Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gandhiji's courage of conviction

In 1938, a group of well-meaning people felt that against the best equipped British army, Gandhi's way of non-violence was doomed to fail.

They gathered in front of Gandhi and advised him to seek a compromise, a reconciliation on issues rather than waste his life fighting a hopeless battle.

Gandhi very calmly replied to them, "My life gets meaning only in seeking complete freedom of the country from the Britishers, so that we can have self-rule. I do not stand for reconciliations, settlements or compromise with violence, subjugation or enslavement. Give your advice to the weak who doubt my way."

On another occasion, some other people asked Gandhi, "What are the chances of your non-violent struggles to succeed?"

Gandhi smiled and said, "Honestly, I don't know. No one has ever experimented with non-violence as a tool for a national movement in human history."

"So, why do you pursue such a struggle that you are not sure of succeeding?"

"I do not work so that I succeed. I work because it is the correct thing to do, because it gives meaning to my life. It gives me the dignity to my existence even in its failure. A life without a cause has no purpose." Gandhi responded.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

AAP & Down - The Arvind I knew

Chapter 1 (excerpt)

While I had met Arvind only a few times, I had heard many inspiring stories about him. For instance, during his avatar as an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, he’d regularly expose fellow of officers who’d ask for bribes. While working with the Income Tax (IT) department, he was also operating as one of the founders of a grass-roots activism organisation called Parivartan. He’d visit the Sundar Nagari slums of Delhi, attend to the grievances of citizens, and resolve their concerns, whether this had to do with getting a ration card or common income tax and electricity complaints. Arvind used RTI to help people get their work done in government offices without paying bribes, and he organised public hearings to hold government officials accountable.

There are two stories involving Arvind and Parivartan that are particularly motivating. 

As all of us know, IT refunds can get held up for a variety of reasons, and the citizen gets severely inconvenienced. To resolve this, each time there was an impasse, a team of Parivartan volunteers would meet the concerned officer along with the assessee and ask for the date of refund. On the said date, they would reach the IT office with musical instruments. If the refund was refused, they’d sit on the floor of the office, sing songs, beat drums and clang cymbals, till the refunds were made.

Another story involved an individual who was asked for a bribe of Rs 25,000 by an IT officer to pass his refund order. Parivartan volunteers, along with select media entities, took a procession led by drums and cymbals, carrying a cheque of Rs 25,000 to pay the bribe. The officer, as expected, ran away from the back door.

I was bowled over by Arvind’s approach and audacity. I became his admirer. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

AAP & Down - prologue

I was sitting under a tree and talking to some of the farmers of Parchundi—one of the fifteen villages we have adopted in Marathwada, Maharashtra for rural development. 

We were having an intense discussion about some impending post-monsoon work. From the corner of my eye, I could see Govind, one of the smartest boys of the village, fidgeting. He appeared uninterested in the goings- on. Each time the conversation paused, Govind seemed to want to say something, but the words would stall.
When the meeting ended, I asked, ‘Govind, what is it?’ Sheepishly, he looked at me and whispered, ‘Sir, tell me please, exactly kay zhala?’ (‘What exactly happened?’) 

All interest in our earlier discussion vanished as every face in the gathering lit up with expectation.

It was a question I had got used to hearing wherever I went:
Kay zhala?
Kya hua?
Shu thayu?
What happened?

Yes, what happened to you and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)?

In other words: How did the party splinter? Where did it lose its way? And what exactly compelled you—one of its founding leaders—to quit?

Thousands of books have been written, lms made and historical volumes published with the details of India’s independence struggle. But very little has been written about what has been called India’s ‘second independence struggle’—a struggle almost synonymous with the creation of AAP and its promise to rescue a nation plagued by corruption. Equally little has been written about the party’s sudden implosion—and with it, the caving in of the dreams of a billion Indians for a new India.

Someone had to attend to this gap. Someone had to write about one of the most important phases in post- independent Indian history with knowledge, objectivity and insider information. Someone had to trace AAP’s meteoric rise and fall.

This book attempts to do that. It offers, not just bare- boned history, but a personal account and analysis of the events of the recent past, the minds of its protagonists—be it Arvind Kejriwal or Anna Hazare—and the ups and downs of one of India’s most controversial parties.

This is my truth and what I know of AAP. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Rural Economy

Rural economy
Having now worked in one of the poorer parts of rural india for some time, I wanted to make a few points and observations

Only a small fraction of tax revenue comes from rural India, but a major and disproportionate part of the expense goes to rural India. And it is appropriate in a pre-dominant rural and developing nation.

This expense is in form of infrastructure, various poverty alleviation schemes, social reforms, agriculture development, other income generation models, subsidies etc and is spent by the govt. Thousands of schemes.

All these money’s through the schemes, contracts and infrastructure are cornered by politicians and their supporters/contractors.

Therefore in Rural India, the politician are the new monarchs and they are treated as such with people milling around them and each of their meetings overflowing. Money gets power and power gets money. It’s what I call a Monarcracy ( monarchs elected in democratic manner) ☺

Farming is unviable and while one can survive while being farmers, it cannot lead to prosperity.

Every village has various groups from each of the major political parties and get the largesse if their party nominees win. Therefore, villages have tremendous internal and in some ways, vicious politics. The biggest business in rural india is politics.

There is so much corruption and leakages in all schemes and contracts, that there is an incestuous relationship between administration, politicians and contractors. If you see large houses or cars or luxury in rural india – it’s the contractors (most of them are politically connected).

Unless farmer earns from farms and agriculture ~ this will continue. Loans, waivers, more expenditure, less leakages, small industries, increased subsidies, waivers, other sources of income generation may be a band-aid on the cancer within. The problem is deep rooted and will have to dealt in an appropriate manner.

Today, the youth does not get attracted to farming, people are not willing to give their daughters to farmers and there is no respect for farming community.

Unless some serious paradigm shifts take place in policies and rural management, I shudder to think what will we do after 25 years, when our youth is so reluctant to get into core agriculture.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Kumar and Amanatullah

I saw the way AAP was functioning and was hoping against hope that it will soon realize that it was heading the wrong way and do course correction. I prayed that AAP loses badly, so that circumstances makes it see sense. It lost everywhere. My hopes rose that this shock loss may bring it back to its senses.

But what has happened since is unexpected and shocking!

After AAP lost miserably in Punjab, Goa and Delhi, it made some appropriate noises. Some papers of resignations were exchanged internally. No one from the coterie was sacked nor chastised. It was business as usual. I was sad. Was losing hopes.

Then I was pleasantly surprised when Kumar Vishwas took a stand in favor of serious introspection.  Then the classic game that I had seen being used against Prashant and Yogendra began – some social media members started attacking Kumar Vishwas’ character in the worst possible manner. Amanatullah was mandated to attack Kumar as a RSS / BJP stooge and stage was set for hinting to Kumar that if he dared to go against the High Command, then his reputation will be spoiled.

I thought for a while that Kumar Vishwas will stand up for principles, but he catapulted. He settled for removal of Amanatullah and being made the Rajasthan in-charge. Yes, Rajasthan. Completely inconsequential. All talks about introspection are in cold storage and in just few days, Kejriwal has shown who is the boss, by reinstating Amanatullah. So Amanatullah has been given senior positions in the party, giving a sharp message to any one who has the temerity to speak against the Supremo.

So, Kejriwal stays as convenor as well as CM. All challengers have been vanquished within the party. Partymen are happy that there was no split. The country enjoyed the entertainment, but the genuine volunteers are pained at this episode. The icing on the cake is when AAP introspected that it lost because it was behaving like an Aam Aadmi and that it should behave more like MLAs from other parties. So, instead of going closer to the original principles of the party, it concluded that it should go further from them. My hopes from AAP are receding. It has become like any other party.

By the way, why so much love for Amanatullah Khan? Who is he and what is his background?

It was 2014 and Narendra Modi and BJP had swept the LokSabha elections. Kejriwal was worried as he heard reports that BJP was trying to poach some muslim MLAs from the Cong to form the state government. There were some anonymous posters stuck it in the constituencies of the Cong MLAs. The posters essentially called the MLAs “Quam ke dushman” or enemies of the religion for planning to join BJP. This was considered as communal by the police and they acted immediately and arrested Dilip Pandey.

Meanwhile, some members of the party unearthed a Ram Vilas Paswan supporter called Amanatullah Khan. He was told to take the blame and he would be given a ticket in the forthcoming polls from AAP. So, he did.

In 2015 when the tickets were being distributed, Prashant Bhushan kept on objecting to many of the candidates. This made Kejriwal furious. It was planned to keep Prashant silent till the elections and then discredit him and throw him out of the party along with Yogendra. So, the Kejriwal faction promised Prashant that there will be restructuring in the party after the election to usher in transparency and accountability. Prashant agreed and then went to Jindal Farm in Bangalore for treatment. When he came out of the Farm, he found out that Amanatullah Khan was given the ticket. He was upset and wanted to hold a Press Conference informing public that Kejriwal was compromising all principles. But again he was requested to be patient and wait for the election, which he agreed.

Amanatullah Khan won and was made part of PAC and used as a tool when needed. Kumar did say that he knew that someone was behind Amanatullah, but he settled without confronting. The arrogance  and technique of Kejriwal won once again.

What can I say! I am fast losing hopes from AAP. I would genuinely love it if AAP improves and keeps BJP on its toes as a strong party.  Just, don’t feel too hopeful about AAP, right now. Let me observe for some time and pray for some sense.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Strong personal message to Kejriwal from an old friend

Dear Arvind,

A defeat deals a body blow to arrogance and makes the mind ready to reflect. So, the timing is appropriate.

I am addressing you as your former friend and colleague who believes that AAP can still be salvaged and become the party for alternative politics. I am reaching out to you because my agony is not just mine; but of lakhs of volunteers, donors and supporters.

We have known each other since 2003, when I was part of Annaji fast-to-death in Mumbai for the RTI etc. You have been my hero first, friend next and politician later.

Let me address the hero first

I remember how you convinced me to get out of my spiritual pursuit and lead the IAC movement in Maharashtra when we met in Nov 2011 in a conference hosted by Bhagwanji Raiyani in SP Jain Institute, Mumbai. In spite of my reluctance, you announced my name. I respected you too much to decline.

I remember in mid 2012, when we both were travelling in an auto in Aarey Colony that you told me to quit my job so that I could give full time to the Anna andolan. In spite of my precarious financial situation, I quit my job.



I remember we used to discuss idealism in politics till late in the night whenever you stayed with us. My daughter, who was part of those discussions, got inspired to become an IRS like you. So, not just me, my entire family believed in your ideals.

I remember that you sent Manish Sisodia to study the experiment that we, in Mumbai, were working on for a citizen consensus candidate for Juhu in 2009. We both were working on creating a model where political candidates could be elected without using money, muscle or divisive agenda i.e. without use of caste, communal, criminal or corrupt practices.
That was exactly what AAP attempted in the 2013 and 2015 Delhi elections, successfully.

I remember how we used to speak for hours about how the personality or high command driven politics of India was destroying the nation– be it Cong or the BJP or the Thackerays or the Laloo, Mayavati and Mulayam. You hated that, then!

When I announced from the stage that you will remove the tubes if you were force fed during your Jantar Mantar fast, there were tears in my eyes along with many others in the audience. 

When I came to meet you in Delhi during your fast for electricity your health and determination completely shook me up. You refused to compromise. You would rather break than bend. Millions like me admired you and were willing to even give up their lives for you. You were our hero. Where is that Arvind?


Like Anna, you were a symbol of the aspirations of an awakened nation. A symbol of the principles of Participation, Accountability, Transparency, Decentralization and Integrity. A symbol of the anger we all felt against the other parties that worked with the 4C (corruption, communalism, criminalization and casteism).  AAP became a symbol of the fight of crores of our countrymen against the corrupt parties.

In 2014 you resigned as CM of Delhi hoping that there would be immediate re-election and that AAP would sweep back to power on the back of 49 days of good, intense work. But BJP and Cong delayed the election and Modi swept to power in Parliament. To the worry of myself, Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Prithvi, Admiral Ramdas and others – you started pushing all senior members to agree to form government with the Congress. We refused. You were really furious with us. You were still my hero, but by now I was getting worried with the way you were operating.

Then the 2015 Delhi elections were announced. While you had around 5000 volunteers from Delhi working part-time with the candidates; I was part of the leadership of over 6000 volunteers from all over the country, campaigning full time for more than a month. The silent volunteers, the trusting donors, ardent supporters, tele-callers from Rural India to Global Indians contributed and even Yogendra Yadav who was our Chief Spokesperson contributed for AAP victory. What looked like a possible 15-20 seats to AAP suddenly became 67 seats.

This is when you made THE classic mistake. You took the complete credit and felt that the support of the nation was for Arvind Kejriwal, the person. You assumed that you were the pied piper whom people were following, but in fact it was the music of a new political culture that had people enchanted.

Arvind, the unselfish hero who would never compromise, was dead. In his place was a politician who wanted to manipulate that support to fuel his ambition to become a PM in 2019. You and your coterie decided

1.     You will be CM but not take any portfolio and focus outside Delhi trying to create a mahagatbandhan to challenge the PM, with you as the face.

2.     Use the MLAs and senior functionaries outside Delhi to try and win more states. The lack of governance in Delhi due to this fallout was to be blamed on the LG and Central Government.

3.     Erase the difference between private and public money. Use public money for personal advertising, personal expenditure, fly First class, fight personal cases and whenever this gets questioned – point fingers at other parties.

4.     Win at any cost! If Swaraj comes in the way – throw it away. If appeasement works – do it. If caste politics gets you the votes – embrace it. If too many questions are asked – remove the donation list. If money is required, sell seats. Power is more important than principles.

5.     Project Kejriwal as a strong leader. Personally attack Modi at every instance so that you would appear like a daring contestant and be able to create a vote bank of anti-Modi votes.

6.     To further look like a strong leader, remove anyone and everyone from the party that has a differing point of view. As Ashutosh told me – there should be one voice only in the party and anyone opposing should be dealt in a manner that would give a message that this party deals summarily with anyone who opposes the supremo.


As a part of the above strategy, you began by removing Yogendra and Prashant from the party with the worst possible humiliation.

When I was told that there was a gag order on informing the volunteers outside, I asked myself, “What would the real Arvind Kejriwal have done?” He would have listened to his conscience. So I did. I had to inform the lakhs of AAP volunteers about what happened in that crucial meeting, in spite of the gag order. I had the courage of conviction and was ready to be removed from the party. For me, Truth was non-negotiable.

You took time to remove me. And in spite of repeated requests to not punish the superb Maharashtra team to spite me, you threw out the entire Maharashtra AAP committees down to the lowest rung in Oct 2015.  Can Modi or Sonia remove an entire State team with just an edict? We have out beaten other parties with our arrogance and internal politicking.  The other day, a young volunteer with tears in his eyes from rural Maharashtra asked me, “What is our fault?” What do I tell him, Arvind? Why was he removed?

Personally, I have closely seen my friend, hero and someone as precious as you become so vicious and ugly because of hunger for power. I have now become afraid of power. That is why I did not join any group or party after you removed me from the primary membership of the party using the dirtiest and filthiest falsehood.

I remember in one volunteer meeting in Santacruz where we had a public argument. You felt that we should not give any importance to volunteers, they were just tools. I publicly contradicted you saying that these were some of the finest humans who had sacrificed for the nation. They are NOT pawns to be used–and-thrown.

Look around you almost all of the original volunteers who had left everything to join for the principles have been removed, quit or are inactive.

In our scheme of things our volunteers were supposed to be the primary unit of the party so I ask on their behalf. How did you select Ashutosh, Ashish Khetan and others in the national team? Why has no internal election taken place? When is the donation list coming back on the website? Who is accountable for the loss in Punjab, Goa and now Delhi, were the volunteers asked or informed? The questions are innumerable but let us ask with these basic ones.

You took complete power by becoming convener as well as CM of Delhi. How much more power do you want before you start delivering alternative politics? 

In your pursuit for power, you have betrayed my beloved nation. You have messed up the life of millions who followed you. They gave you complete power –made you convener and CM. Delhi gave you 67 seats just two years back. What more do you want? I do not know whether you know the reality or are living in denial - but are a very unpopular man in the country. If you do more drama, then it is going to get worse and we cannot afford that. 

Dear Arvind, I have seen you turn 180 degrees from what you were. After your complete rejection in Punjab, Goa and now in Delhi, can I expect you to introspect and make another 180 degree turn? Abandon the agenda of wanting to be another BJP and Cong. We had come to fight them not become another version of them. Follow our original agenda that might get back the respect and credibility that you have completely lost with your foolish and vote bank oriented comments. 

Get back credible and independent people in the core team. For now, forget your national ambitions and focus on governing Delhi well, that is your only chance of staying relevant. Stop dramas and blaming. We still need the principles; we still need to fight corrupts; we still need to fight against criminalization of politics. We still need to fight against caste and communal politics. The parties that use these tools are still around. Our AAP was formed to fight that. But, for that, AAP needs to transform. 

Do you have the strength, integrity and love for the country to genuinely reboot? With all humility, can I request you to let go of your arrogance and ego for the good of the country? Remember nation first, party next and individuals last. 

The country needs heroes. Are you one? The battle is between your Ego and the nation. What will you choose?


Love

Mayank

My video message in English https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCvURBO035c&feature=youtu.be

In Hindi https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x6qbZMywXjc



Monday, March 13, 2017

Future of AAP - letter to volunteers

Dear AAP volunteers,

Hi, our quest for alternate politics is over. 

Like in 1977, the leaders have once again betrayed the aspirations because of unbridled political ambition. Time to go back to whatever we were doing, feeling sad and violated. AAP may survive and maybe win somewhere and after some years, but it is already become like any another party. I realized it after the Delhi victory, many others realized later but some are still living in hopes. To all those wonderful, well-meaning and patriotic volunteers – its time to read the writings on the wall.

The feeling on the streets of Delhi is of palpable anger against AAP. Talk to any rickshaw, taxi driver or hawker, who were the main voter base and they are ready to physically hit AAP leadership. The calculation of doing well in MCD election was based on the cocky assessment of sweeping Punjab and then riding the crest of victory again to influence the Delhi voters. Now defeat looms in MCD.

There is no leadership nor support in Gujarat except on the Social Media. Gujarat will be another Goa. Goa was a small state, and after internal survey of 45% votes (another standard AAP trick), to lose deposit in 39 constituencies will be replicated in Gujarat. If they take any other state for fighting elections, the result will be similar. A small discredited coterie from Delhi cannot just descend and win elections. I have never seen that happen. Probably AAP may not fight Gujarat.

The only chance that AAP has now is to govern Delhi well, and forget fighting elections in other states. Stop the self-defeating hype and get down to do some REAL governance. Improving some schools and making mohalla clinics is not adequate governance, running a good administration is much, much more. Maybe, just maybe, after 3 years, they might get re-elected in Delhi and then AAP could probably offer a more efficient government – but that too looks far-fetched.

23 of the 67 MLAs of AAP have come from other parties, steeped in corruption. Most MLAs of Delhi have started corrupt practices. Ask any one on Delhi streets that are filled with AAP posters made of multiple faces, and they will tell you that AAP MLAs and workers have become as corrupt as earlier MLAs, if not more. Many files of AAP MLA and government corruption are with CBI and IT. The screws are going to be tightened. The CAG whom we used to quote to discredit other parties is passing strictures against AAP. Yet, we justify by pointing fingers at others.

There is a small group of people who run AAP and till now their focus was on other states and making Arvind the PM in 2019. They may restructure their goals, maybe do some drama of apology, but all that has been done before and might not be effective any more. Because of their insecurities and desire for control, they will not allow independent thinkers in decision making. Intellectuals and good people have grown antipathy towards AAP because of their cheap language and political up-manship. A party that came to change the political culture has vitiated it. So, improving the decision makers and the process seems difficult.

So, let me make my final points.

·         Some volunteers say that to stay in politics, one needs to COMPROMISE. But, AAP won 28 seats in Delhi without compromising. AAP won 67/3 by not compromising except in some seat distribution. We demonstrated that elections could be won without money, muscle and divisive agenda. The compromises started AFTER victory.

·         THEN, we started caste and communal politics. Like people, principles were also discarded. Seats were sold in Punjab, cash was taken in large doses, donation list was removed, no income-expenditure data was given for last 3 years and so on and so forth. Do you want to give your life for THIS? So, that some people can use-and –throw volunteers to fuel their ambition for power and money?

I have learnt a lot from my movement and political journey. I had quit my high paying job, but it was compensated with the knowledge and insights that I gained. I have neither become cynical nor bitter. As a person who had encountered similar betrayal during 1975 movement of Janata Party, I just thought that I should reach out to the wonderful volunteers – idealists, patriots and hopeful to say that it is over. We have been taken for a ride.

I am working on a nation building through rural transformation by adopting 15 villages in drought-prone Beed and doing 360 degree development (www.globalparli.org). I am personally in a good place, far away from any politics, due to the positive work that I am doing. I share your pain in my heart for being betrayed. Sometimes it is better to cut your losses.


Sorry if I have hurt any of you, that is not the purpose of this letter. 

The truth is ugly and therefore your first impulse will be to impute motives to me, call me BJP stooge and attack me personally– it does not matter, it’s a normal reaction. My sole purpose is to share my views for you to take the right decision.

Love

Mayank Gandhi