I got a mail yesterday on my B-school Delhi group asking me to vote for the Lok Paritran party.
"Following are the candidates contesting in various constituencies of the city. If you and your family belong to the following constituencies do vote for these ambitious guys and encourage your family members as well.
Confirmed candidates contesting for Lok Paritran:
Santhanagopal in Mylapore
Elanthirumaran in Chepauk -========> WAS a COGNIZANT EMPLOYEE and PM FOR FIVE YEARS
Ishrayel Mahesh in Thousan Lights
Prashanth Sharma in Egmore
Arvind Tiruvaiyar in TNagar
Rajamani in Anna Nagar
Hariharan in Saidapet
Rabindra Ganesh in Park Town.
Do Vote for them. And yeah...pass on this message.
This might be news for few of us. 5 guys who are IIT passed outs have formed a new Political party and its called Lok Paritrana..."
Now, I'm all for people from IITs and other educational joining politics, however, I would probably not be able to vote in Saidapet or Mylapore. I would also assume that the other people marked on our Delhi e-group will feel similarly constrained. However, I can't let such a thing pass, so I will blog.
So, the mail goes on to state:
"We've been dreaming on so many things for so many years and nothing has come true. Indian Politics in the hands of EDUCATED YOUTH!!! And these guys are cream students of our country (IIT). Let's believe that these guys will make a change. WE can easily win this election if we Raise our hands for them."
I agree with the first sentence. I have been dreaming about a various things, which hasn't come true. A million dollars in my bank account, a trip to the Moon, watching India beat Brazil in a World Cup football final, Unlimited supply of bratwurst and weissenbier... None of this is likely to come true soon. However, I really haven't been dreaming of IIT students taking over politics.
Really, for me a politician needs to have savoir faire, a certain amount of charisma, amazing political savvy and good intelligence. An average IIT student (in my experience) doesn't have any of the first three and over-delivers on intelligence. I would rather see them do fundamental research, create innovative solutions, build bridges. Politics? Raise my hands for them? No, my hand is still in my pocket.
Before you accuse me of having a closed mind, let me open it. Okay, let's give these guys a chance. An average IIT-ian might not have political savvy, but these guys are clearly not an average. They have given up plush jobs and positions to enter politics. They might be different.
So, let's go to their political strategy, or mission. I will look for three criteria: 1) Have they laid any objective measures of success 2) Have they said something bold, or have they said stuff, whose reverse is absurd? aka Will Congress say it?*, 3) Have they talked about how to do, rather than what to do?
That is the true test of strategy. Otherwise, it's all platitude. For purposes of illustration, I will take one part of the mail as an example. If you want, please go through their entire ideology and strategy.
Short Term Plans:
1 To expand the membership base of "Paritrana" as a political party.
2 To take people out of inaction due to complete loss of hope.
3 Outline a concrete, detailed and pragmatic plan to make India a developed nation.
4 Making region specific plans depending on the local parameters.
5 Spreading the message of "Paritrana" at every level of society.
6 Preparing strategies for the elections.
7 Exploring the possibilities of establishing institutions for health, cultural, legal and social awareness as well as action.
8 To conduct "camps" and seminars for building a better understanding and cohesion in the people with the same goal.
Just as I had imagined. All platitude.
1) There are no measures of performance. Contrast this with the Congress Manifesto I found on my first Google link. It says for example, "The Congress will raise public spending on health to at least 2-3% of GDP, with the focus on primary health care over the next five years and to around 5% of GDP over the next decade." and not "exploring possibilities of establishing blah, blah, blah....."
2) Everything they have written can be said by Congress, BJP, BSP, CITU, RSS, Boy Scouts and any other political or apolitical group. Will any group not want to build better understanding and cohesion? Will any group not outline a concrete, detailed and pragmatic plan? In case you get to me saying, this is only short-term plans, and surely, long-term plans will be better, then look at the following.
Long Term Plans:
1 To achieve the full potential of the country both at the individual and the collective level.
2 To exterminate corruption by whatever means necessary.
3 To overhaul the current education system that has lost its relevance in the changed social and economic conditions.
4 To reorient political organization making it more structured and dynamic.
5 To integrate technology in industry at both urban and rural levels.
6 To modernize India's force structure and defense doctrine.
7 To adopt a practical foreign policy for India.
8 To establish India as a formidable economic and intellectual power in the world.
3) Let me not go into 'how to do'. Too tough a test too soon. Let's look at their manifesto for that. There manifesto's here. Alas, it promises more of the same and while it talks about implementation, it doesn't say anything about how they will do anything or by what timeframe. Instead, we hear:
1) We will attempt to eliminate corruption, bribery and other illegal and unethical practices that take place in the entire system, from the highest levels of governance to the lowest.
2) We will establish means by which merit, ability and skill are rewarded at every level.
3) Strict measures will be taken to punish those guilty of these practices, and ensure the sustained smooth and efficient functioning of the system.
4) Apart from the eradication of corruption, which has a direct bearing on bureaucratic efficiency, the Party will push for introduction of technology and proper training of employees in various government departments.
For me, 'we will attempt' and is not a plan. It's a hope. Just for contrast, look at that line in the Congress Manifesto above.
Cynics will argue that there's no point to the Congress manifesto, anyway. Even they don't do half the things that they promise. I agree with their observation about achievements. However, there's a point. At least, we have a document to hold them responsible for in the next elections. At least, we can differentiate them from another party, let us say, BJP. How the hell do you ever hold a Paritran member accountable? If we vote for them and these castles in the air are not built (eliminate corruption for one), then would they be responsible?
Take these stats, there will be at lest 3 and up to 7 People with every home; think how many college going students live in India, how many IT professionals, BPO professionals, other professionals live and calculate the number of people who they live with. If they join together and raise their hands, can't WE win?
Isn't that restrictive at best and 'casually put' at worst? The number of IT and BPO professionals in the country is some 5 lakh (give or take a few thousands). Their families comprise some 0.25% of the population. That's how niche** their ambitions are as of now. You might say that in the divisive politics of today, it's fine to target a small group. Unfortunate that a party thinking of changing India will start like this, though.
* This is the GM test people use for assessing corporate strategy: The question, "Can GM also say this?" is asked for strategies. So, we will grow profits is not strategy. For that matter, we will grow profits by focusing on comsumer satisfaction is also not strategy.
**Though if you are looking at all graduates of the country, their familes comprise 12% of the population (Estimate assuming 2 graduate kids/ household of 5). Fat chance that this is an unified demographic.