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How should Team Anna enter politics?

August 3, 2012

This is a discussion draft. Invite suggestions.

Suggested way forward:

  • Form a political party (‘Swaraj party/andolan’)
  • Recognize/openly admit that we are too young to have enough good leaders, organization base, mass presence and money power to win/form government on our own. (To win in any constituency, you need 35-40% of votes!)
  • Since we can’t be the ‘king’ (govt. is the ‘king’ in current unfortunate system) and changing the king is anyways not the aim, we should try to be the ‘kingmaker’ (political pressure group) atleast in the immediate term

A political pressure group can work in 2 broad ways:

  • Pre-elections outside legislature: Campaign in most constituencies in favour or against particular parties or candidates and ensure good people win
  • Post elections inside legislature: Focus on winning 5 to 10 % of seats in parliament / state assembly and help one of the large parties in forming a stable government in return for clean governance

Swaraj party should adopt a combination of both approaches. Its best leaders to contest in some seats where we expect good support. In other seats, campaign for a decent party / good candidates and help them win.

Other points:

  • Target/focus on upcoming assembly elections in HP (or Gujarat)
  • Challenging but Swaraj party needs to maintain its anti-corruption focus/identity and, at the same time, transparently decide and communicate certain broad principles/policies it stands for: eg: Complete Transparency, Maximum Decentralization, Lokpal and anti-corruption, More democracy by means of electoral reforms, Judicial and police reforms, Individual liberty, Press independence, etc.
  • Above principles like transparency and decentralization should apply to the party (not just governments). Infact, the party and its leaders should meet higher standards to win popular support. Increase in popular support due to higher standards being followed by Swaraj party will also pressurize other parties to adopt some good practices. This, in itself, will be a huge victory.
  • Bring various other political and pressure groups on board by being receptive to their ideas and moulding ours, if appropriate. Be firm on rejecting ideas that are clearly bad.
  • Best leaders: Recognize that only known faces are  likely to win. Given that Anna won’t contest, we should ensure that atleast the rest of the top leadership is willing to put reputation on stake and contest. Convince celebrities like Anupam Kher, Shekhar Kapur to come forward to contest/campaign
  • Supporting good candidates vs supporting parties: On seats that Swaraj party itself does not contest, finding enough candidates who are ‘good’, willing to contest and ‘known faces capable of winning” is very tricky. Selecting candidates to support will be controversial and split supporters. Also, power eventually resides with parties and not candidates. Hence, we should consider pre-poll alliance with existing parties (even if they are not totally clean). This party can support us in the seats we contest on and we can support them in the other seats. Post elections, it is not necessary for Swaraj party to do what its allies do. It can support any party to form government as long as clean governance is first promised and then delivered.
  1. all the major aspects have been covered by …..strongly feel we should fight elections in metro cities or 2 tier cities where youth in higher secondary n colleges can play an important role in swinging the votes in our favor because than we will be able to campaign in each and every area(like individual buildings residential complex, even chawls n slums) if we simply target school and colleges and ask them to be our messengers to spread the message of our party as they are the ones who are the most enthusiastic and eager to make the change……am sure teacher n professors group can be formed to for all schools n colleges as they wud be willing to give their support for such a noble cause……this would save us a lot of money on our campaigns……and feel it can be a game changer……

  2. Apoorv Bhat permalink

    I don’t think we should be ‘Kingmakers’.. We should aim to be kings and until then continue to do whatever we can in our capacity, even if it is just using MPLAD funds as MPs. Our aim to be Kingmakers will drive us to the dirty world of power brokering.. Besides, there is absolutely no political party worth giving a hand as no one is interested in Good and clean governance. As a movement i didn’t have any problem in us being a pressure group, as you suggested a few months ago. BUT as a political party we should have ‘all or none’ policy.. NO coalition ever( not atleast with the current political parties)… Waiting for your response Shailesh 🙂

    • apoorv – as long as we have a first past the post system, an all or nothing approach will leave us with nothing for decades….let me ask you – what % of seats do you think IAC can win on its own in any assembly/parliament…even after 5-10 years? and what can it do in the assembly/parliament if it remains like the left parties that refuse to work/co-operate with anyone? how long are you willing to wait before we are able to feed the hungry?

      do you hate the parties or their bad policies? do you mind if lure of power can force these corrupt people to do some good?

      kingmakers need not dirty their hands…we don’t have to be kingmakers at any cost…..infact, the more iac sticks to tranparency and democracy, the faster it will become a kingmaker….

  3. complex indeed. I broadly agree in that they should follow a dual strategy of contesting elections and be a political pressure group / support good candidates and parties in the meanwhile.
    But I think its going to be a slow grind and we should not get frustrated if say for example they win only 5 seats in upoming elections

    For the party, it will have to be more action than words. As you said, their popular faces may win some seats in upcoming elections. From there, they should do good work in their constituency and highlight this in other constituencies. Once people see the difference, they should progressively win higher number of seats in each election…. again, slow grind

    Challenges I foresee:
    1) As a political pressure group, they might not have sufficient numbers to exert enough pressure to enforce good policies (for the initial few years at least)
    2) Assuming most (if not all) political parties are corrupt, they might only be left with a few independant candidates to alliance with in the elections. Why will the smaller parties form pre-poll alliance with us despite knowing that we are surely not going to be in power?
    3) In current structure where either BJP/Congress win max seats and form coalition government, IAC will mostly have to be kingmaker for either of these two. These parties will prefer spending a few hundred crores and buying support instead of IAC support where they will be under pressure to perform.
    4) How long will it take for people (like you and me) to stand up and join them. I am sure they have enough supporters. But are enough people willing to take the plunge?

    • mostly agree with you chirag…good points but you underestimate the immense power that comes from swinging 5% of votes and/or winning 3-5% of seats. NCP has 9 seats (less than 2%) in LokSabha but Congress has happily given it 2 senior and 1 junior ministerial positions. If IAC can get 5-10 seats, it can atleast get control over 1 small ministry. If IAC focuses on doing excellent work in that ministry, then the growth will be phenomenal. It can simultaneously highlight corruption/poor performance by its senior partners without insisting on having its way in those matters.

      BJP/Congress will partner with ANYONE as long as they get power and non-interference in major ministries. Possible that they are able to form a stable govt without pre or post-election IAC support but that’s a risk that we have to take. We have to gradually become too big to be avoided.

      The main problem is the other extreme…IAC/ some of its supporters don’t want to work with anyone who is corrupt or does not denounce corrupt people. They want ‘all or nothing” thinking that IAC is big enough to win on its own….and that’s not going to happen!

      4) too many people willing to contest elections – you will see soon! but agree, not many willing to take the plunge and work in the background (especially if the process of deciding the candidates turns out be less than fair/transparent)

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