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The Political capacity to identify and champion Alternatives

By: Amit Bhushan Date: 7th April, 2014

In India, the political process run by political parties, has been run more like fiefdoms and less like a mature democratic set up. The winner or ruling party along with their partners andchamchas are supposed to lord over rule making apparatus and make decisions to allocate projects to supporters. The policies and rules are devised to support these requirements and the same witness little debate amongst public or media who are anyways pre-occupied with the mundane activities. The opposition finds going tough since they need to be bending backward to manage onslaught from bureaucrats and the legal apparatus checking upon past deeds as well as misdeeds. Most business minded supporters of opposition need to bend tail and comply with ruling lords decisions since that is the order for the season. The democracy at lower level of governance is practically absent since the scope of debates/arguments in public service bodies is absent not only at implementation level, but also that the project design and policy formulation levels where such debates may have a chance to materially improve the impact/benefits. One of the challenges for the political parties and their leaders (especially those in opposition) is that they lack the knowledge of alternative policy choices while deciding upon rules. This leads to a situation of being for a choice for which some incentives may be available or being against for which no incentives are available. If however, they come across a set of different choices including possible incentives for support of each of the different choices (with assessment of likely impact), then the leaders will be able to at least debate better, however the systems nurtured by us have ensured no such support structure. Our political masters have shunned independent debates largely because they would tend to kick off independent probes into affairs of government which is undesirable due to varied reasons. They also strongly feel the need for control/order achieved by avoidance of public peep into affairs of government. So impact of our politics or political apparatus on business is taught in Business Schools as theoretical subject even though it impacts everyday life of businesses and people involved with it. This off course does little help to students and is of little value to society or businesses themselves. The business schools have also remained aloof rather than research, the murky areas like government

policy making and their interpretation for independent analysis due to lack of expertise, lack of incentives and lack of resources and absence of tools like Right to Information. The business schools or businesses or students have almost failed to devise any school project to study rules/policies or their interpretation by public servants that would merit a study using intervention tools such as RTI and others including seeking support from bureaucrats or kick up discussions in public. Our commercial media seems to be contend with handouts from the powers that be in public administration as well as organized businesses to feed its consumers with news since most of them are non-paying, nondemanding consumers anyways. So why create an eco-system (which would take time besides a few failures of experiments) for some research base reports and discussion with younglings (who want to become business managers), especially since the powers that control such media would do anything to avoid the same. The businesses are partly to be blamed for this since they all have relied on mostly on corporate lobby groups like industry associations alone for managing affairs with government, and not provided any support structure for independent study of policies or published independent views. Indian Businesses, mostly family held/driven have felt better controls are exercised if lobbying is through industry association or through personal involvement in vain hope that these would yield some sustainable advantages and help manage affairs in a better way. The current wind of changes and their impact is likely to test the belief, it seems. Although such change may not be a guarantee to better involvement of youth with governance since most politicians in post-victory mode would tend to go back to old ways of managing system in name of stability rather than be forward thinking in the initial years itself. The post-defeat politicians may also be engaged with setting the equations rather than looking at change. The political cost of failure to do so has been immense and would remain so for foreseeable future. We have seen how government and media failed to engage young voters and its impact is likely to be out in some time. In politics, we therefore lack a middle class i.e. those who can make effective voice on a select cross-section of issues without being at helm of affairs (except the journos and non-government office bearers in political parties). We only have rulers be it at municipal, state or national level or subjects, besides lobbyists with their axe to grind, off course. Earlier such people could be accommodated within layers and often in Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Parishads, but not any more due to swelling of these ranks (and therefore the RS being reserved for High class now). It is this lack of political middle class, along with a near total lack of involvement of youth that seems to be a cause of much consternation in this season of elections.