Electoral Reforms

Although I had planned to, I will not be attending the “5th National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms” of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It’s happening in Mumbai, and I alas, am in Pune. My colleague Rajesh Jain is going there to be on a panel on “The role of business and Government.” Rajesh mentions on his blog the context of the event.

Since 2002, the major impacts of these campaigns have been on criminalization of politics, and transparency in candidate and political party assets. Leaders of both the BJP and the Indian National Congress have made public statements that they would not field candidates with criminal records even if they were likely to win in the coming Lok Sabha elections . . .

Interesting, isn’t it? I added the emphasis above because it is worth noting. That phrase is a recognition of the fact that criminals routinely contest and win elections. Let me understand that a bit more. That criminals contest elections is a choice that the criminals make. The laws of the land, for whatever they are worth, permit criminals to contest elections. That they win elections is the more remarkable fact. Contesting the elections is within the control of the criminals; winning elections is not. People — the much celebrated wise Indian voters — are the ones who vote criminals into power.

They at ADR could conference the whole day long till the cows come home, but I am afraid that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the criminals but with the people who vote for them.

If in your generally free and fair elections, you elect criminals as your political leaders, you might be a third world country. (Or in the case of the US, you might be aspiring to become a third world country.)

Defending Free Speech

Item: Chyetanya Kunte wrote a blog post “Shoddy Journalism” on Nov 27th, 2008. I cannot give you a link because he has since removed it from his blog (although you may be able to read it on google cache). He posted an apology to NDTV and Barkha Dutt on Jan 26th:

I hereby repudiate and withdraw my post dated November 27, 2008 titled “Shoddy Journalism” and, more specifically, the following allegations / statements made in the post titled “Shoddy Journalism” namely:

* a lack of ethics, responsibility and professionalism by Ms. Dutt and NDTV Limited;

* that Ms. Dutt and NDTV’s reporting at the scene of the Mumbai attacks during November 2008, resulted in jeopardizing the safety and lives of civilians and / or security personnel caught up in and / or involved in defending against the attacks in Mumbai in November 2008;

* that Ms. Dutt was responsible for the death of Indian Servicemen during the Kargil Conflict.

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