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IAC: Opacity is bad strategy!

August 10, 2012

As an IAC supporter, I know that IAC is deliberately non-transparent about its internal discussions. Ignoring the moral issues (all is fair if it helps India) and knowing that most IAC folks genuinely want good for India, I argue that non-transparency is a bad strategy for IAC in its goal to free India.

Example: Should IAC release to its supporters and public video recordings of core committee meetings (with sensitive discussions removed in rare cases)?

Arguments against transparency and rebuttal:

1.      Forces democracy: Arvind Kejriwal has contributed the most to IAC and he is the best. Transparency forces decision-making by majority votes – one vote per person. AK deserves a greater say and rightly does not like this. So, he tries to control by having yes men around him and by being non-transparent.

Better to have transparency and give more than 1 vote to AK (or anyone who contributes more). Internal democracy does not mean equal voting rights…it means voting rights in proportion to your contribution just like shareholders who own more shares have more votes. Similarly, instead of getting an unfair veto power. Anna should have more votes.

2.      Reveals our strategies: I was with IAC in August 2011. Government was very vindictive and, even in Mumbai, we assumed that all our conversations were recorded. Yet, we simply did not alter our actions since there was nothing to hide. Operational stuff like planning of surprise actions can be hidden.

3.      Eliminates spontaneous emotional response from people: Everyone knows that part of the popular emotional surge in August was due to government’s stupid behavior. IAC hopes to re-create those emotions, force govt to do similar mistakes by sensationalizing things & keeping their cards closed. AK’s high pitched fast and sudden announcement to enter politics were arguably part of this strategy. Subjective but my view is the attempt actually backfired and one cannot ‘create’ August-like atmosphere. It just happens.

4.      Shows that we have differences: It is actually a good thing. People on both sides of an argument will know that there is somebody arguing for them and raising the points they want to. Media can sensationalize differences only if we fake consensus. Having differences does not stop us from voting, arriving at a majority decision and presenting a united face. We will be in a better position to counter opposition by showing that we have duly considered both viewpoints.

5.      Shows that we ‘fight like cats and dogs’, are ill-prepared, etc.: Yes, transparency highlights all our weaknesses but it also forces us to behave and shape up. It allows our supporters to help us overcome our weaknesses. Those members who refuse to learn will rightly stand exposed.

6.      Prevents members from speaking their mind: Transparency only forces one to think before he speaks. One can still speak his mind but will need to speak coherently, avoid loose talk or tall claims, differentiate between opinion, rumors and fact, etc. Difficult initially but improves discussion quality and communication skills.

7.      Encourages playing to the gallery and populist arguments: Transparency gives an opportunity to other members to explain why an argument is without merit. Deliberate misleading becomes easier to identify; one should call the bluff and get rid of such members.

8.      Our ignorant / foolish / status-quoist population does not deserve transparency: Transparency will educate and win over many people and those people will gradually educate and win over the rest. In any case, how does opacity help to keep the skeptics on our side?

Ultimately, the case for transparency is obvious (see this link) and I am nobody to preach transparency to AK (who worked on RTI that mandates extremely high levels of transparency). Everyone believes in and many struggle for transparency. Unfortunately, most gradually become secretive once they become ‘insiders’. Sometimes its ill-intent but, more often than not, its fear of losing control or failure to put oneself in the shoes of ‘outsiders’ who need and yearn for transparency.

The most arrogant and secretive folks like Sibal, Khurshid, Chidambaram, Mukherjee or any other ‘educated’ politicians or journos like Karan Thapar, Rajdeep, Barkha were not born this way. Infact, they have been our hope and heroes in the past; power and proximity to power has done this to them and they do not even know they are causing such great harm to the nation they still love.

For the sake of millions of suffering Indians, let us hope and pray that IAC, which promises a ‘different’ type of political party, is indeed different!


From → Team Anna

  1. well thought……i was against this transpareny stuff when started reading your article… you know i feel that not everyone should have a right to raise his voice and at times hitlergiri is necessary and i give the benefit of doubt to AK for the same all the time…….but now starting a political party and for the long run you have just hit all the right buttons….completely in favour of transparency and all your points……i hope this post reaches AK and his team…….

    • agree with you that IAC should control conversations / committee memberships to ensure efficiency, etc….but they can do this while being transparent and democratic…

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