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Is there a fear of Dr Ashwin Mahesh ushering in a Coterie rule?

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I had posted this blog on the Hasiru Usiru Yahoo-group, apart from a few others, which can be construed as campaign material favouring Dr Ashwin Mahesh for the MLC graduate constituency vacancy, election for which is coming up in June.

After one or two rounds of proddings, one member responded positively. This set off an active and interesting debate, with many coming on 'against' and an equal number 'for'. I am reproducing below some of the relevant ones, which I thought provided material for a larger debate.

SS:

1. Whats wrong with "wanting to be an MLC"? More of us "good ppl" should participate, not fewer.
2. He's gotten me into a bus :) He's made significant creeping changes through mapunity. He's been involved in the lake rejuvenation next door. But most importantly, he's a guy with the right intention, with his heart in the right place, who wants to jump in and try make a difference. Reason enough, I'd think.
3. You don't get to be involved in political activities without getting involved in political activities.

I liked the question someone raised about the existence and need for a graduates constituency - its a very logical thought - and representation along any such lines - caste/ community/ education should be questioned. On the other hand, assuming it exists for now within the current framework, I'm for more folks like Ashwin participating, than the usual set we've gotten so far.

HRM:


I am aware of limitations of Ashwin Mahesh as mentioned by some people here -   "being elitist" etc....but he has been very supportive of cycling and he does not endorse the Signal Free Concept being implemented by the BBMP with no space for pedestrians and cyclists.

We intend to have a workshop with BBMP and BDA Engineers to make them understand the needs of the pedestrians and also cyclists. Simply intimidating the government or politicians or going to court has not solved any problems.

Let us explore other options and see how we can have some one talk/negotiate for cyclists and pedestrians in the corridors of power.

I want to give it a try and hence supporting Ashwin .

People are free to choose as it is a democratic system. So let the people decide whom to support and whom not to support

UKRK:

Dr.Ashwin Mahesh is for all "GATED" gated communities - - . He will actually drive away the cyclists and buses with his logic. His understanding of education system is also poor. Like some characters in this group, is all for privatisation.
How can he be good? I just dont understand why people like Justice Santhosh Hegde supporting this kind of people?

I was not sure I wanted to post this comment. However, I have done it after editing out the author's usual hyperbole.

SS (again):
Assume for a moment he's all that you say (though it reeks of hyperbole more than reasoned logic).
He's still a guy who's

1. well intentioned
2. willing to participate and try - not just cynically crib from the sidelines as many in the middle class do

Have you tried having a discussion with him on all you disagree with? Of course its absurd to expect that he, you or any one other individual has it all figured out and will get it right to start with. From the tone of your mail, and from my past interaction with him, he seems more open to discussion, and looking for a 'way forward'!

For that alone, I think we should be thankful people like him (I wish there were more - we'd actually see less shrill and more issue based debates) are willing to participate in elections etc.

Me:

I too am opposed to signal-free corridors, and had in fact taken up Ashwin on debates on the issue. Like-wise, there are a few other things too that we have our differences over. But, like SS has pointed out, "its absurd to expect that he, you or any one other individual has it all figured out and will get it right to start with". The important thing is that we can engage with him over debates, and expect the majority decision to prevail. And, that's as democratic as it can get.

VS:

Ashwin Mahesh might have good intentions, that is not sufficient enough reason to approve someone does it? the issue is something else.

On his FB page today, he speaks of how a group of them wanted to get the K.R.market second floor, which is lying nused to be set up as a electronic media studio. there was a proposal to the BBMP from some ngos working with the homeless to make the 2nd floor into a shelter for the urban homeless(somehting which the supreme court said BBMP has to do - 1 shelte per 1 lakh people). this proposal makes sense also because there a lot of labourers who work oin the market who are homeless and its best if they got a shelter there. however this may not work now because of ash mahesh and his freinds.

the point is, when he thinks something makes sense, he pushes for it so hard without any process of consultation, any democratic process.in this case it is good that he wants to push for the 2nd floor to be used, but he cant  make bbmp do something which he thinks is good. why not push for a discussion in the bbmp council on this?

this is not the first time he has done something like this. and its not about him, its about this whole new set of technocrats, him, rk mishra, nandan nilenkani, they like a idea, they think it is good, they push for it.

ashwin mahesh was pushing for a bangalore region governance bill which would make ramnagar, bangalore rural and bangalore urban into one big metropolitan region. and he was trrying to get this bill passed, without any discussions. let alone people knowing it, elected reps from ramnagaram and bangallore rural were not even told about this nor was this discussed with them. CIVIC organised an discussion on this and only then did we get a copy of this bill. this bill was aimed at more people power and decntralization apparently, wonder how come people like him didnt think it fit to release even a public draft of the bill or have any discussions on it. in that CIVIC discssion, elected women reps from these places ticked him off for bringing a bill with such far reaching consequences without even informing the affected regions and discussing it.

this then is the danger of this group - ramesh ramnathan, rk mishra, ashwin mahesh, v ravcihander. look at jnnurm - ramesh ramnathan and janaagraha keep pushing for local governance etc. and then they sit in delhi and decide what kind of development 60 odd cities should have, without checking with the city governments.

look at the plans of ABIDe of which Ashwin was a key member. they came up with a plan and pushed for it. See  pg 14, of 2009-10  Budget speech by the BBMP Comissioner. He clearlay states that ABIDE has directed BBMP to develop these roads as signal free corridors over the next 24 months. sure abide or whoever else has rights to make reports and ask govt to consider it, but is it right to force your decision on the government?

this kind of "we know best, we will get the govt. to do what is best for ppl in our view" mindset is dangerous.

The above comments are by Vinay Srinivasa, the Convener of HU, whom I consider genuinely driven by youthful idealism (as compared to many others whom I would label pseudos, without any hesitation). Even as of yesterday morning, when a member made a posting saying that there was an old tree facing the axe, somewhere in Jayanagar, he immediately responded with a post saying that he was headed to the site to intervene, alongwith a request to the others to join in, complain to the tree officer, etc, etc. Fortunately, this turned out to be a false alarm, and by around noon, he made another post narrating all that happened, alongwith pictures of the lovely old tree. Even as I am not quite in agreement with him and his lot over quite a few issues, I can't help but admire their commitment to green causes, and consequently my respect for them. If the city still has a lot of greenery left, it is thanks to the likes of them.

I think he has made a lot of relevant points here, and even though I may not be in agreement with all of them, I thought they called for a larger debate.

SSV:

All I know is, ABIDe is a advisory body constituted by GoK. How can the push or pull or demand BBMP? Quite strange and tough to believe or understand. Hope, someone will help me understand.


VS (again):

Like I said, the BBMP Commissioner said in his budget speech that he was directed by ABIDe to do this. You can go to the BBMP website, download the budget speech for that year and look at the page number i mentioned to verify. You can ask them how or why  they did it :-)

MR:

Agree to everything you have said. The point I believe Sameer or anybody else is trying to make is he has good intent though his _knowledge_ / _experience_ in this space may be limited but if he is open to listening to who are what is the harm?

He or the likes push for what they feel is right and I don't see why that can't be corrected - at least with these I personally have some hope. Now as in your example about the possible use of space as shelter - have anybody approached Ash Mahesh about it? If yes has he been adamant about what he thinks is right? If not then it is worth our time discussing this else not.

The question really is whether someone like him can be put to good use to get some work done as he is possibly a person we can reason with compared to the politicians today. I am not sure there will ever be a person _perfect_ for the work that is to be done. A person well qualified and knowledgeable may not contend the elections. If there is such person then let's talk!

Another interesting aspect is how a particular member, who sees himself as a general crusader against the establishment, used some technicality to try and stifle the discussions when he found that there appeared to be more support for Dr Ashwin Mahesh than he had expected. But, the group is a lot more mature today to be taken in by all that, readily.

Coming to the question posed in the caption, the fact that BATF, ABIDe, etc have been seen as coteries, interfering in governance without accountability, even though they were supposed to be only advisory bodies, cannot be wished away. Well, you may then say, that by contesting the election, Dr Ashwin Mahesh is now offering to become accountable.

Further, it is perhaps appreciating the fact that, in a yet to mature democracy, the quality of elected representatives may be found to be wanting, that the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution deliberately provided for the "upper house", where the membership is supposed to be of people of eminence from various fields, generally nominated and not directly elected. Our democracy is still a long way from maturing, and therefore, it may be said that we still need the expertise of the Sam Pitroda's, as also our own lot, even if they are not directly elected. Yes, they need to become accountable, and perhaps this is the beginning of that process.

Also, there needs to be a lot more public consultations, debates, transparency, etc, which is perhaps where "praja.in" comes in as an ideal platform to achieve that goal, something set for us by none other than the redoubtable Mr Manivannan (check this). Towards that objective, my father, let my country awake (modifying slightly a quote by Gurudev Tagore)!

Muralidhar Rao

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murali772's picture

defacto people's representative - shall we say?

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This is a note by Sri R K Misra, in his own words, forwarded by a member on the 'savekoramangala' yahoo-group:

Here is an interesting episode, worth sharing with you folks. This may be instructive in you trying something similar - I got a request from Local Area Residents to request the Govt/BBMP/BMTC to install TWO Bus Shelters in downtown Whitefield. None of the above agencies were keen nor did they have funds. So a PPP model was ...found & work started. Soon local Corporator came calling as to how work has begun in his area without his BLESSINGS.

Once he realized, I was instrumental, he softened the tone, but got the work stopped, shooing away the workers & shouting at officials. Once he realized that all paper work is in order, he simply used strong arm tactics to stall the work. The residents came again to me and wanted a solution. In the meantime, another organization (socio-political) got involved saying that if RK is doing the GOOD WORK and paper work is in order, how can the corporator stop it.

I called all the parties to my office but to no avail. Finally this organization mobilized 10-20 of it's members, sat down on the site day & night, no allowing workers to go home till the work was completed. They also organized food, water & shelter for workers who worked 2-3 days to complete the work. Corporator tried hard to stop it, rang officers but work got done. Both Bus Shelters have been operating without any trouble and THANK YOU notes from residents have been pouring.


When I narrated this to some friends yesterday, they asked me to share this & other such incidents with larger audience to make other realize the potential of collective will & common good. Hence this post.

Moral of the story - Getting things DONE in Public Domain in this country isn't going to be easy. Our so called representatives, leaders and at times even officers won't let you do it. But if PEOPLE are with you, you will succeed.

To be in Public Life - You must win the confidence of PEOPLE. It will take years of continuous & consistent efforts to win people's trust, but that is the most powerful weapon to win against vested interests.


When the elected representatives couldn't care less about the people who have elected them, we have to find ways of moving on in life, right? That's exactly what R K Mishra's and others are doing. And, when they come on to contest the elections and become accountable in addition, like Dr Ashwin Mahesh is doing, why is there this negativism (even though it may be just handful that think that way) ? Don't they deserve a chance to prove themselves?

 

Muralidhar Rao
rs's picture

I dont understand the

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I dont understand the objections of people. Here is a man who clearly cares about the issues. Is perhaps open to debate - he may have some views which you may not agree with but that would perhaps be the case with any other candidate - though perhaps the issues would be different. With Ashwin Mahesh, perhaps the debate would be on something like signal-free corridors. With most MLAs/MLCs the issue would be whether they are justified in grabbing land and looting the state in the time they are in power.

It is rare that people get a qualified, concerend candidate who is actually interested in the issues and is not a party and caste backed candidate. So its clear that he should be backed as should other concerned people like Meenakshi Bharat.

There is a fear of giving power to people who believe they know best what is best for the masses. But there is a chance that they are right. The problem is because of this fear nothing ever gets done. Years of teaching undergraduates have taught me that people have no idea as to what is the best for them. Democratic decision making is not always the best thing. Besides, this man actually seems to care and have an opinion - which is better than most.

 

Ramesh

murali772's picture

irrefutable argument

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In the context of the talk of immaturity of our democracy, I reproduce below Sri Arvind Kejriwal's recent reply to RAJYA SABHA in response to the charge of insulting the parliament:

To Shri Mukul Pande, Director, Rajya Sabha Secretariat

I have received the notices sent by you from Sri Rajniti Prasad and Prof Ramkripal Yadav in which I am accused of insulting the Parliament.

I unequivocally deny that I have insulted the parliament in either speech or deed. I respect parliament immensely. I revere the parliament immensely. I consider parliament as a temple of democracy. For these reasons, I am immensely worried and pained that this temple of democracy is insulted very often by the speech and deeds of a few people who sit inside the parliament. Various facts and instances show that parliament is insulted by a few people sitting inside the parliament rather than by people outside. I respect the parliament, many good parliamentarians, but find myself unable to respect a few parliamentarians.


Recently, a movie called "˜Pan Singh Tomar" was released. A dialogue from this film says rebels live in outback and dacoits live in parliament. I watched this film three times. The audience clapped whenever the hero uttered this dialogue. I was immensely pained each time I listened to the ovation. Why is that when the hero referred to dacoits in parliament, people felt that he was reflecting the sentiments of the people of this nation. Its worth contemplating as to what went wrong that the people of this nation have such an anger and disdain towards people sitting in parliament? Who is responsible for this impression about the parliament? The people of this nation or the people sitting in parliament? The respect of parliamentarians is not diminished by what is said about them. Their respect is commanded by their conduct and behaviour.

The present Lok Sabha has 162 parliamentarians on whom 522 criminal issues are lodged. Out of these, 76 are heinous crimes. Murder cases on 14, attempt to murder cases on 20, fraud charges on 11, kidnapping charges on 13. In addition to these, there are many parliamentarians on whom corruption charges are lodged. Ex; Shriyuts Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Smt Kanimozhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav etc., If Jan LokPal would have been in existence, then a few more would have been charge sheeted. In this context please enlighten me whether the presence of such people enhances the dignity of parliament or reduces it? A few of the above are such that one would rather avoid inviting them to their homes for marriages and festivals. Is not the parliament insulted by the presence of such parliamentarians?


Why were such people given tickets? All parties pro-actively give tickets to people with criminal backgrounds and each successive election has seen an increase in them getting elected. In 2004 elections, 128 people in Lok Sabha were with criminal backgrounds. In 2009 elections their number went up to 162. By this progression, the day is not far when the majority of the parliament will consist of people with criminal background. Hence, we should not be surprised when the audience gives an ovation to the hero who says dacoits are in parliament.

All parties are responsible for bringing the parliament to this. In 2009, Congress gave tickets to 117 people with criminal background, out of which 44 got elected. BJP gave tickets to 116 people with criminal background, out of which 44 got elected. Other parties too have proactively given tickets to the tainted. The court has charge sheeted a good many of them with heinous crimes. What was the compulsion of these parties? Did not the parties insult the parliament by giving them tickets? Should not the parties be punished for insulting the parliament?


It is being said that presently, they are merely accused. Charges have not been proved in court. The case is pending. My answer to this is that these cases will never end. A single judgment takes more than thirty years in this country to be pronounced. Why is our country's justice delivery mechanism so lethargic and procrastinating? The parliamentarians were supposed to correct this anomaly. Why didn't they correct it in the last 65 years? Was it not done on purpose? Was it because if it was corrected, swift justice delivery would have been possible and most of such people would be incarcerated in jails? Is not the doubt strengthened then that, till such time these people sit in parliament, our justice delivery mechanism will not be reformed? Is not the apprehension valid that till such time people like these are in parliament, crime will not come down in our country? Please tell me how can I respect parliamentarians like these? Its correct that these people are merely charged at present. The charges are not yet proven. Cases are pending. It is possible that twenty years later, the courts may pronounce them innocent. Alternatively, it is also possible that twenty years later, many of these may be held guilty by the court. In such a scenario, isn't this a cause for immense worry that this nation's laws were framed by murderers, kidnappers and fraudsters? You say that I have insulted the parliament. I respect the parliament immensely but can you explain to me the rationale of respecting such parliamentarians.

There was a parliament in which Shri Lalbahadur Shastri resigned in the wake of a single train accident. One feels the urge to submit everything at the altar of such a parliament. But how can I respect a parliament with the present composition?

On 29th December 2011, during the Lokpal Bill discussion, RJD parliamentarian Shri Rajniti Prasad snatched the Bill from the hands of the Hon'ble minister, tore it and threw it. Was not the parliament insulted by this act? If we see parliament as a temple of democracy, isn't the presiding deity insulted by tearing the Gita in such a temple? It was too much that not a single parliamentarian stood up to protest this tearing of the Bill. The chairperson too was mute. Why this speechlessness by those who swear by the parliament? This was not the first such instance. Many bills have been torn in this temple of democracy. But not one person has been punished ever. Don't you think that Shri Rajniti Prasad should be punished severely for tearing away the Bill inside parliament? Such an exemplary punishment that no parliamentarian dare ever to tear away any bill inside the parliament in the future.


Rajya Sabha has many industrialist parliamentarians who have no connection whatsoever to people or public service. A good many industrialists enter the Rajya Sabha in the wake of their money-power and tickets given by various parties. People like these misuse the parliament to further their industry. Shri Vijay Mallya is the owner of Kingfisher. It is not known that he has done any public service. He is the member of the parliamentary standing committee on civil aviation. He decides the civil aviation policy of this nation. So, it is but natural that he will frame such policies that benefit Kingfisher enormously. Isn't this a direct misuse of parliament? Rajya Sabha has a cluster of such parliamentarians who misuse the parliament directly to further the cause of their respective industries. Isn't this misuse of parliament an insult to the parliament?

Cash for Questions in parliament came to light. This was a grave insult to parliament. But such parliamentarians were merely sacked. Giving or taking bribe is a criminal offence. Such people ought to have been jailed when proven guilty. The fact that they were sacked demonstrates that they were guilty. Why weren't they jailed? Why were they let off by mere sacking? For such a grave insult to the parliament, if they were to be exemplarily punished, future parliamentarians would not have dared to try insulting parliament again. Since they were let off lightly, the 2008 open horse-trading of parliamentarians was repeated. People saw buying and selling of parliamentarians in the holy temple of democracy. The collective conscience of the nation cried. Democracy wept. Parliament shed tears. But the government survived. Not a single parliamentarian has been punished till date. Was this not akin to treason? Isn't trading of parliamentarians considered as treason? How can I respect such parliamentarians?

Microphones have been uprooted and thrown innumerable times in the parliament. Chairs are hurled at each other. How can I respect such parliamentarians? On one hand 8 Bills are passed without discussion in 17 minutes and on the other hand, there is daily disruption by parliamentarians which results in parliamentary business being stalled.


The nation is struggling against corruption and price rise. Common man is finding survival difficult. Farmers are committing suicides. Whistleblowers against corruption are being murdered. People are writhing. On these issues the parliament is either quiet or semantics are delivered. These problems which have beset our nation for years have not been addressed. As a thumb-rule, there is no unanimity in the parliament on these issues. The issues linger on in standing committees, people writhe in agony. Oddly, on any issue regarding parliamentarians all parties unite. When a parliamentarian among them Shri Sharad Pawar is slapped, (slapping was wrong, should not have been slapped) all parliamentarians writhed. All parties got united. All leaders denounced this for two hours. Whenever there is an issue of increase of allowance to parliamentarians, their comforts, perks, we see instant unanimity among parties. All parties unite against the use of an idiom (Chor kii daadhii me tinkaa). This tiny idiom hurt the parties so much that parliament discussed this issue for hours. All these instances force us to contemplate, aren't a few parliamentarians more concerned about their self-interests rather than the people?

Along with parliament, legislative assemblies too are temples of democracy. In such a temple if some legislature and the child & women development minister of that state watch porn publicly, please tell me how can I respect such legislatures? Its not that this parliament doesn't have good parliamentarians. Many good parliamentarians exist. And I respect them immensely. But the voice of such good parliamentarians is drowned in the cacophony of the parliament. I have raised a few fundamental questions on the notice received to my statement. The same constitution that gives powers to parliamentarians to enact laws gives the people the power to ask questions to the parliamentarians. Questions are raised weather the parliament that is comprised of so many criminally tainted parliamentarians can ever enact an efficient law to end crime? If the parliament which is comprised of so many people with corruption charges can ever enact a good anti-corruption law. A law which, if enacted will create problems for some parliamentarians?

During the Jan Lokpal movement, the people of this country came down to the streets demanding an effective law. People have started asking questions when the government and the parliament seemed reluctant to enact such a law. People have a question whether Jan Lokpal Bill will be enacted? All these make it clear that the parliament is insulted not by me but continuously by a few people sitting inside. By those on whom the people put their faith and future. I just stated the facts. I have not stated anything wrong. I just raised the queries of the people. If in the eyes of your law, I am guilty, I am ready to be punished under such a law. If you find me guilty under your law, my request would be to give me an opportunity to present myself in person to air my views.


With regards
Arvind Kejriwal, 403, Girnar, Kaushambi, Gaziabad, Uttar Pradesh



 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

relevant comment

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Relevant comment by an Indian student, currently in the UK, in her personal mail to me:

I think I've become a bit used to relatively conscientious British politics, and their far smoother democracy! It makes you a little simple-minded and idealistic about solutions to some pretty messy Indian problems.

Well, perhaps it can be said that there they have a more mature democracy.

Muralidhar Rao
rs's picture

I think it is a myth that

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I think it is a myth that British politics is `cleaner' than other countries - the major financial scandals would not amount to anything in Indian terms ( the largest perpetrator in the MP expense scandal had misspent  the equivalent of around a crore - out politicians would be insulted if accused of so small a crime ). The fact is that the big scandals have already happened. The natural resources have all been exploited over the last couple of centuries. The railways have already been privatized and shut down in large parts thanks to the road lobby in the 60s and 70s. So at some level the scamming has already been done.

And its not like they havent had their share of financial scandals - Tony Blair has made millions after leaving office by lobbying. I think the British - like they have always been - are skilled at making themselves appear as `gentlemen' in the eyes of the world while committing the most heinous crimes. There is another myth - especially in India - that they were `good collonialist'.  Much of the problems we have today are thanks to their policies. And they killed more people than the Germans ever did.

Anyway, I think that in our country too I think the next generation of politicians - the heirs of the last generation - will be less corrupt as they have been rich all their lives ( take  Akhilesh Yadav, for example  - I'm sure he will be much cleaner than his father since his father has done most of the dirty work of filling the family coffers ). So that's all we can hope for. In perhaps 20 or 30 years most of the politicians will have been rich for several generations and hence not as needy as the current ones.

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