I attended a Bangalore South Lok Sabha Candidates' debate yesterday, this time held at NMKRV Jayanagar and organized by the Rotary Clubs of South Bangalore.
Only Capt. Gopinath (Independent) had arrived on time. Ananth Kumar (BJP) arrived a bit late but immediately greeted each and every individual in the hall and asked them to vote. When the organizers decided to go ahead even though there were only 2 candidates, Prof. Radhakrishna of JD(S) arrived. Krishna Byregowda (Congress) never turned up at all.
The session was mostly about questions asked by Mohandas Pai (Times of India) to the candidates and gave them roughly a minute each to answer.
Most of the questions were good and thankfully the answers were also forthcoming.
IMHO, Prof. Radhakrishna was rambling more than making sense. Since Krishna Byregowda didn't show up, I don't know much about him even though he has spoken well in interviews. Ananth Kumar and Capt. Gopinath were both impressive, made a lot of sense and had vision. It is going to be very tough to choose between these two candidates for me.
Plus points for Ananth Kumar include that he has been an MP four times, been the Civil Aviation Minister, etc. and he answered questions to the point. He indulged in rhetoric about why Congress has brought India down, and why things were great during Vajpayee's tenure - ignoring these aspects, he seemed like a good candidate.
Plus points for Capt. Gopinath include that he has been an entrepreneur himself - Deccan Aviation made flying possible for the average person, he has been in the army and fought a war in Kashmir, and he voices Bangaloreans' concerns well. He was vocal about the state of the Metro and questioned why trees in Lalbagh has to be cut down, and the whole crowd cheered for that statement.
Towards the end of the session, the audience also got turns to ask questions, but it turned out to be rhetorical provoking questions rather than questions with real value.
For more details about Bangalore candidates, read the full interviews at SmartVote.in. I'm sure there are more sites out there for the other constituencies in India.
I think there are two takeaways from the day for me.
First, vote for the candidate, not the party. If you think voting for an independent candidate is going to be a "waste" of your vote, think again. Is it better to have 500 excellent people in the Lok Sabha regardless of which party they belong to, or is it better to have 500 people, whose usefulness is doubtful, belonging to 2-3 big parties in the Lok Sabha?
There are good people stepping into politics trying to make a difference and we should encourage them. After all, we don't jump into politics, let us support those who do. For example:
- Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who was an engineer in the team that built the first-ever Intel CPU chip, founded BPL Mobile way back in 1994, CEO of Jupiter Capital VC company, and is now a Rajya Sabha MP (Website, Twitter)
- Capt. Gopinath, as I already mentioned (Website, Twitter)
- Mallika Sarabhai who is a noted Indian classical dancer, has a Ph.D and an MBA, and is now dipping into politics as well. Just listen to her, she makes so much common sense. (Website, Twitter)
- Dr. Shashi Tharoor who has served as the Under-Secretary of the United Nations, is the author of 10 books, and won several journalism awards. (Website, Blog at HuffingtonPost, Twitter)
- Meera Sanyal, chairperson and country executive of ABN Amro bank. (Website)
And so on.
These are well-qualified and well-off candidates who I believe are in a better position to serve the public. As Capt. Gopi insisted, he wants to do his own business as well as work in politics because unlike others, he does not want to make politics itself a business for him.
Second takeaway from the day was that the biggest problem is not the candidates or the system, it is the apathy and indifference of the voters. I've heard various statistics that less than one-third of the people in Bangalore actually go out and vote, which directly relates to why the politicians cater to those who actually do vote, then how can we complain that nothing is being done about the infrastructure?
If things continue as-is, our public life will go on deteriorating while we expect our private enterprises to continue prospering in spite of all the social problems.
You've got the dope,
you are the antidote;
Shut up and vote.
Please spend a few minutes off of IPL and think about why you are/are not voting, think about why people around you are/are not voting, and think about the candidate that you are voting for. See How to choose your Member of Parliament for guidelines.
If all this wasn't food for thought, may be some cynicism (or astute observations, depending on your point of view) by The Comic Project is what you need:
Update : Despite all the media attention and campaigning, 54% of Bengaluru did NOT vote. I am ashamed of Bengaluru at this moment.