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“Modi Go Home”: India’s soft power credibility in danger

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Prime Minister Narendara Modi’s April 19, 2018 visit to London to attend the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was much anticipated and discussed in the public domain for two reasons. First, the non resident Indians’ (NRIs) bold protest against Modi was unexpected in the Westminster Streets of London and across the Western capitals. And second, Modi’s double stance was exposed the way he has spoken against the Congress Party when he was the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP with regard to the (December 2012, Nirbhaya incident) and now in the ruling side he responds determinedly tied his mouth to the similar cases.

Where has the 56 inch chest gone? Now people are asking why Modi is silent by watching the increasing attacks on women under his leadership. In the London streets, people were gathered raising slogans ‘We stand against Modi’s agenda of hate and greed’ with antagonism holding the banners ‘Modi Go Home.’ A big poster of Modi with a Nazi’s symbol carry the message of ‘Modi not welcome’ was fixed next to the UK Parliament building occupied every tourist walk on the Westminster Bridge crossing River Thames in the city of London. It indicates his deceptive politics are now realized internationally among Indian diasporas. Doesn’t he think this would tarnish India’s image in abroad?

In this article, I am analyzing how artificially created fame to Modi, one time he was falsely adorned by the NRIs in London and now brought shame to all Indians by the message of “Modi Go Home” in the world financial capital London.

Modi’s silence!

At the moment Prime Minister Modi is feeling the heat of his leadership failures one after other. One of the ‘hard-power’ recourses in the international power system is ‘economic power.’ His finance minister demonstrated the fact that Modi’s administration has no clue in managing India’s economy in these four years. The complete failure in articulating diplomacy and foreign policy of this government exposed their inability to keep India’s interest alive in international relations but also fails to hold our neighbors with us.

At this juncture Modi is facing an unexpected assertiveness from the NRI’s to take extraordinary efforts in registering their protest. Modi’s Government strategic restraint in arresting the criminals who raped and their stand behind the culprits exposed the original face domestically and abroad. Watching this brutality, India cried and the people were angered. Moreover, this situation gave a perception to the world to take a conclusion that India is against women under Modi’s leadership. The Congress Party led by Shri Rahul Gandhi organized candle light processions across India along with the public to give pressure on the BJP government to take appropriate action against the perpetrators.

After pressure mounted domestically, Modi got up from a week of silence and stated, “I want to assure the nation that no culprit will be spared. Our daughters will get justice”. Now the CBI arrested the BJP party MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar in connection with Unnao rape incident and link to the victim father’s custodial death. The important thing is the Unnao MLA raped his own constituent.

In the other case in Kathu of Jammu and Kashmir, eight-year-old Asifa was gang raped by a caretaker of a temple, and was finally murdered. You cannot imagine the amount of cruelty the girl experienced. The ugly part of the story was the two BJP ministers Lal Singh and Chandar Prakash Ganga from Jammu and Kashmir state government have participated in a rally conducted in supporting the accused in connection with the Asifa case in Kathu.  In these two incidents, the atrocities against children are not by the common men but by a Uttar Pradesh (UP) BJP MLA and the BJP party’s well wishers respectively. In the last ten years many BJP leaders are accused for their atrocities against women. Listing more than 21various atrocities unleashed by the BJP leaders across India on women ‘Human Rights Activist’ Karthik Navayan says, “Time to change the party name to Balatkari Janata Party?” (karthiknavayanwordpress.com).

‘Go Home Modi’

The central authority of the BJP now could not face the recent embarrassments like scientific corruptions by the BJP leader’s heirs, bank looters are allowed to escape with the support of Modi’s government, social disorder, self-proclaimed God-men and God-women are threatening the society, injustice to women and children. Moreover, one side the people of this country are in anger for being cheated by the false promises of Modi and now the other side women are worrying about their security under this leadership. But Modi says these matters should not be politicized. From his silence over these atrocities we can presume that his mind is more concerned about the Karnataka assembly elections.

In this scenario Modi’s recent visit to London got the attraction of the protestors instead of more plug cards to welcome Modi in the London streets. The streets flooded with the placards of “Go Home Modi” made the prime minster red-faced. The protesters stood strong against Modi due to his mute approach by not acting against his fellow party men involved in these two incidents now gradually loosing the support of India’s expatriates.

Last time when Modi visited London, his speech was attended by a crowd of 60,000 NRIs at Wembley Stadium. The cheerful Modi gave a long sermon which was neither converted to policy nor helped the expatriates in any way. In that visit Modi enjoyed the support from the NRIs and he was greeted from both sides of the London streets. He was admired for his dress, style, and voice and for his speeches. However, his visits abroad are more concentrated on himself in self-proclamation among the Indian expatriates than in articulating India’s interest with the specific countries. This time also Modi was expecting the same from the NRIs of UK. Like Indians domestically, the NRIs across the world also trusted his words blindly. Gradually watching his party regressive actions in India makes the NRIs irritated. At the end of the day they realized that all his words are utter lies, further no worthy in listening anymore because it doesn’t have any life. Now Modi looks trembling to face the Indian diasporas abroad after his recent visit to London was not a surprise.

Modi is very selective in receiving information from outside. He will only take a message that admires him. Well, he can be selective but he should not forget that the message failed to be received by him will react in the public domain. This is because Modi is the prime minister of this country for every Indian, but demonstrates that he is the prime minister for a selective section of people. He is very happy not to be the prime minister of minorities, women, dalits, adivasis and the devastated poor. After the London incident, Modi has added the NRIs also in this list. Hence, he will not lend his ear to these people.

Under Modi’s administration India’s soft-power credibility in danger

Our past prime ministers since Jawaharlal Nehru understand India’s credentials in soft-power. Hence, they used soft-power approach to promote India’s influence in abroad extensively. Prof. Nayar and Paul in their book acknowledge this and stated, “In terms of soft-power indicators, India’s position is significantly high in some areas while it has considerable potential in others.” In the last four years Modi is using ‘soft-power’ as his doctrine for foreign policy articulations.

In all his state visits he proclaimed to the world that we are a nation living together in peace and respecting each other though we are diverse. Although the prime minister is speaking this core values in his abroad visits, his party affiliates and him fail to practice this domestically. Our principle of unity in diversity is under attack from the BJP and RSS. Today in India, under Modi’s leadership our various institutions are facing huge challenges in discharging their duties. Difference of opinions are not accepted or tolerated by this government. It deeply pains us that the outfits of BJP threaten our different cultures, languages and religious practices but the prime minister of this country is demonstrating only a spectator. The world is watching our prime minister’s words and his actions very closely. Our ‘state capacity’ would be questioned soon if the prime minister is keeping a mute approach for these atrocities against women and minorities. Modi should understand that nationalism without normative concern would not help to build an inclusive national leadership. In his four years as a prime minister he always delivers the one-way communication. He never accepts views from the other side. These unfortunate situations would damage our soft-power credibility while we claim for a global leadership role.

Conclusion

In the international arena protest against war, liberalization policies and Western culture are common. This would be the first time an Indian prime minister was greeted abroad with a message of ‘Go Home’ (go to Delhi) for not listening to the cry of Indian women. Few days back Modi faced the same challenge from the people of Tamil Nadu state collectively raised the slogan ‘Modi Go Back’ (go to Delhi) for not abiding the Supreme Court order to constitute Cauvery Management Board. The memes about ‘Modi Go Back’ occupied the social media for a week. This approach has now been hijacked by the Indian diasporas in London to raise their voice against Modi. One Indian tweeted that, “Please don’t send Modi to Delhi. Kindly keep him in London.” Would Modi lend his ear to these voices?

It is not a surprise that artificially created image of brand building will be grounded by naturally raised anger. Once the Indian diasporas in the UK and other parts of the world thought that Modi has the capacity of inclusive leadership would deliver by his words. But the recent incidents force the Indian diasporas to rethink that Modi is a loud mouth piece of the RSS, voice of the one section of the society and just a specialized orator in spreading lies to cheat the voters. The youths of this country now feel betrayed, ashamed and frustrated with the way Modi’s government fails to give importance for Human Rights. Rape and lynching are unleashed under his rule in the name of ‘Gau Rakshak.’ The self-styled right wing activists are protecting the cows but not considering to feed the humans who are actually suffering. Watching this arrogance in our society under Modi’s leadership, a child who participated in a ‘justice for Asifa’ rally came with a poster that read, ‘Cow is safe, Deer is safe…Mr. Prime Minister …why I am not safe?’

It clearly indicates that all Indians understand the stance of Modi and his party’s regressive agenda. Lies after lies and breaking the rule of law they try to build the BJP’s government across the country now perceived by the people that BJP is against the idea of India. The day is not far – soon the Indian voters will convert Modi’s slogan of ‘Mukth Congress’ to ‘Mukth Modi’ in removing him from the prime minister chair.

Antony Clement is a Senior Editor (Asia-Pacific), Modern Diplomacy an online journal. He is a researcher in Indian Foreign Policy. He consults on academic development and he is currently working on two books - “Discover your Talents” and “Diplomacy in Tough Times”. His research centres on India’s diplomacy & foreign policy and extends to domestic politics, economic policy, security issues, and international security matters, including India’s relations with the US, the BRICS nations, the EU and Australia.

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The Persecution of Individuals from Hazara Community in Balochistan

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The drastic situation was being faced by the individuals of Hazarajat in Balochistan province of Pakistan once again because the eleven persons from the affected Hazara community were being slaughtered by the terrorists of Islamic State of Iraq & Levant’s Khurasan chapter that continued the legacy of sectarian and ethnic violence that used to be conducted by the extremists and terrorists of Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) in the region. The community of Hazara is quite vulnerable and the violence against them has no doubt the capability of potential fault line for the state of Pakistan being exploited by foreign players the war anti-state elements give fuel to the violent sectarian and ethnonationalists of Balochistan province of Pakistan. In this mean study, the very focus will be made towards the possibilities of foreign intervention in case of Hazara persecution in the region which provenly had involvements of Indian agencies via the territory of war-affected Afghanistan.

The persecution of Hazara peoples had been a major violation of International Humanitarian Law because it is not only common in the region of Pakistan but also inside the state of Afghanistan. The historic factors of their settlement in the regions of Pakistani Balochistan and Afghanistan as well as their strong connection with the Shia Muslim community of Iran are major catalysts which makes them as the easy target of being killed, tortured or slaughtered by the extremist Wahabi tendencies or racist tendencies among Pashtuns and Balochis. In the current era specially after the events of 9/11 and further strengthening of Wahabi extremist doctrine in the region had paved ways for the spreading of sectarian violence against the Shia Hazara Muslims inside Balochistan province of Pakistan. The major persecution events that keeps a lot importance in the unfortunate violence being committed against the people of Hazaras were the massacre on the day of Ashura at Quetta in 2004, the killings of Hazara people in Mastung Massacre, the playground massacre in Quetta, slaughter of Hazara pilgrims coming back from Islamic Republic of Iran, the two major bombings against Shia Hazaras in the year of 2013, the massacre in Akhtarabad, the 2003 bombing on Hazara Imam Bargah and most importantly the recent slaughter of Hazara peoples in Mach District of Balochistan province of Pakistan. Even in the target killings, some major political figures, social workers and sportsmen also remained aim of target killings inside the extremist and sectarian violence.

No doubt, such massacres and large scale killings of the people specifically of the community of Hazara Shias who also remained the target of socio-economic discrimination and structural violence due to the factors that were paved by the administrative bodies in Pakistan but the confirmation of Indian agency’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)’s major agent Kulbushan Jadhav confessed in the very statement after he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in espionage operation that India had been involved in the fueling of ethnonationalist and sectarian violence in the region. The government of Pakistan had also shown quite many concerns regarding the matter that the hands of Indian state agencies and government can possibly be involved in the backing of outfits like ISIL (Khurasan) which operates from Afghanistan while conducting of violence in the province of Pakistani Balochistan. The dots are being matched by different Pakistani officials and think tanks that the involvement of Indian government with confirmed sources towards the secessionist tendencies in the province in shape of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA) that the possibility can be there in also of backing the extremist militants and terrorists of ISIL (Khurasan) while fueling the violence in the region on sectarian basis. Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi said in his statement that the hands of India are there in the recent activities of sectarian violence that was happened in the region of district of Mach of Balochistan. The possibilities of Indian government and state agencies backing the militant factions against the state of Pakistan had been also proved by the state intelligence agencies of Pakistani state including Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Directorate General of Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB). Even it is confirmed through the sources in form of statements of leading Indian think tanks, journalists and retired military officials that the fault lines inside Pakistan are to target the Shia communities for paving ways for the violence and to make platform for the conduct of violence on sectarian basis by creating a lot of chaos among the different Muslim sects inside the state of Pakistan. These are the major possible factors which had proven the point that the sectarian violence specially the one which was conducted against the coal miners belonging from the Shia community of Hazara has proven the very point that the factors of possibility is quite much there of the involvement of Indian government as actor of fueling violence.

In the very crux of the study, it is added with the point that the persecution of Hazara peoples had been a major violation of International Humanitarian Law because it is not only common in the region of Pakistan but also inside the state of Afghanistan. The historic factors of their settlement in the regions of Pakistani Balochistan and Afghanistan as well as their strong connection with the Shia Muslim community of Iran are major catalysts. The radical condition was being faced by the individuals of Hazarajat in Balochistan province of Pakistan once again because the eleven persons from the affected Hazara community were being massacred by extremist tendencies. The possibility of the terrorist wings being supported by Indian government in this regard because of the past confirmed terror activities in which the position of India was quite much cleared. such massacres and large-scale killings of the people specifically of the community of Hazara Shias who also remained the target of socio-economic discrimination and structural violence due to the factors that were paved by the administrative bodies in Pakistan but the confirmation of Indian agency of R&AW.

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Is India fearful of internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute?

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At the time of Partition, India knew that its policies with regard to the Princely states were inconsistent. So, it feared internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute. Vallabhai Patel, presented Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan in a platter, so to say, in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. Liaquat Ali Khan did not accept the offer. Saifuddin Soz, former Congress minister and a prominent Kashmiri politician, told The Print Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk The Talk show  that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was happy to let Kashmir go to Pakistan in exchange for Hyderabad.

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, took Patel’s offer to Pakistan on the exact day the Indian Army landed in Srinagar to push back intruders from Pakistan in October 1947. “From the very first day Sardar Patel was adamant that Kashmir should go to Pakistan. In the partition council, he tried his level best to convince Liaquat Ali to take Kashmir and leave Hyderabad-Deccan,” Soz said.

“But as Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan writes in his book,” Soz said, “Liaquat Ali neither understood history, nor geography. So, he did not accept the offer..”(Sardar Patel was adamant, give Kashmir to Pakistan, take Hyderabad. Nehru saved it: Soz,  The Print June 25, 2018).

Till the 1990s, internationalisation remained India’s nightmare. Former Indian foreign-secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s formula. Mehta presented a formula which offered many concessions to Pakistan in exchange for a promise not to agitate the  Kashmir dispute on international forums and keep it on backburner for ten years. He presented his ideas in an article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’ (Hindustan Times editor Verghese also gave similar proposals). Mehta had also proposed (a) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…”

(b) Immediate demilitarisation of the LoC to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalization, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations”. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period. (e) Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir. (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat. (g) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached.

Mehta’s quasi-solution, re-coined as  Musharraf/Qasuri solution, was advocated by the United States’ Institute of Peace also. . Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).

UK MPs concern on Kashmir

To India’s chagrin, a day after debating  persecution of minorities in India,  the members of the British House of Commons turned to human-rights violations in the occupied Kashmir and “called for  the European Union and the United nations to be given access to the disputed state and for Boris Johnson to raise the issue with Prime minister Narendra Modi and for the UK  government to `use its influence with India and Pakistan’ and send its own delegation to assess the human rights situation (UK MPs call for Britain to `use its influence  for human rights in Kashmir’, Times of India January 15, 2021). MP Naz Shah asked, `Without the UN rapporteurs allowed into the region and with every report in the region censored how can anyone assure this house that genocide in Kashmir is not taking place. The MPs expressed concern  about the continuing lockdown and Internet restrictions in J&K as well as allegations of rapes, detentions without trial, unexplained and uninvestigated deaths disappearance, curfews, communication blackouts and mass arrests’.

The Indian High Commission in London shrugged off the allegation of “genocide, rampant violence and torture” as “unsubstantiated”.

Ten MPs, drawn equally from Labour and the Conservatives, took part in the debate on “Political situation in Kashmir” . India labeled them as “backbenchers”.

Conservative MP James Daly  called  for the UK government , “working with our European  partners with President – elect Biden in America” to came up with an international programme through the UN that will give hope  to those poor people in Kashmir”. Mp Sarah Own  highlighted plight of  Kashmiri under constant lockdown, “enforced by half a million soldiers” for ten months. She said, ‘I have heard[that there are] women in Kashmir that are terrified of being assaulted by the thousands of soldiers on their doorstep. Women fear for their lives and do not feel safe”. She urged the UK government to take position against Kashmir’s illegal annexation”.

Kashmir: An international issue

Earlier  in June 2020, also, British MP Andrew Gwynne, Chairman of Labour Friends of Kashmiris, along with several other UK MPs had, in online conference, termed  Kashmir “an international issue, requiring “ international intervention to resolve the dispute taking into consideration aspiration Kashmiris’ (UK MPS: Kashmir is an international issue’: `Reorganization of Indian-administered Kashmir  in contravention of Geneva convention, UN resolutions, says lawmaker, Andalou Agency June 4, 2020).

With no cogent answer India indulges in malicious allegations

Instead of answering questions raised about human rights violations India alleged that “ImranKhan government in Pakistan reportedly spent Rs. 30 lakh on member of British parliamentary group visit to the country [Pakistan] and Pakistan occupied Kashmir [Azad Kashmir] (Pakistan paid Rs. 30 lac to British MPs to visit Pakistan, spread false narrative on Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Zee News, July 19, 2020).

Questions India parried

India is still to answer why it disallowed opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi to visit occupied Kashmir while according VVIP reception to anti-Muslim group of EU MPS? Why it disallowed UK MP Debbie Abrahams to visit occupied Kashmir?

Debbie alleged she was denied as she had been critical of India’s decision to abolish special status of the disputed state. She tweeted, `Why did the Indian Government revoke my visa after it was granted? Why didn’t they let me get a visa on arrival? Is it because I have been critical of the Indian government on #Kashmir human rights issues?”

Madi Sharma, a self-styled `international business broker’ arranged anti-Muslim EU MPs all-expense-prepaid visit to occupied Kashmir. Why India did not publicise the expenditure incurred.

Madi Sharma: A Raw surrogate

EU DisinfoLab and India’s own NDTV exposed fake identity of NGOs run by Madi Sharma. The NDTV reached out to Ms Sharma. Having received no response, it asked, `Will the Prime Minister tell as to who is Madi Sharma? Why and in what capacity is Madi Sharma fixing an appointment of Prime Minister with a delegation of EU MPs on a personal visit and why is Government of India facilitating it? Where is the money to finance the entire trip coming from? Why has Ministry of External Affairs been totally sidelined?

Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi – whose delegation was turned back from the Srinagar airport – have questioned why European lawmakers were allowed amid such restrictions but opposition politicians in India were not. AFP has reported that the European parliament and European Union hierarchy were not involved in this visit. Several European embassies in Delhi were unaware of the visit. It also quoted an unnamed EU official in India as saying the visit was not official and the lawmakers had come at the invitation of an NGO, the International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies (IINS). It is a fake entity  owned by the Srivastava Group of Companies, which was found to have been behind EP Today, a news and opinion website that largely drew its content from state-funded Russian media RT. EP Today’s address, the group’s Brussels office, and the International Council for Inter-Religious are all listed under the same address: 37 Square de Meeûs in Brussels. Since POLITICO’s reporting, incorporating research done by NGO EU vs Disinfo, both Facebook and Twitter had shut down the website’s presence on their platforms.

The visit, described as private, was sponsored by the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a think tank, according to Madi Sharma’s emails. Its office in Delhi was locked.

Chris Davies, a British Renew Europe MEP, said Madi Sharma invited him to the India trip, promising a “prestigious VIP meeting” with Modi, according to the email he received from her. Davies said his invitation was rescinded after he told Sharma he wanted to meet local Kashmiris unsupervised.

Sharma had reached out to Davies in her official capacity as the director of WESTT, but it is unclear how a think tank with an operating budget of less than €25,000 and one full-time staff member had direct access to the Indian prime minister’s office, its top military officials and its foreign minister — who featured on the trip’s itinerary. Davies tweeted `the visit a “PR stunt.”

Sharma’s work is also heavily featured on the website EP Today, including her trips to the Maldives and Bangladesh. Sharma herself has written op-eds for the website. In one article she called India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status — widely condemned by human rights groups — a “victory” for Kashmiri women. But, she did not respond to NDTV’s repeated requests for an interview.

Madi Sharma was present when the European MPs met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Inference

India is reminded of the proverb `Pot calling kettle black’. It should do some soul searching instead of blaming Pakistan for portraying Kashmir’s real situation.

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More about how democracy should be elected -Interview with Tannisha Avarrsekar

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Tannisha Avarrsekar. Image source: startocure.com

Tannisha Avarrsekar, a political activist who wants to increase equality in the representation of political candidates in India. In this interview, Tannisha discusses more about her journey, political beliefs and her platform Lokatantra.

Why did you start Lokatantra?

I started it because I wanted to make politics more accessible for the youth.

I moved to London for my undergrad when I was 18, so 2019 was the first election that I was able to vote in. But after I came back, I found that gathering information about the registration process, as well as probable candidates took more time and effort than it should.

I began realizing that for citizens like me, who wanted to be more politically aware or socially conscious, there was the dearth of a platform where they could educate themselves and engage with those they were considering electing. And that’s how Lokatantra came along.

Tell us more about Lokatantra.

Lokatantra.in is an online political platform that aims to make the youth more politically aware and socially conscious. It attempts to bridge the gap between voters and politicians by empowering voters with comprehensive information about their candidates and the voting process, after verifying its authenticity and organizing it in a manner that makes it quick and easy to understand. It also does telephone voter registrations for those having trouble with it.

On the flip side, the social enterprise also collects data on citizens’ opinions on key issues through polls and surveys, and then analyses and publishes the results, to aid in the decision-making of leaders. In this way, the platform sheds light on the accomplishments of politicians- especially independents who can’t afford expensive campaigns, as well as the troubles of the common man.

The Lokatantra.in website and mobile application prides itself on its treasury of information about each and every candidate from the Mumbai City district. This extensive material includes details about these candidates’ educational qualifications, past political affiliations, career highlights, controversies, criminal records, and standpoints on critical debates. The platform also allows users to ask candidates questions, as well as rate them so as to help other voters from their constituency make their choice.

What do you think can make journalism more neutral?

More crowdfunded platforms. Limits on investments by big corporations, and complete transparency in the finances of media houses. Also, stricter penalties on misinformation.

Why is equal representation in politics important?

Equal representation in politics is important because it encourages newer political faces and fresh ideas into our country’s governance, which has been largely polarized and dominated by big political parties, with old loyalists and deep pockets. It allows us to choose our leaders based on more than just their party symbol and spending power, and instead take into account their character, ideology and objectives.

How is Lokatantra a unique platform? What do you do differently?

Before an election, Lokatantra interviews all the candidates standing, with a uniform questionnaire to gather their opinions on issues that play a key role in deciding who to vote for and are yet often not a part of mainstream discourse. The answers from these interviews are then fed into an algorithm, which allows voters to answer the very same questions, and then ranks the candidates in their constituency based on how much their political opinions match. What makes this quiz truly extraordinary is the fact that it takes into account the nuances of one’s answers, by letting you weigh how much each issue affects your vote.

We also spend a lot of time answering personal questions and engaging in individual conversations about politics, with members of our community that message us.

Tell us more about your personal political affiliations.

As the face of a politically neutral platform, I’m not permitted to have political affiliations. But I would describe my personal ideology as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

What do you think are the biggest electoral problems India is facing at the moment and what do you think are the solutions?

I think it is the shocking mass disappearances of voter names from electoral lists, which has caused erosion of public faith in the democratic process.

A colleague of mine- Siddhant Kesnur and I, recently wrote a policy memo about the solutions to this, and if I had to pick one that I think would be most effective it would be stopping the misuse of the ECI’s Form 7, which is an application for voter deletion that ridiculously enough can be sent on behalf of any citizen by any citizen. Simply communicating the receipt of this form to those on whose behalf it has come in, would significantly curb its abuse.

What do you think will pose the greatest challenge to India’s growth in the future?

The move from patriotism to nationalism. In May 2018, Kaushik Basu the economist had cautioned Bangladesh saying that “vibrant economies have been derailed by zealotry many times throughout history”. He had given three examples to support his point: (1) the golden era of economic growth in Arab cities like Damascus and Baghdad which passed when religious fundamentalism began to spread about a thousand years ago (2) Portugal’s position as a global power in the 15th-16th century, which ended when Christian fanaticism became it’s driving political force, and (3) Pakistan’s economy, which after performing fairly decently started slipping from 2005 onwards because of military rule and Islamic fundamentalism.

It makes me sorry to say that the extremist rhetoric we witness in India these days is an alarming harbinger of this kind of zealotry, which has the potential of not just derailing us economically but also causing lasting damage to the social and cultural fabric of our nation.

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