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Indian Politics at Crossroads: New Dawn for a Modian Era?

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Let us begin with a straight point. It is not very easy for any ordinary citizen to become prime minister, president or chancellor of even modern democratic nations. In such nations across the globe, including western democracies, there are racial, linguistic, gender and religious considerations behind selecting a political leader. These considerations work as unwritten codes of political conduct and eliminate the very basic democratic conjecture of equality before the law, because a leader has, by definition, to aspire to be(come) more than a common citizen. The influence of these considerations is also based on the act of image or cult building, in which individual identity is negated for communal/majoritarian identity. For example, one need to be aware that the United States has not had a female President so far and no Western European democracies have a black president or prime minister, except Ireland, where Leo Varadkar, a gay Irish-Indian doctor, was Prime Minister in 2017-2020 and is now the opposition leader. This reality shows the negation of individual identity over the preference of communal/majoritarian identity and is part of the practical side of global realpolitik.  

Similarly, Indian politics is no exception to this unwritten code of political conduct.  Provided the stratified social structure, linguistic politics and religious-caste sensitivities in Indian society are taken into consideration, the choice of prime minister of India has been decided by a variety of factors, mostly caste status and heritage of the Nehru/Gandhi clan. Though any Indian citizen with no criminal background can be considered to hold higher posts of Indian democracy, it is not always the case practically.  Similar to western democracies, a multiplicity of issues can problematize the criteria of an individual’s eligibility to be considered for the post of India’s prime minister. Though modern India is characterized and considered to be the direct progeny of an anti-colonial, secular freedom struggle that spanned almost two hundred years, the troubled socio-political history of the Indian sub-continent always invites considerations of social capital like religion, caste, gender and financial position into democratic practices. Further, though the nation turned into a democratic republic with Indians as leaders of the various political parties and the nation, this also shows that various forms of social hegemonies continue to exert serious influence on Indian politics. As Dr. Ambedkar has rightly pointed out, India’s political leadership used to indicate the message that political freedom without social freedom is impossible. This is evident as the majority of Indian prime ministers hailed from upper middle-class and upper-class elite backgrounds.

The Elite Cult

Hero cult is typical of Bollywood, the Indian Hindi film industry and also its various regional manifestations. There are a number of stereotyped qualities for a hero:  A hero should be tall and fair skinned, a maestro of musical talents, and able to beat up to 50 men in one go.  This cult of a hero is very influential in Indian politics as well.  Since 1930 until his death in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru, leader of the Indian National Congress and then prime minister of India for almost seventeen long years, had been the most potent figure of Indian politics. The Indian National Congress could not think of replacing Nehru. Moreover, Nehru was hailed both as the architect of modern India and the champion of South Asian authority. What is termed as Nehruvian policies used to hold a powerful sway over Indian politics until the 1990s. At the height of Nehru’s power, blind followers of Nehru, such as UN Dhebar, went to the extent of eulogising that India cannot move on without Nehru’s presence in Indian politics, reflected in the term ‘Nehruvian’, which denotes something heroic, a political hegemony of one man’s unquestioned authority over the world’s largest democracy. The term Nehruvian literally means ‘the period of Nehru or related to Nehru’, but in actuality it shows the power politics associated with the cult of an individual. This personality cult means that there is a whole plethora of blind followers who not only praise the leader but bully his opponents.  The influence of Nehru in Indian politics is further indicated by Indian phrases such as Nehruvian secularism, Nehruvian socialism, Nehruvian diplomacy, Nehruvian planning, which are widely used in regular political debates and in official policies.  While the term’ Nehruvian’ has been and is still hailed as a progressive indicator of Indian politics, the disastrous impact of the cult of ‘Nehruvian’ is that it forgets the basic idea that postcolonial India is a democracy in which Nehru led the government, while the term ‘Nehruvian’ generates feelings that Nehru was a king who ruled his Indian empire.

Not only that, the socio-cultural factors that established such a cult have also been largely unreflected While Nehru’s commitment towards anti-colonialism and socialist secular values have to be recognized, if we ask what was Nehru’s most important criterion to become leader of the Indian National Congress and later Prime Minister, one is not astonished to find that Nehru’s family background, caste position and western education had been milestones in making a prime minister out of a Kashmiri Brahmin boy. Delving into the biographical side of Nehru’s family, one finds that born into the upper caste and elite Brahmin family, as the son of a wealthy lawyer, Nehru had always been bestowed the privilege of tasting the best possible things in the world. He never experienced poverty, but leisure and lavishness. Nehru never faced slavery, though he was imprisoned for long times, but masterhood and authority were his companions. Motilal Nehru, the powerful father figure, was always there to buy Jawaharlal Nehru’s achievements, including the rise to prominence in the Indian National Congress.   

Post Nehru Realities

Nehru was not an exception in Indian politics, as many national and state-level leaders of Indian nationalism had an elite background and most of them utilised their social and cultural capital to become rulers at various levels in India.  Following Nehru as Indian Prime Ministers, we see his daughter, Indira Gandhi, also bestowed with the best tastes of life. She lived in Teen Murti Bhavan, the prime minister’s residence, was trained by her father in politics, and never experienced the life of an ordinary Indian. In the midst of her authority and personality cult, she has been hailed by her colleagues as ‘India is Indira and Indira is India’. No doubt, these trends show the degeneration of Indian democracy. Indira was followed by her elder son Rajiv Gandhi, an Air India pilot by profession and a western-educated elite man with a foreign wife, who in his early forties was fated to step in. Of course there are exceptions to this elite politics. Morarji Desai, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Charan Singh, Chandra Sekhar and H D Deva Gowda were Indian prime ministers coming from more ordinary social backgrounds. However, their hold on power was also far less for various reasons.  

Laymen’s Rise

In this context, the rise to power of Narendra Modi as the prime minister of India since 2014 indicates a sharp deviation from the earlier regularities of Indian politics.  Mr. Modi is coming from a lower caste and ordinary background, which indicates that people of lower origins can also be successful rulers if the key of Indian politics is handed over to such laymen. This does not mean that Mr. Modi is a direct incumbent to the throne of Indian politics, or that he was selected because he belonged to an ordinary social background. On the contrary, Mr. Modi had been in politics for many years before becoming India’s Prime Minister in 2014. He was in power since 2001 as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and has been controversial in exercising his ministerial power at certain occasions. But even then, the fact that he got an opportunity to lead the world’s largest democracy is not a small factor. As an individual, Mr. Modi does not have a financially rich family background nor socio-culturally elite parentage. Rather, his family background and parental status show that he experienced an ordinary Indian life including poverty, marginalization and negative impacts of social hierarchy, which probably indicates that he had experienced caste discrimination earlier in his life, though he is not a Dalit.

The rise to power of leaders like Mr. Modi seems to indicate that Indian politics is moving away from its elitist circles, where family background, social position and caste status decide a person’s eligibility for higher office. He may not be successful in creating a ‘Modian Era’ as seen in the case of Nehru. But Mr. Modi represents a revolution of the laymen, showing that postcolonial Indian democracy is not about purity of race, semen or caste. In this, the persona of the current Prime Minister of India is a significant reflection, one could almost say, a mirror image, of recent re-assessments of the position of the Indian Constitution as the cornerstone of the nation. As the historian Rohit De, who teaches at Yale University, is now showing in A People’s Constitution. The Everyday Life of Law in the Indian Republic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), this Constitution may have been made by elite men, but its focus is the common Indian as a rights-holding citizen. As is increasingly evident to those who are willing to leave the magic circles of elite acclaim of heroic leader figures and their products, breaking new methodological ground is possible and much-needed, as De (p. 4) claims, ‘by studying the Constitution through the daily interpretive acts of ordinary people as well as judges and state officials’. The fact that India’s postcolonial democracy has become attuned to the non-elitist leadership style of someone like Narendra Modi has, thus, deeper meanings and implications than just the traditional earlier privilege, elitism and somewhat haughty ‘modernity’ that still left most Indians feeling that they did not fully belong to this nation of now almost 1.4 billion people. Anyone paagal enough to put themselves forward to lead this nation has different agenda than earlier generations of India’s leaders. In that sense, too, the stressful but relentless democratisation of the Indian Constitution that De’s new book analyses is matched by the heavy labouring of the current leadership, which cannot rely on inherited privilege, but has to justify its claims to electoral acceptance by various kinds of action that make India the unique democracy that it has now become in the global world.

Vineeth Mathoor teaches at the Research Department of History, N.S.S. Hindu College, Kerala, India. He is an Assistant Editor of South Asia Research published by Sage International.

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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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