionate and worked up about the ideologies and people they support. Painstaking research is being done by individuals to validate their beliefs and claims. 

Let's take this incident. 

I post an article about a certain political candidate on my facebook wall. One my friends from IIT comments:

"There are bound to be separatist and sadist sections in every think tank, but does that affect the health of the country as a whole?" 
... And by saying that she was well dressed and all, is he saying that the poor need not have a sense of morality. Using nazi reference to sensationalize one's view is definitely the last straw, that too with complete disregard to the efforts that went in to ensure the riots from causing much more loss of life. A typical self righteous, bourgeois point of view from a half informed author."

I must admit, I was quite surprised. It was not because of that person's belief but because of the heavy language used. 'Sadist', 'self-righteous', 'bourgeois'! And not coming from a JNU or law student but from an IITian who I least expected it from. What happened to IITians not being able to understand political science and all of these 'intellectual' subjects? 

Another friend of mine (again IIT), posts these updates on his wall -  

Sample 1 - "BJP and Congress hid themselves behind the section 22 of the NCT act of Delhi. This section requires a prior assent/sanction of Central Government with respect to Finance bills to be introduced in Delhi assembly. 
First of all, the same NCT act says in the subsequent section 26, that even if the prior approval is not taken, if the LG and in some cases the President gives assent to the bill after the assembly passes it, the bill will be considered valid. 
Second of all, DLP is not a finance bill. The expenditure of running Lokpal in Delhi will come out to be 50-100 crores which the Delhi government can fund from its own budget."

Sample 2 - "Even the Rule 55(1-a) transaction of Business rules state that LG only needs to refer those bills to Centre which are passed by state assembly and are repugnant with the Central law. 
Delhi government or any state government does not work 'under the supervision' of Union government. Constitution provides for 3 separate lists namely the union list, state list and concurrent list. If the Home ministry denies permission for any bill on state/concurrent list to be tabled in a state assembly, it would mean an encroachment by the Centre on the rights of the State government. The state government is the supreme legislative body in the state."

I am shocked! This guy was posting troll pictures and love songs a few months back. Did he just finish a crash course under the Chief Justice? 

As long as the debates and arguments remain civilized and tolerant, all of this is amazing. People start participating in public affairs and politics becomes a service for the public once again, we might be able to say that we are a well-run democracy instead of just surviving. This is cannot happen only in this election. This engagement has to continue, irrespective of whoever gets elected. 

I saw this video today and it tells everything I want to and more. Millions like Shyam Negi - keeping democracy alive since 1951. 

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