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A debate on India’s changing political landscape

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 The debate was held at the Mount Carmel College basement auditorium on Friday the 29th Jan 2010, between 5:30 to 7:30 in the evening. This debate was organized by Janaagraha in collaboration with the Bangalore International center. The participants of the debate were Krishna Byre Gouda of the Congress and Jayant Sinha of the BJP. Jayant an IT professional is the son of Yeshwant Sinha the central finance minister in the Atal Bihari’s erstwhile BJP government. The debate was moderated by Mohandas Pai of Infosys. Ramesh Ramanathan inaugurating the discussions felt that there was an unmistakable political awakening of the middle class in the country. 

Jayanth Sinha 

Jayant started with a poignant note that he would rather be known as an IAS officer’s son rather than being known as a minister’s son. He having the experience of 5 general elections, managing party affairs had to lead two lives, viz public and private. Though he had spent 20 years in the USA, he could not neglect what was happening in India. 

Political scene in the country is changing. The problems are local but the solutions are global. Are we seeing a change in the political scenario?  Politics is a bundle of contradictions, hence to generalize is hazardous. Working towards finding solutions could be traumatic. One has to have a three dimensional perspective viz 

  1. Cast
  2. Communal
  3. Economic 

Burgeoning numbers of Youth of this country will be the driving force of the immediate future. Their being up to the mark is what is going to count. So is the caliber of the middle class. The dual systems of grass root up and top down have to be employed with vision, without loosing the sense of direction. The voters’ dilemma / aspirations can be summarized as 

  1. Casting votes
  2. or vote for your cast?
  3. Identify genuine leaders
  4. access to them
  5. Help of leaders to fix problems (Delivery)
  6. All this for Leading a better life 

Jayant’s dilemma was the alienation of the Muslim votes from his party

Krishna Byre Gouda 

He felt that while role of charismatic leaders to bring about 7 to 8% swings is crucial in winning elections, there are other factors contributing like 

  1. Religion
  2. Cast
  3. Literacy
  4. Poverty
  5. Money
  6. Social issues
  7. Individual issues 

He wondered whether BJP is running out of Ideas. What is the BJPs counter for Rahul? We have to articulate individual aspirations as well as class aspirations. New slogans etc. Charsma itself will not work. Appointing leaders will be discouraged progressively. Congress will show the way for people to join and grow in the party. Change has to e gradual. In 60 years we are a working democracy. Congress is for change at a slow and gradual pace. Congress has the Muslim vote. Congress will be reborn to lead. We are attracting the youth. The current trend is towards rise in the national parties. Mutinies are happening in all parts of the country. It is good for stability. Congress is working at change at both national and grass root levels. While BJP is accusing congress for dynasty politics does Yeddyurappa’s  act of making his son contest and win a parliamentary seat augur well with BJP, he asked. 

Mohandass Pai 

Media is coming of age. Behavior depends on the context of the situation, National or local. Telanagana issue is a serious one. Demographic Time bomb is waiting to happen. Every body wants job, which is an overriding priority. Current GDP is 1.5 triilan dollars in 20 yrs expected to touch 5Trillion $. There will be wider gap. 

Krishna Byre Gouda 

More violence is expected. Inclusive politics which is stable can avoid violence. Social equality and growth with inclusion is what is the need of the hour. Walk the talk. Middle class has to be more proactive because they are the beneficiaries. 

Jayanth Sinha 

India is buzzing (shining?). He felt that it was a fascinating story that can be written faster only if there are stable governments. 

Public Interaction 

Mr. Anil Katti an advocate started the public discussions. Various points of discussions that followed can be summarized as 

  1. Rhetoric of why things happen in certain ways seldom take us far
  2. You vote you get noticed
  3. Urban votes (40%) are less than rural votes (55%)
  4. Media is useful
  5. Diverse interests are the real challenge
  6. 30 years ago things were simple issue based
  7. Consolidating issues is the primary task now.
  8. Media is not an issue
  9. Roll of money
    1. This is an economic issue requiring social changes
    2. Money is required for winning
    3. Only money is not sufficient to win
    4. Money is all pervading debasing and corruptive
    5. Criminalization of politics
  10. Retail and wholesale corruption
  11. Relevence of minor parties and or independents in the forth comming BBMP elections 

Please see to days TOI report Debate lays modern politics thread bear also. 


psaram42's picture

changing political landscape Seminar @ Mount Carmel 29 Jan 2010

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Picture 1. Mohandass Pai , Ramesh Ramanathan at the Venue 

 Picture 2. The Moderator with the Debaters on the Stage.




















Picture 3. Ramesh Ramanathan Inaugurating the debate

 Picture 4 The Janagraha announcement of the event



idontspam's picture

 Caste, religion, race and

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 Caste, religion, race and language are not sustainable identities. These issues matter little to the protection of global commons. On the one hand we are asking nations to separate state and religion and on the other hand we are taking too long to push the caste/religion elephant out our door. The longer we stay on it the less our politicians will be answerable to civic issues instead. 

murali772's picture

making a difference

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The politicians on the stage repeatedly pointed fingers at the public for not actively participating in the democratic process. So, when I got an opportunity to raise a question, I stated that I had, althrough my life, been very active in RWA circles, and politics was the next logical step for me. But how could I join a party where the slightest of criticism against any member of the Nehru-Gandhi family is considered blasphemy (so much so, when Shashi Tharoor wants to send out a message now, he keeps having to look over his shoulders), or one which persisted with a Varun Gandhi inspite of the kind of hate-campaign he was carrying on during elections. So, finally when an opportunity opened up in the form of the LokSattaKarnataka, I joined it, and now proposing to walk the talk by contesting the BBMP elections.

This was received by thunderous applause from the audience - ilva Ananthram avare'?


Muralidhar Rao
silkboard's picture

too much attention to the subject

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Politics (as in personalities and parties) gets far too much coverage and attention. Maturity of media and people (as in citizens or praja-jana) will show when the focus changes to outcomes (projects, specifics) rather than what goes on behind the outcomes (politics, etc).

May be a simple comparison of airtime given to politics across our democracy and that in some other developed nations should prove the point. Our media either buys into this immaturity or feeds it by assuming that people (media's consumers) want focus and scrutiny on politics and not the outcomes.

Focus on food and how it was cooked is a different thing compared to the focus on the cook. Do you even care about the chef or the owner when you decide to patronize or desert your neighbourhood restaurant? I bet not, you and me only care about the food.

Another this immaturity reflects is in the belief that you need to have a "constant" party to vote for. When people's basic needs are covered, the ideology to follow may be a big deal, like it is in developed democracies - hey, are you a republican or a democrat type of thing. But here, the focus should be on outcomes. This ideology or that ideology, let us get it straight, all parties chase and promise the similar set of outcomes for us. They better be doing that. But we like to believe otherwise, or are made to think otherwise, thanks to yes - this overly covered topic of 'oh see, how bad our politics and politicians are'!


SB aka Pranav

Naveen's picture

Media just following trends

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I think Krishna Byregowda is quite right when he states that factors such as Religion, Cast, Literacy, Poverty, etc play a dominant role in our system of elections since the urban educated masses don't bother much about who eventually wins, unlike in most other countries.

What is promised by parties eventually becomes immaterial & remains only for academic interest; who heads the election effort for the party tends to become all important since we certainly are a people that adore figureheads such as Nehru & Gandhi.

The media is only fueling these sentiments. If the collective perception of peoples is focussed on what they would acheive rather than who they are, things might have been vastly different.

psaram42's picture

Is there a need to despair?

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 Cast Religion and race are not sustainable as per your own statement. Our democracy will be matured the day when these three entities viz Cast Religion and race loose their significance. Indian Society is the sum total of us Indians with the above baggage. There is inequality due to complex issues like social, economic and extreme variations in our behavior. Politics is only a decent vehicle for a democracy to work. We in India are in a fortunate position of having a majority of our population to be young energetic at this juncture. Is there a need to despair? 

psaram42's picture

Walk the talk

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@Murali sir,

I wish you had done it with either Congress or BJP. These are the only two main stream parties. Others do come but go fast. That is what we have seen for some time now. No harm in trying though. I am quite sure you will be able to win on your own. I do sincerely hope that you should win. I wish you all the best. 

Politics (Political Science) I believe is not different than other subjects of Science and Engineering. Political Science is being taught at schools and colleges if I am not wrong. It is also true perhaps that it is not a simple matter to succeed in it. What I mean is it requires talent, training and dedicated hard work to succeed. Early start in political education is advantageous. Being born in a good Neta's family is also a legitimate advantage. It may be perhaps too late for people like me to contribute significantly starting from a scratch. 

Naveen's picture

Despair & Hope

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There is inequality due to complex issues like social, economic and extreme variations in our behavior. Politics is only a decent vehicle for a democracy to work. We in India are in a fortunate position of having a majority of our population to be young energetic at this juncture. Is there a need to despair ?

Mr Ananthram,

These social, economic & behavioral variations, not to mention religion & caste categorizations have been the root causes & stumbling blocks for Indian politics to remain what they have been for so long.

Even in east european countries that have now turned democratic, these variations dominate politics - Poland is an example as is Romania.

Having a younger population might just marginally improve the pace toward reduction of these differences, but this alone will not radically change the situation, unless the younger lot speedily recognize the wisdom in shedding off these biases & turn their attention seriously to nation building rather than worry about petty issues such as caste, creed & socio-economic status of individuals.

Thus, I still have reason for despair - though I also have some hope for quicker change.

sanjayv's picture

New Party or Existing Party

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PSA sir's comment is an interesting one that I have heard from some other people also.  Why join a party like Lok Satta instead of an established party like the Congress or BJP.  I am sure Murali sir will respond to this comment, but I would like to understand that perspective. Is it possible to change a party / organization that is so thoroughly immersed in the current way of doing business, from within?  My take is that there is probably a better chance of being able to do something in a new organization which has clearly defined goals, good leadership and is full of people with a similar mind set.

Today, I am not sure what the Congress or the BJP stands for and whether they can ever free themselves from the clutches of corruption, greed and lack of a honest system of selecting leaders. So what hope does one man have inside such a party "machinery"?

(disclaimer:  I am a Lok Satta Party member myself, having joined a few months ago).


idontspam's picture

Why party?

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I am not a student of political science (I dont know why it is called science), but why does any party need a goal? Isnt every party's goal to be the voice of the public? Isnt every worker today serving the party more than he is serving the public? Hasnt the party become an end instead of the means? Why cant there be a party where the mission is defined by federation of ideas from different wards/constituency? Wont this kind of model make it truly representative of society and also ensure the politicians go back to people for decisions instead of taking it on their whims & fancies or more importantly ideology?

Disclaimer: I do not belong to any party but subscribe to a center-right ideology not necessarily that of the BJP

s_yajaman's picture

My two cents

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 @SB - I think that you are oversimplifying the matter.  Politics is also about what direction society will take.  Will it be progressive and liberal or will it turn more conservative.  Will it increase the rifts in society or will it bring people closer?   Is there a consensus on the desired outcomes for society as a whole?   Why should ideology have to wait for basic needs to be met?  

I agree that the media gives far too much attention to the scheming and machinations that take place.  

On the food bit - if however you knew that the restaurant owner had got hold of the property through dubious means would you still patronize the restaurant?  

@IDS - why parties?  Because people tend to occupy different parts of the political spectrum.  And parties being made of people will also start occupying different positions as a collective.  The party's goal is to come to power.  What other goal?  Each party will be the voice of that set of people who find their worldview matching the party's.  Both of us e.g. want progress.  But your definition of progress could very well be different from mine and the means you want to take could also be different.


Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

sanjayv's picture

I think parties are a natural evolution

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 For human beings, I think parties are a fairly natural evolution. If you take a federation of independents in a legislature, pretty soon, they will start aligning themselves over various issues. Then one comes to a point where for legislative success, you need to be able to assemble a majority by hook or by crook.  At that point, parties really help.  If we had a political scientist among us, maybe that person would be able to throw some light from academic studies.  I think if we are talking a small town or city, parties may not be that important.  However, as the scale of things grows, parties will tend to happen.  Just a theory.

silkboard's picture

srivathsa - it needs to be simple

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Well, it needs to be simple. Yes, the ideologies etc matter, but perhaps to those who are beyond the basics and are concerned about quality of life living in our highrises.

Which ideology is best suited to give me my roti, bijli, pani and bandwidth, that is important, perhaps it is. But a tight scrutiny of West Bengal vs Kerala vs Maharashtra vs Gujrat is the education I need to understand the Left vs Right equations. I don't need the RSS remote control and CPM goondagiri talk by the same nominated experts again and again on print and visual media. I don't need to read editorial anecdotes about Jyoti Basu's greatness or lack of it. Talk outcomes, I don't think many people do, neither the media, nor the opposition.

Objective reporting and measurements are backbones of any system, democracy or monarchy. Without it, self-corrections are just not possible. We have this big basic missing, and over done attention to politics over policy or outcomes reflects that.

Beating down politics and politicians is good fashion, but doesn't help us move forward even an inch.

psaram42's picture

Setting right some of the misconceptions / perspectives

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@SB comments in this thread

Focus on food and how it was cooked is a different thing compared to the focus on the cook. Do you even care about the chef or the owner when you decide to patronize or desert your neighborhood restaurant? I bet not, you and me only care about the food. [1] Objective reporting and measurements are backbones of any system, democracy or monarchy. Without it, self-corrections are just not possible. We have this big basic missing, and over done attention to politics over policy or outcomes reflect that. [2]


  • How much [politics] is too much?
    • Enabling good governance through proper legislation
      • Requires electing the veteran / honest legislators / parliamentarians. Here political parties and independents come in picture for elections
      • They are peoples reps who get the opportunity to serve the people who elect them
      • Legislation is the responsibility of elected reps at states.
    • Enabling good judiciary for compliance of the existing legislation and punishment for any un lawful activities
    • Enabling good law and order by proper police force
    • The Jan Lok pal bill provides for keeping vigilance on behalf of the nation on proper functioning [without corruption] of the three arms of governance.
  • Proof of the pudding is in the eating. good governance makes
    • the society enjoy their freedom
    • safety
    • health etc
  • Changing the restaurant is equivalent to changing the incumbent candidate by electing a new one
  • Objective reporting? Or factual reporting?  Reporting industry is a different ball game as such. They have to keep their circulation high to attract adds.
  • Looks like issues are being mixed up, SB. comment guidelines

Posting Guidelines apply for comments as well. No foul language, hate mongering or personal attacks. If criticizing third person or an authority, you must be fact based, as constructive as possible, and use gentle words. Avoid going off-topic no matter how nice your comment is. Moderators reserve the right to either edit or simply delete comments that don't meet these guidelines. If you are nice enough to realize you violated the guidelines, please save Moderators some time by editing and fixing yourself. Thanks!

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