Thursday, March 15, 2012

Need to revive Kanshiram's mission in Uttar-Pradesh

A historic opportunity for Akhilesh in Uttar-Pradesh By Vidya Bhushan Rawat It may be a co-incident that Akhilesh Yadav is taking over the reins of Uttar-Pradesh today on March 15th which is the birthday of Bahujannayak Manywar Kanshiramji but samajwadi party should utilize this day to reach out a wider section of people who are committed to the Bahujan philosophy of Kanshiram. That it was Kanshiram’s experiment with Samajwadi Party which brought Mulayam Singh Yadav back as chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh in 1993 after the Babari-Masjid demolition. We all remember the euphoria created all over the country over the merging of two icons of the Dalit-Bahujan movement though we knew it well that there were weak links and a political revolution will not succeed in the absence of a cultural revolution despite the good will this combination created all over the country. The counter slogan Uttar-Pradesh witnessed after the thorough communalization played by the Hindutva gangs was ‘mile mulayam kanshiram-hawa ho gaye jaishreeram’. It is a fact that this unity literally threw away the Ram Temple movement from Uttar-Pradesh. Hence a Ram mandir may be an issue for Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh or elsewhere for political reasons but for Uttar-Pradesh, the people have clearly understood the brahmanical agenda behind it and hence rejected it wholeheartedly. That experiment of 1993 threatened to destroy the status quo in Delhi itself and many states were on the verge of following the same experiment. The hitherto political marginalized forces started taking centre stage and started deliberating their own future in the current polity and deciding about their strategies. And the result was that the political changes which were threatening everyone were nullified by creating a permanent wage between the two. Mayawati was propped up BJP to break the alliance in Uttar-Pradesh and the rest is history now. Mulayam’s own behavior during this has been absolutely unfair and not worthy of a chief minister. The guest house incident shook not only Uttar-Pradesh but all of us who believe that parting ways in politics does not mean humiliating the person who was your partner just an hour before and that humiliation was not just political it threatened to be physical that time. Fortunately, the situation was saved from getting into worst and what followed rest is well known to us. That is why I write today that Akhilesh is young and dynamic. He does not have a history of political manipulations. He seems to be forward looking and to make his success stronger he can actually follow the mantra of late Kanshiramji. He can restart the process of building the bridges between the Dalits and OBCs by bringing them together and vigorously following certain things which make Dalits a bit suspicious about Samajwadi party. One of the major focuses of Kanshiram was actually cultural changes though most of them remain symbolic yet they were very important for us. Those changes are now permanent. Buddhism born in Uttar-Pradesh is given its due respect in the state by BSP and it will be good for Akhilesh not to touch upon any of these things. He could do well to promote it but should not anything in the negative that stop this cultural revolution in Uttar-Pradesh. Secondly, Akhilesh should implement the SC-ST Prevention of atrocities act more powerfully if there are cases of violence against Dalits. In Mayawti regime this act was actually made redundant and nobody could question that. Thirdly, it is time for government to evaluate its land acquisition policy. You need development but you cannot develop yourself at the cost of dislocating people and making them landless. UP must come out with a progressive policy where land must not be acquired at any cost if it makes people landless and impact on environment. The government should continue with both Ambedkar village scheme as well as Mahamaya and Kanshiram Awas Yojna. They are important to empower landless Dalits. In fact, the government of Uttar-Pradesh must focus on land redistribution process which has been side tracked by the government in the state. Land Ceiling laws are being circumvented and huge track of lands are being acquired in the name of religious trust. Akhilesh would do well if he and his advisers can formulate policies where the thugs in the name of religion do not amass huge tax free property and absolute uncontrolled land. It is ironical that while government claims it does not possess much land to redistribute to landless people while at the same point it has enough strength and will power to distribute huge plots to religious gurus, big companies. It would be prudent not to destroy people’s livelihood. Uttar-Pradesh needs development. It needs investment in education and health. It needs a lot of planning as the educational system in Uttar-Pradesh is in complete mess. Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav has already done a lot of damage to that system when he virtually ‘legalised’ mass copying forcing the teachers to pass every student. Such ‘favor’ to students will only kill them. Government schools and colleges should be made more accountable and workable. Let the teachers be accountable to village Panchayat. Government must stop the politicization of these schools which is the order of the day. Most of the new colleges and schools are mushrooming out of the MP and MLA local areas funds in connivance of both. It is a dangerous precedent. These colleges are nothing but political power to control. It is time we make them more accountable towards students so that they create better environments. Thousands of children have died in Poorvanchal during the past 5 years because of Japanese encephalitis and yet nothing happened. Our medical colleges and hospitals are in pathetic shape. They do not give patience a confidence of his health and well being. Like a police thana, our hospitals too frighten the people to keep away from them. Many of the Samajwadi party workers, MLAs have already become ‘ministers’ and are taking control of the districts. It is time when party send strong signal to them to behave. It is true that Samajwadi party has not compromised on the issue of Muslims and they voted the party in the largest. The faith of Muslims on Samajwadi party actually sealed the fate of Congress Party’s return in Uttar-Pradesh. So it has a bigger responsibility to take care of them particularly bringing the developmental programmes to Muslim homes. It would be difficult to implement all that is promised in the manifestoes and if they are able to do it, it will give people a confidence. In the last term, Amar Singh and company had control of the Samajwadi Party. There is nothing wrong to invite investors to Uttar-Pradesh but it is also important that they do not take things for granted and given specific task. They cannot dictate to the government against people’s welfare. In Mayawati regime, law and order was relatively better than the previous regime of Samajwadi party. It is therefore important that party’s rogue element be sending clear message not to take law on their hands. Just by blaming the opponents for every criticism will take the government nowhere. Today, when Akhilesh formally become chief minister of Uttar-Pradesh, he must realize one fact that Kanshiram’s biggest achievement was to bring together Dalit Bahujan communities and reviving the great legacy of Dr Ambedkar which was confined to academics and a few pockets, to general masses. It is this legacy of him which has empowered people in Uttar-Pradesh that even the most marginalized people in the state can speak of a political language and fight for their battle. Is it not great that when Bahujan Samaj Party lost power during this election, the new government of Akhilesh Yadav is Samajwadi Party by name but represent huge good will of the shudra communities and Muslims and not from the Brahmins or Thakurs? As a chief minister, he rightly says that the government was voted by all the caste and religions and there is no problem in admitting that but there is a reality also. Nobody can deny that BSP was formed by Kanshiram and that he build up Mayawati to lead it but there is nothing wrong in implementing the vision of Kanshiram by Samajwadi party. Great people become not individual centric but anyone to follow. Kanshiram’s efforts to empower the most marginalized communities as well as bring a cultural change need to be strengthened further. In democracy, people make parties and part ways but it is also the beauty of democracy that we can always take good things from all. Dalit Bahujan history of India cannot ignore the immense contribution of Kanshiram for their political and social empowerment. Uttar-Pradesh today would not have been the same if Kanshiram had not come into the horizon. Both Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party may be fighting against each other but they can always implement and work towards the vision and mission of Kanshramji. And what else could be a better day then today when we celebrate his birthday. Let us salute him and his contribution for the vast Dalit Bahujan masses of India and take his message further. Therefore Akhilesh has a historic opportunity which his father lost in 1993. May be that time he was in the coalition government but this time he has got an absolute majority and Samajwadi Party can do well to strengthen the Dalit Bahujan movement initiated by Late Kanshiramji as people all over the country are watching them in great expectations for future. One hope that Akhilesh’s tenure will not give leaverage to those powerful groups who have lost their political power but are manipulating people’s mandate to maintain status quo. These power communities are lying low but have not lost hope. They will try to create a wage between different communities by targeting Muslims particularly raking up the nondescript Ayodhya issue again and again. Therefore, it is important for Samajwadi Party to understand well the philosophy of Kanshiram in keeping a safe distance from these forces who are hell-bent to destroy our peace. Uttar-Pradesh has no place for the communal Hindutva forces and a big contribution for it is the unity of the Dalits and Shudra communities under the leadership of Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samaj Party. It is time to revive the thought of unity among communities. If leaders find time to unite well and good but people must be united towards a new enlightened agenda for future and not putting them to religious fanatics maintaining status quo. Akhilesh has enormous good will of the people and one sincerely hope that he would be able to deliver if he overcome all the prejudices of his party in the past. Uttar Pradesh welcome him with open arm and great hope for future.

Friday, March 09, 2012

In the name of democracy...

Need for radical electoral reforms By Vidya Bhushan Rawat Uttar-Pradesh’s poll results are out. Every body claiming their poll predictions have come true. The election commission has been able to maintain its dignity and impartiality in handling the situation though political parties which are at the receiving end of the Commission’s reprimand normally blame the commission for being bias against them. However, barring some small incidents they have handled the situation better so far. Yet, despite all this, the role of illicit money has not been curbed during the elections and every day we receive reports of money being confiscated by the police in these states. After the results are out Uttar-Pradesh has seen an unprecedented tense situation in the ground zero which is its rural areas. The Samajwadi party workers and BSP workers have clashed at many places. Those who understand Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar, know it well that the litmus test for Samajwadi party now comes in Uttar-Pradesh. Elections are not development as suggested by our electoral analysts but sharing in power. And it is this which has resulted in fight among different communities and manipulations by political parties. It is not just political parties, communities are too engaged in these manipulations to gain political power and hence alliances are developed and ‘villains’ are ‘constructed’. For millions of BSP supporters all over the country, Mulayam Singh was the villain number one but today it is Behajni’s term to face the wrath. The problem is that in the great ego of political leaders, it is the poor which is facing the brunt of the mafias and goons. It must stop now. Though, parties have been manipulating castes to get into parliament or assemblies and our media and election commission thumping its chest even if the poll percentage was just around 60, in fact in many places it was below 60%, it is time to seriously think about a better and alternative system. The system which will give dignity to even smaller group or communities rather than taking them as either a vote bank or enemy who will be thrashed once the results are out as happening in Uttar-Pradesh at the moment. We need a serious analysis of the community wise representation in the assemblies. A preliminary analysis of the data showed that Samajwadi party got 29% votes of the total vote polled yet got 56% seats i.e. 225 in an assembly of 403 while BSP which got just less than 3% votes than Samajwadi party got just 19% seats. Congress Party’s vote share in UP was 14% but the seat it could secure was just 9%. While in Uttar-Pradesh the tragedy of vote polled and seat secured is not visible that way as it shows in Punjab where Akali Dal secured 34.75% votes and got 56 seats (nearly 48%) while Congress Party got 41% votes yet 46 seats which is around 39% of the seat secured. While Poll observers may eagerly explain the ‘dance’ of ‘greatest’ democracy in Uttar-Pradesh which is a laboratory for all the experiments based on caste, religious and region. In the past twenty years, Uttar-Pradesh has the political parties which used these terminologies for their own purposes whether it is empowerment of Dalits or Bahujan but the fact is that in the past assembly Uttar-Pradesh did not have a single MLA from Balmiki community which is very large community mainly confined in urban areas of the state. There are other most marginalized communities among the Dalits, Muslims and backward communities which would never ever get representation unless something is done to protect their interest. Tharus, one of the tribe community in the Tarai of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, right from Maharajganj, Baharaich, Lakhimpurkhiri and Khatima have virtually no representation in the assembly except for one Tharu MLA in Uttarakhand from Khatima constituency, though latest report is that he too lost during these elections. Boxas, one of the primitive tribe groups of Uttarakhand, Kols, a tribal group in Bundelkhand (Ironically, Kol crossing over to Madhya Pradesh are tribal in government list and in Uttar-Pradesh are scheduled castes) are virtually unrepresented in assemblies and parliament. Such situation exists for many other marginalized communities among Muslims as well as backward classes. The concern over reducing Muslim representation in our parliament and assemblies is not without any reasons for they do not even have reserved constituencies though the Dalits and Aadivasis in particular feel that reserved constituencies have not really worked for the political empowerments of these sections of society but a few individuals from these communities who are elected on the votes of all electorates and therefore in this age of caste polarization, it is the other vote that matter as political leaders take their own community votes for granted. This was the reason for Dr Ambedkar asking for separate electorate for the Dalits in the famous round table conference in London in 1932. There is a dire need to address the follies of our electoral system which has not been able to curtail political corruption. Today, candidate are fielded not just to win, but to get some particular candidate defeated in the constituency. Money is being paid hugely to field bogus candidate who are called ‘vote katua’ whose sole aim would be to get his community vote and indirectly benefit to the opponent. This apart, some parties benefit from low turn out of the voters while some other benefit from neutral voters. There is no benefit to people who boycott a candidate as some other would vote and these voters who boycott would be used by the opponent or supporters according to their political loyalty. To curtail such an unhealthy practice and making communities as vote bank or vote katua, mixed member constituencies could be created to provide representations to those communities who remain unrepresented despite their huge number. Various suggestions are being put forward to improve the system but the fault line is our parliamentary system which is based on First Past the Post System. This system gives enough chances of manipulations to powerful groups and moneybag holders. There is no ceiling of getting minimum votes for winning a constituency which has resulted in a shocking trend of manipulation to win the election by using different methods of caste, religion and moneybags. The biggest fault of this system is that the winner vote through a minority vote resulting in a vast majority of voters voting against the candidate as unrepresented and uncounted. Is not it an irony that out of 542 members of Lok Sabha, we do not even have 2% of the members whose winning margin is over 50% of the total vote polled in his constituency. Similarly, there is a huge anomaly in voting percentage (national average or state average) and the seat won in the assembly. That too results in hugely unrepresented votes. For example, in the 2009 general elections, Congress party got 28.55% votes out of the total vote polled but it got 37.94% seats ( 206), similarly BJP got 18.80 votes but 21% seats. Contrary to this, the party’s which belong to particular segments of our society and have been trying to create a niche for the poor remain marginalized. The Bahujan Samaj Party got 6.17% of the total votes but got only 3.87% of the seats in Lok Sabha while CPI (M) got 5.33% of the total vote polled yet got 16 seats which is 2.95% of the total seat won. Such vast gap between the votes polled and seat won need to be questioned if we want to reduce political corruption. Is not it a great joke that Nitish Kumar is the most popular leader with just 21% of total vote polled while CPI(M) is ‘wiped out’ with 40% vote polled. It is time to address these fault lines so that every party get seat according to vote polled and every winning candidate must get over 50% of the total valid votes in his constituency. Democracy in India need to go beyond symbolism and therefore it would be advisable that we slowly switch over to Proportionate Electorate System (PES) which could address these anomalies and provide us a truly representative character of democracy. PES is widely being the main electorate system in Europe and many other parts of the world and India must start thinking on it before it is too late for us to handle the situation. After the Punjab fiasco Congress must have courage to look into it and ponder over Proportionate Electoral System and its benefits. India must adopt a political system which strengthen its integrity yet be more representative. It is also a fact that if BSP support PES, it has larger chances in the electoral system. Even today, as far as vote share is concern, Mayawati has got 26% of total votes polled in UP which should have given her 105 seats in the current assembly in PES. India will pay a heavy price if we do not shift to a better political alternative which is more representative in nature and yet unite India and its diverse communities where those who do not vote to a particular parties do not get thrashed as happening in Uttar-Pradesh at the moment., a system which give minorities their right to participate in power on equitable term and not at the mercy of a dominant community. The current trend of democracy revolve around ‘particular’ community in each states which cobble together a few others ‘like minded’ while pitched in against those who ‘differ’. This has resulted in chaos and virtual caste war in different parts of the country which media may be reporting some time and hiding at other. Uttar-Pradesh will go through this phase now and it is the biggest challenge but then the poll results of Uttar-Pradesh and Punjab are an opportunity for those who fights for genuine representative democracy to push forward agenda for Proportionate Electorate System.