Sunday, May 3, 2009

At the grass root level...

The difference in the voting pattern of the urban and rural voter is not just the disenchantment with the political system, but also the failure of the urban voters to connect with their local representative – in other words, their leader.

This is primarily because the urban voter gets pretty much what he wants. He has roads, sanitation, water, electricity, transport, the capacity to buy and what not. So what else is left for him to complain? This is where the national issues crop up. Security is therefore a major concern. Economics is a concern. Governance is a concern. Corruption is a concern. And they will remain his concerns for eternity. And while discussing/addressing these concerns, politicians are often projected as the rotten lot. Therefore he does not gather the will to come and vote.

In contrast, the rural voter is more dependent on the government. He is dependent on the government for his health, for the education of his children. He is dependent on it for Minimum Support Price, better farm inputs, loans, employment, sustainable opportunities, sops, etc.

And to them, government means not just their CM, but their local representative too. Only when there is a fine balance between leader at the local level and his intentions to implement beneficial policies, will we see a stronger nation emerging. The impact a local leader creates also helps in the development of the state and the country. Through the development of their constituency, they are assisting in the development of their country. There is absolutely no need to view development also in an abstract manner. To some constituencies, employment might be a problem, to some infrastructure, to some education and to some health. In the hands of the local representative therefore lies the well being of his constituents.

A Sidhu spending 5.5 crore out of the allotted 6 crore is signs of matured leadership. If Amristar developed better, then doesn’t it also translate to a part of India developing? I’ve heard about the Vijayawada MP going out of his way to get weavers trained by NIFT, now if they develop, isn’t a part of the state also developing? A Scindia investing in power projects, a Arun Shourie investing in IIT, a Purandareswari questioning her own government in Parliament are all excellent examples of the impact local leaders can create.

I think leadership is a term often used as an abstract in India. To me, there are 545 leaders in India. Infact, if we consider the base unit is an MLA, then we have about 3,500 constituency level leaders wielding the power to create an excellent impact in the lives of the people who elected them. Winning an MP or an MLA seat is no mean job (quite frankly, I realised that only during this election!). Only leaders can accomplish that. And only visionaries can sustain that victory for a long time.

Local leaders are the bridge through which the policies reach the people. Leadership at the top needs to inspire the local leadership; needs to guide them to think in a different way; and grant them whatever is necessary to pursue their vision. 2009 – 2014 should be a period where we get to know more about the impact the political leadership at the local level is creating.

Let’s create a spirit of competition amongst the members of the 15th Lok Sabha by constantly telecasting the good work being done by the local leaders. Let not the question stop at “The other MP asked 10 questions, how many did you?”, but it should begin with “The other MP already impacted the lives of 1000 people, how about you?” Let the media take the lead in deflecting the cynicism associated with politics. Let us create better leaders, not just at the national level but also at the grass root level.

PS: The relation between the party and its candidate is a mutual one. This article does not take into account the party policies, and the role of parties in assisting the local leaders. It is a conscious effort to isolate the two, and concentrate on the persona of the field level leader, which also plays a pivotal role in the victory of the party.


  1. What about the case of traditional vote banks? If you look at the percentage of votes polled per party in AP in the past, Congress and TDP each got atleast 30% of the total votes. Even in the last elections, although Congress got a lot more seats than TDP, the difference was less than 5% of total votes across the state.

    Turns out a lot of people keep voting for the same party despite the candidate. There is a small percentage of swing voters who make the difference. That is why minority groups are appeased by all parties because they swing a lot.

    This is not just the case in India but also in the US. Most Republican voters keep voting for the Republican party and most Democratic voters vote for the Democratic party. It is the small percentage of swing voters who make the difference. This means the leader herself does not make a huge difference. Offcourse a few votes makes all the difference in politics but the party plays 90% of the role in winning.

    Small turnout in the cities is partly (I think greatly) because of the lack of strong campaigning in the cities. One of my friends' dad helped campaign for Lok Satta in Kairatabad constituency. They found that the major parties don't even bother to campaign in a lot of urban areas because all the election promises are targeted towards the poor.

    This brings something to my mind - when NTR founded TDP and campaigned, he used the phrase "Rajeekiya Chaitanyam" - Political Consciousness. The idea is to bring political consciousness amongst people and make them participate in democracy. More needs to be done to make people politically conscious.

    Nice blog. Prabodh pointed this to me. Keep writing.

  2. Sandeep DeshpandeMay 13, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    Nice article bro....well researched one......another point on similar lines would be the emergence of local/regional parties in this election and the importance of their Lok Sabha count.

    Though the national parties are skeptical about the emergence of such regional parties, we have to believe in democratic setup/result and not totally write them off for the only reason that there would a chance of localized development if the leader happens to be accountable and responsible to his/her constituency.

  3. Well versed with facts to provide the necessary direction to your focal point...may these ideas assimilate into both leaders and common men!