Vol-CXVII : March 3, 2013

Dear Colleagues

The ‘Ides of March’ are upon us; here is another round for your perusal.

  1. The first duly elected government of AAP in Delhi demitted office in a huff two weeks ago, having served for 49 days. There are competing views about the potential impact of this decision on the fortunes of this new party in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. However, viewed from the lens of participatory democracy, this period is too short to begin to demonstrate that direct and representative forms of participation can co-exist without contradiction, and indeed reinforce each other. In this sub-continent, the psyche of ‘sarkar my-baap’ (government my parents) has been so deeply ingrained that it would take sustained efforts for participatory democracy to find roots?
  2. There is considerable public promotion of ‘youth leadership’ of late. Not only various political parties are engaged in ‘seducing’ youth towards their folds, corporates are also launching a variety of promotional schemes for ‘youth leadership’. Big media advertisements exhort youth ‘to push ahead’, ‘jump the queue’ and ‘make it to the top’. Such models of leadership underline individual aggression and narrow self-interest. Strong leadership can be accommodative of plurality and inclusive of diversity. Women’s leadership combines the ‘right and the left’ brains to assert in ways that takes people along. Are we forgetting some things then in these promotions?
  3. Appointments of members and officers of the Governing Boards of non-profits and academic institutions are generally carried out through informal networks of associates and acquaintances. In fact, the same could be said to be practically the case for companies as well even though share-holders have voting powers. In Europe and North America, there have been some recent examples of public recruitment of Chairpersons of the Boards of non-profits. Upcoming vacancies for posts of Chairperson are advertised and nominations invited through an open public process. Selection follows interviews and in-depth appraisal process. Will this approach work in Asian contexts?
  4. The once sleepy Raipur—capital of Chhattisgarh—is vibrant and dynamic these days. A large number of professional educational institutions have now been set up after the chaos and confusion of 2001-02. The young boys and girls of Chhattisgarh seem to be confidently and purposively moving towards a more desirable future in urban centres. Yet, the large tribal population of the state seems to be at crossroads of change. Some are looking to deepen their exiting roots, while some others yearn to seek new grounds. The choices are neither easy nor painless, yet choices have to be made. What can be done to ‘ease’ the process of change which balances the best of the current rootedness with aspirations of a new world?
  5. The ‘performance’ of elected political leaders in Indian parliament last month made many wonder about the relevance of such democracy. Violent actions, pepper sprays, tearing of bills, posters in front of speakers, constant chanting of protest—-it was truly unbelievable and disgusting sight. The very essence of parliament is space for open-minded debates, where listening to others’ arguments is the ‘most parliamentary’ behaviour. Politics is not a wrestling match; parliaments are not places for boxing practice. Procedures of parliamentary discourse are not enough to ensure meaningful and thoughtful conversations; basic norms of civility and courtesy need to be nurtured as much in our political debates as in everyday conversations.

Best regards

Rajesh Tandon