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Come on Team Anna….please do this!

June 12, 2012

Let’s say India Against Corruption (‘IAC’) wants to prevent people with pending criminal cases from becoming MPs/MLAs.

This is how it can do this:

Announce that IAC will positively campaign for ANY political party that gives tickets to the least number/percentage of criminal candidates in the 2012 Himachal assembly elections.

For starters, not many can criticize such a positive move.
Will Congress/BJP play ball?
Criminal candidates get party tickets because parties expect a net positive impact on their win prospects (either because of money, muscle power or caste equations). IAC’s campaign support for clean candidates can tilt the balance and make the criminal candidates a net liability for the parties.
Hopefully, both BJP and Congress will want IAC support. Atleast, they will want to avoid IAC campaigning for the other party. They get IAC support simply by fielding less number of criminal candidates vs. the other party. Not a bad deal!
One party reducing criminal candidates will force the other party to do the same (to keep its image). Might create a positive race among the parties instead of the current race to the bottom.
If both parties snub IAC thinking it can’t swing votes, then IAC should support one of the smaller parties and prove itself. I see no reason for smaller parties to reject IAC support.
Can IAC succeed?
Ultimately, the success of this strategy depends on IAC’s ability to increase vote-share and no. of seats for the party it supports.
If IAC can swing even 3% of total votes towards its partner party, the no. of seats can change meaningfully. The average % vote difference between the winner and 1st runner-up in any constituency is not more than 5 to 7%.
Like competition in a free market, this can change things rapidly
Reducing criminal MLAs in Himachal might seem like a small start but the key is to establish a replicable and scalable model.
IAC success will encourage other citizen groups to improve and use this model in all elections and to achieve various reforms. People will realize the power of getting/voting together to influence issues. We can use our existing representative democracy to move to a true participatory democracy.
Competition among various citizen groups will keep IAC in check and force us to continuously improve.
IAC owes this to the nation!
IAC is in a unique position to establish this model. IAC is well known, has some popular support, has funding, strives for change and is not power-hungry.
I am a passionate IAC supporter and I urge IAC not to squander this once-in-a-life time opportunity.
IAC’s other options?
1) Fasting, etc:  Awesome to create visibility and awareness but fails to achieve tangible change
2) Contesting elections / supporting independent candidates:
  • contesting elections or even identifying clean and capable candidates will divide us, create controversies & deflect focus from real issues. IAC lacks organizational depth / structure to handle these
  • most independents and IAC leaders (except top few who won’t contest) will lose (need ~40% votes in a constituency to win)
  • history (BJP, Mamata, etc.) repeatedly shows that getting power is a long process and people change by the time they get power. IAC’s troubles already indicate we’ll be no different
  • winning an election is not a replicable model
Poor governance frustrates us but aiming for instant/complete relief by trying to become PM/CM is the most common  mistake that clean, inexperienced guys do. Our first past the post system requires us to work with the big parties. Congress is a pro at this game and it wants us to do the mistake of going solo against them.
If IAC campaigns well but fails to create impact, then
  • people do not mind criminal candidates (either live with this or educate the people); OR
  • IAC does not enjoy any popular support…it should reform itself and come back!

Instead of all this, shouldn’t we ask for Lokpal / other reforms?

Govt. won’t/can’t implement any meaningful reform. IAC has to prove its electoral relevance and push / empower the govt. to implement those ideas.

  1. venkat permalink

    Fantastic suggestion! To be taken note of at by the highest levels of IAC and Team Anna for implementation! Very concrete suggestion that requires people to put their heads down and do something concrete and result oriented! This will charge the country with a positive fresh air!

  2. Apoorv permalink

    wonderful suggestions!!

  3. You have expressed really well, and we can think on working on similar lines in future. My personal view is the skeleton of the idea is great, creative, though there could be some real challenges when you announce to support any political parties who bring on clean faces. What I think is there could be an addition – let the people do a pre-poll via IAC (could be just a facilitator) on all the candidates announced by parties or either independent. In fact, let the people also announce candidates which could result into too many candidates but will be further narrowed down by public itself in pre-poll screening (criteria can be discussed later). Another challenge is there is a group of people frustrated by both the parties (BJP or CON), and they are expecting this movement to remain apolitical because of the fear that we could also be one of them if we jump into politics… I know this is not true.

    • Thanks Dilip. Yes, IAC can devise a process for selecting which party to support but it should sacrifice perfection to keep the process simple, objective and 100% transparent. Otherwise, allegations of being biased towards/against one party will kill the plan.

      Supporting independent candidates – In my view, supporting parties should be preferred since independents generally don’t have a significant support base…IAC may be unable to swing 25-30% votes by campaigning in each constituency.

  4. abhimanyuaryaa permalink

    One issue I see here is that there not just the 2 parties in any election, there are atleast 5-6 parties in any state. And some parties may not have a lot of candidates so if they have only 2 candidates and both are non-criminal then IAC support them but what if congress has 10 candidates and 3 with pending cases.
    It is more simple to go against a party rather than support a party.

    • we can easily look at the % of criminal candidates for parties that do not have serious candidates on all seats.

      My example here refers to Himachal Pradesh where BJP, Congress won 95% of the seats last time. So, to have clean MLAs in Himachal, you have to engage with these 2 parties.

      Going against a party is good but is my second preference. It creates a negative mood. Hisar is an example…I personally support IAC’s stand there but there were obviously some issues. IAC let the other parties completely off the hook and didn’t provide any option for the voters to vote.

    • by continuously fighting against these parties, we are losing the war because we are hating the sinners, not the sin. (Paap se nafrat karo…paapiyon se nahi!)

  5. Anon permalink

    What you call ‘Swing Vote Bank’ which I called ‘The Informed Lobby of India(TILI)’ is an old idea that needs to be looked at seriously.

    1)LIST of DEMANDS:We have a list of demands and whichever party accepts to implement the list inlcluding seats only to clean candidates should get our support.

    2)All parties should be invited to come and participate in a public debate and a panel of expert judges should decide who should be voted for and the entire lobby should vote for the same party/candidate despite individual reservation.

    3)This panel of judges should be well known experts known for their integrity and should be appointed on the lines of Janlokpal and partyly by the Lobby itself.Only partly by the Lobby becuase the Lobby could be infilitrated.

    4)The Judges should be given 60% of the voting rights and the Lobby of people 40% of voting rights to choose the final party/candidate that they like to vote.The Lobby gets only 40% voting rights because the Lobby could be infilitrated with party workers.Both together in the end decide on the party/candidate that they choose and all should vote for despite individual reservations.

    5)This idea should be implemented in phases and statewise and increase it progressively.

    6)If we take a big state with 4 Crore votes 1% of that would be 4 lakh voters.So if we form a Lobby of 4 lakh voters in a state then we can become a powerful Informed Lobby in each state.

    • i totally agree with you….the idea of votebank / pressure group / lobby is not new and is an essential element of a successful democracy….

      The toughest part is to create a big lobby with reasonably clean leadership….IAC has successfully done that and is in a unique position to use/popularize this concept….

  6. amit khemka permalink

    somehow just for saying that we will support you if you guys do not give tickets to people with criminal cases is a very small thing…..we have 150mp’s in the parliament with criminal cases but than the other 400 even with clean image are not doing anything valuable for us…..and just think what if congress gets all clean candidates…IAC decides not to support them would be devastating(as the media would ask that ur demand has been met and yet u r supporting another party…u were pre determined ) and if IAC supports them that would be a bigger disaster because that would make people believe that IAC has joined hands with congress……showing the government and the parties, IAC votebank is the need of the hour but even that should be used in a proper manner……IAC is already making a lot of mistakes just by trying not to get attached with any political parties and not campaigning against congress as it was decided in december fast.VOTEBANK is the power which has to be used… as of now just go and be anti government campaign by saying them you told us to get elected…..well what we can do is stop you from getting elected should be the right kind of shout as of now i feel………IAC should be patient with the new government and laying out clear objectives with a larger goal seeing that if they have the amount of support which they are sure….they can plan a party n fight elections for the 2019…..if the 2014 government which would not be of congress fails to deliver…… can feel its a long shot but than it buys us the right amount of time to plan a strategy if IAC decides to get into elections.

    • thanks bhidu

      yes, reducing the no. of criminal candidates is only a small start…IAC can actually choose some other bigger condition provided its not too controversial. The key here is to prove its electoral relevance…once that is done, congress/BJP will meet its bigger demands too.

      i think IAC should remove its mental block against supporting congress or BJP. Digvijay Singh and pro-Congress commentators are creating this false impression that pro-BJP = anti-India but IAC should not fall for such manipulation. Similarly, while most Congress leaders are bad, we should not hesitate in rewarding Congress if it improves.

      As long as BJP or Congress are the only parties capable of forming governments, we have to work with at least one of them. Just ensure that selection of the party to support/oppose is done in a transparent and fair manner so that people trust our intentions.

      Hisar style campaign against the incumbent party if they fail to bring lokpal / other reforms is also fine. But i think that creates a negative atmosphere ….unnecessarily makes IAC an enemy of politicians…my personal preference is to directly support 1 party and work with them (instead of indirect support by opposing their opponents) ….but i think eitherways is fine.

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