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2.30 pm Oct 22, 2012

Can money really be separated from Indian politics?

Dr Jayaprakash Narayan is a physician by training who went into the Indian Administrative Service in the aftermath of the Emergency and failure of the Janata Experiment. He was a topper in the IAS exam. During the 16 years of distinguished public service in various capacities, he acquired a formidable reputation in the State of Andhra Pradesh. He is the founder and the President of Lok Satta Party. He is well known for his role in bringing electoral reforms and the Right to Information (RTI) act. Chat with Dr Jayprakash Narayan on whether money can really be separated from Indian politics.
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42 questions answered | 44 questions pending
  • hello jpsir, i ask one thing, why are u not talking even a single word on involvement of dr.manmohansingh in coal-gate corruption issue... Asked by: BRAVE INDIAN
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Its easy to blame x, y or z. Wisdom demands that we have evidence of individual culpability before we point fingers. And our focus always must be on improving things, not sensationalism. We must have respect for institutions. Above all we must refrain from accusing anybody without credible and substantial evidence.
  • When there is a significant difference between what has been filed during poll application and IT statement filed year on year of current assets, why not make that person disqualified for life? Do you support that? Asked by: Mohan
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Right now the law is weak in dealing with false disclosures. We need to make it stronger. We should disqualify people if there are willful and substantial false disclosures. But we must also make sure that minor, inadvertent, insignificant errors are not penalized.
  • Can we create an independent central forum, which will take up contentious issues and create policy-framework for them. Like police-reforms, uniform civil code, minority reform, reservation etc. If such things are left to Politicians, they will always play vote-bank politics and never look for long-term benefit of the country. Asked by: Sai
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan There cannot be non-political solutions to political challenges. Ultimately our freedoms, vote and elected legislatures alone can decide what we should do collectively to reshape our society. Any other approach will create more problems it solves.
  • Sir, we need an aggressive campaign from you..we all will support you. Thanks Asked by: kiran
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Thank you. We will fight more aggressively.
  • The last few months has been indeed depression looking at the scams. How do you see an end to money playing a role in Indian Politics? Asked by: Christopher Johnson
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Better awareness, greater transparency in natural resources allocation, challenge from reform parties, civil society and media and ultimately a better electoral system to reduce money power. Strong anti-corruption mechanisms will speed up this process.
  • Dr.JP,Why cant the Election commission of India appoint an Audit body and tag it to each party to verify the funds that are donated to them. Asked by: Viswasai
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan The EC can only act as per the law of Parliament. As of now the law does not give this power to EC. The law only says the party should submit their accounts to the EC annually. We need a strong law to regulate political parties as in Germany. But our parties are unlikely to agree.
  • Dr. JP, we should be thankful to the activists that corruption has become central issue in this country. But still rather than demanding the overall change of our political system we are aiming for Lokpal. If power in this country is going to be controlled by few families (most of the parties are nothing but family run business.)only how even Lokpal would be effective. Why Person like you is not coming forward to demand the end of such political system? Asked by: Anand
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan You are right, there is no single panacea. We need strong ombudsman at every level. we also need better rule of law ( judicial and police reforms), strong local governments, better electoral system and democratic parties. Lok Satta is consistently fighting for these goals.
  • Dear JP Sir, We blame our leaders each and every thing that is wrong around us. I feel we should also take responsibility of the wrong doings of these politicians. While we are the ones who elect these leaders, based on cast, religion. Whats your take on this. Asked by: RK
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan I agree. Politicians are not always the villains. There are often victims of a vicious cycle. We need to improve the political and electoral system. And we also need to educate the real masters - the people. One way of making people understand citizenship and vote is empowering local governments and stakeholders. Then people will see the link between vote and public good, and between taxes and services. People will become aware and local leadership will emerge.
  • Honestly, do yo believe we deserved universal franchise? Was granting it a classic mistake by the framers of the constitution? Asked by: Mahesh
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan This questions is redundant. We have universal franchise and we have to make it work. Our founders were right in giving us universal franchise. Subsequently we have not done the minimum things required to make our people realize the meaning and value of vote. Now we have to act fast.
  • President being the first citizen of the country , and the ugly politics for electing one. Do you think we people should have a direct right to elect our President??? Asked by: RAGHAV GUPTA
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Our's is the Parliamentary executive system. The Cabinet is the executive, and its drawn from Parliament. In such a system there is no point electing a President directly. Given India's vast size and diversity, there may not be a strong case for Presidential system. We can consider that at State level if a consensus is arrived at.
  • If at all you have to support a party in 2014 to form government in AP, whom will you support TDP or Congress or YSRCP and why? Asked by: Sridhar
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Such a support has to be issue based. There cannot be blanket support to anybody. Meanwhile we live in a real world where we have to learn to work together and forge alliances.
  • In proportional representation, it seems the focus is shifting to winning vote share per seat. So if one can win a seat by appeasing 3% of population, then they will just focus on them, even appease them. Will it not fragment Indian politics further leading to more unstable governments? Asked by: Deepak
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Good point. If every small group of 1 or 2% is allowed representation, it may lead to extreme tendencies and fragment our society. Therefore a reasonable threshold of vote - say 5 to 10% in a state - would be required to get the best results from PR and to reduce the risks of extremism.
  • Sir, We cannot build 21st century India with 19th century politics. But where is 21st century politics of India headed for? Asked by: Mani
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan In our conditions 21st century politics would look as follows... Internal party democracy. Primary Elections. Clean, competent public spirited people being attracted to politics. Proportional representation of elections. Highly empowered local governments. Strong anti-corruption and accountability mechanisms. Citizen's charters. Focus on education healthcare, skills and jobs. opportunities available to every child irrespective of birth - all these are well within our reach. We have the technology and resources. We just need sensible politics and national will.
  • Sir, there are two types of people who are fighting for a change. One set of people say that 'lack of economic freedom' is the root cause of all our problems. The other set (like you) who say that our problems are due to faulty systems. Which should come first? 'economic governance' or 'structural reforms'?. If a party offers only one of the above, how to choose ! Asked by: Karthik
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Both are linked. Only clean politics and good governance will allow high growth rates, good education, skills and jobs. And that's what gives opportunities in a modern society and helps people overcome poverty, and other structural inequalities. The world over, successful nations fallowed this path and achieved good outcomes for most of their people. There is no example of any other model working successfully.
  • Political parties need money for their functioning.The sponsors of these funds see this as an opportunity to 'Invest' for their future benefits. Sir, how do you think this vicious circle can be broken? Asked by: Krishna
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan We have a fairly good law in India. The 2003 law provides for tax breaks to the donors and disclosure by political parties. The problem is even now, 80% to 90% of the political funding is by cash and unaccounted. Most of this money is spent for illegal purposes like vote buying. We need to switch over to Proportional Representation. Meanwhile we can impose severe penalties for political contributions made in cash - a penalty of ten times the amount, a stiff jail term etc.
  • 1.Isn't it the job of the EC to control Black Money in elections.? 2.If almost everyone does it then it should be easier to catch ? 3.Does the EC work under intimidation , collusion , or is legally powerless ? Asked by: sanjay
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan When the vote buyer and the voter who takes money are both happy, it is impossible to control it by law and policing alone. The black money caught in elections is just 1 to 2% of total money spent. We need to improve the political culture and switch over to a better electoral system like PR to reduce the incentive for vote buying. EC alone cannot do it.
  • Sir,the gross salary of the PM is Rs115000(another 45000 const allowence),chief ministers average 50000/,MPs 80000 and a big zero if they lose election.Do we really expect the politicians to remain honest?I am not talking about pure honest/dishonest politicians but rather middle of the road ones? Asked by: kamal agg
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Those in public office have other compensations. Power, glory, the gratitude of people, the satisfaction of making things better. These cannot be measured by money. We cannot pay our top leaders vast sums. That is why it is important that men and women of honor, ability and means play a proactive role in the political life of a nation.
  • Sir,what is the difference between a crusader and an anarchist? Asked by: kamal agg
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan In a constitutional democracy we have the liberty to mobilize public opinion and the vote to elect our representatives. Therefore all agitations and movements must be within the confines of our liberty subject to others' liberties. Nobody can be a monarch in a democracy. If i believe i can do anything and everything to prevail - raastha roko, violence, abuse - then others may also resort to such tactics. We will only have anarchy. Peace, order and reasonable restraints in exercising our rights are critical to preserve civilization.
  • sir,hongkong as a strong ombudsman which is vimes of ery similar to our anna rhazare demanded janlokpal & corruption in hongkong reduced to minimum,then y ur differing with anna hazare ji ? pls answer Asked by: sairam
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan There are no differences in recognizing the need for strong , independent and effective mechanisms to curb corruption. The devil is in the detail. How such institutions are designed, how they function, and how they are accountable - all these require deep insights of institutional linkages and clarity of thought. There is no panacea to India's problems. Lok Satta has give a detailed, workable setup of proposals to ensure accountability at every level,national, state and local level.
  • Why should politicians decide everything? Issues like river water sharing which affect many states and India overall can be decided by a council comprising of experts in the field and bureaucrats, etc. Asked by: lsakuntala
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Democracy means ultimately people decide. In small communities, village and municipal wards people can directly decide simple things that matter. But in larger bodies there has to be representation. In a democracy that can only be by election. There is no substitute to good politics and clean & able politicians. But many issues dont have to be decided by politics. While policies are made by politicians, achieving the goals has to be left to competent professionals. Pollution control, designing transport systems, improving power distribution, rendering justice, investigating a crime - these are not political functions. But the priorities, policies and funding have to be decided by elected leaders.
  • Sir, I am a big fan of yours. You and people like you are the only hope for this country. I am currently very disappointed with the India's state of affairs. I see no growth and feel very doomed. Do you think it is practically possible for our country to even get closer to a first world country's living standards. Asked by: Rajnikanth
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan If we focus on education, power, transport, local governments and curb corruption, we will surely achieve 9 to 10% growth rate on sustainable basis. We need national will, strong leadership and sensible politics. We cannot build 21st century India with 19th century politics. That's why its so important to improve our politics and governance. But plz do not despair we can make this happen.
  • Dear Sir, I voted for the first time in the last assembly elections in AP and I I voted for your party at your face value. But, How do you ensure that candidates nominated by your party do not indulge in corrupt electoral practices ? On what basis qualification do you nominate candidates ? Do you think this ' In front of camera ' politics being played by so called social activists good for our democracy? What should be the role of the media in dealing such cases ? Asked by: Nikhilesh
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Internal Democracy, primary elections to choose candidates, transparency, disclosure of personal data related to leaders and candidates, independent ombudsmen to inquire into complaints - these are all institutionalized in Lok Satta. Face value is not enough practices and systems are even more important.
  • hello sir ,many youngsters like me want to participate in Loksatta and contribute but all of us are unclear how we can apart from contributing money Asked by: vidyuth
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Please join Lok Satta. You can just login to www.loksatta.org/join . We are in the process of enrolling members and conducting absolutely free and fair elections to ensure emergence of genuine leaders in the party at every level. We want to build a party where a capable and committed member can rise to leadership fast without anyone's blessings. Please join, contribute, and propagate the message.
  • What are your major promises while you go for campaign in 2014 elections? I know its not at all all-type free promises. But how would you attract common people to vote you? Asked by: Shyam
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Quality education, better power(both quality and supply), job creation, atleast 10% funds to local governments(per capita RS 1500-2000 per year), citizens charters to ensure guarantee of service within a time frame, fight against corruption, better price to farmers and control of liquor in villages to reduce consumption by poor- these will be the key promises. They are all necessary to improve quality of life, and are achievable and attractive.
  • How does Proportional representation reduce vote buying? If victory margins are decided by a small chunk of votes / votebanks, thy will continue even if it is Proportional representation? You Hve examples of Obama and Cameron? If they can succeed in FPTP then why not india? Asked by: Deepak
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Good question. In PR the marginal vote is no longer important. The party gets seats according to its vote share. Therefore the incentive is to maximise vote share across a whole state, not the highest vote in a constituency at all costs. Therefore the parties will depend on clean candidates with good image, better agenda and good campaign. The candidates are offered by the party in a list. The individual candidate has no incentive to buy the vote in order to get elected.
  • Politics is promoted as a noble cause. Not many understand the benefits (at least, legally) it provides except for the social good one has the scope to contribute to. Hardly a motivating factor to join politics. Unlikely for some one to stay honest considering the risks vs reward equation? Dr JP, your thoughts on this? Asked by: Hari
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan We must recognize that individual gain and public good must go together. However rich and successful you are, you cannot alone control mosquitoes, improve roads or ensure power supply. Therefore, people of ability and integrity need to be willing to pay the price to promote public good. We need to make it easy for them to enter. Better political culture and PR are two such steps needed.
  • If caste and money is the problem, how come Gujrat is growing and even UK wants to befriend with Modi? So, the problem is caste+money or leadership? Asked by: D.Saravanan
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan India is as big as complex as Europe. From time to time there is always competent leadership and other circumstances locally which allow better performance. Even the whole of India saw 8 to 9% growth for several years. If this is what we could achieve with ugly politics, terrible governance and horrible corruption, imagine what we could do in better circumstances!
  • What is your take on the current unemployment situation in the country,with regard to number of graduates being churned out every year? Do you see a burn out... Asked by: Kumar Shastri
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Our unemployment levels are nearly 10%. And yet there is shortage of skilled labour in many sectors. Our education is churning out millions of graduates without skills. Only about 20% of the educated are employable without further training. In the PISA survey of 74 countries and entities to measure educational outcomes of 15-year olds, INdia ranked 73rd! Only Kyrgyzstan was worse than us. China stood first! We need to radically improve education. Our demand is strong and people are ready. The failure is largely with the govt.
  • Sir,do you believe,the constitutional authorities should transgress their boundaries and be an activist for a supposedly good cause?If yes,wont their neutrality and accuracy be compromised? Asked by: kamal agg
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan The political crisis of India cannot be resolved through non-political means. For instance the courts cannot govern the country. Such an effort will only deepen the crisis. It will also undermine the authority and credibility of courts when there are needed most to resolve complex challenges. There is no substitute to good politics.
  • What do u think is the single largest hurdle in bringing electoral reforms & how to overcome it? Asked by: V Prema
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Politicians are simply too busy in party management, election management and survival on day to day basis. We need to marshal evidence and logic and make them see why it is in their interest to change things. What is good for the nation can also be good for the political parties. Inertia and status-quoism are the biggest hurdles.
  • sir, everyone knows that we need electoral reforms, judicial reforms, police reforms and administrative reforms.but the problem is the political class will not do these reforms and ordinary people cant get in politics its like we are stuck in a loop? what is the solution? Asked by: karan
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan In some respects things have improved over the past 15 years. Improvements in voter registration, disclosure of candidate details (2003), a better law for political funding 2003, RTI Act (2005), limiting the size of the Cabinet (2003), stronger anti-defection law (2003), a local courts law (2009)..... these are only some of the examples. A lot more needs to be done. Right now a National Judicial Commission, Indian Judicial Service, and a Strong Lokpal are in the pipeline. We must curb our impatience and learn to build arguments and logic to persuade, and even pressurize politicians to bring about changes. For instance now all national parties and several regional parties need a better electoral system like Proportional Representation for their own future. We must collectively work to make that happen. We cannot give up on politics and politicians.
  • There is no chance that money can be seperated from politics unless the elections re funded by govt. Today votes are bouhght by liquor and money and this comes out clear when the voting percentage is very high in low income areas. the voters dont understand wht or who they are voting for and vote for the highest bidder. Are you in agreement to my comments? Asked by: Arun
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan This is a common belief. But mere govt. funding will not change much. THe ceiling on election expenditure is now Rs. 16 Lakh for Assembly and Rs. 40 Lakh for Lok Sabha. The actual expenditure is about 20 to 50 times this ceiling! Obviously we cannot fund this illegitimate expenditure. The answer lies in PR in which the vote share of a party gives them seats. In our present electoral system, large amounts are spent in vote buying competitively by traditional parties in order to get the marginal vote to give them victory. Our poverty and lack of awareness of what voting means make it possible in India to buy votes.
  • what are the steps taken by your party to educate the masses about the concept of TAX and ownership of Natural resources, I have come across the people in Bellary who say "what if they mined illegally, how does it matter?, they were capable they did it", and most frustrating thing is even educated people think same. Asked by: Ramesh Joharapuram
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan There is no link between vote and public good, or between taxes and services in our centralized, corrupt, dysfunctional electoral system. If we localise power, bring in competition in natural resource allocation, and create a political system in which the best can emerge as leaders, people will have better capacity democracy work. This is our country. Only we can change the way things are. We have no luxury of complaining against others.
  • Fihting elections is a business for the politicians today. They invest money into their campaign instead of in business expecting a much higher return. they race for breaking even which takes a very short time and the rest of their earning is neat profit. How else politicians like Kripashaankar singh and his likes who have no other job make assets worth many crores in a short span of time? Asked by: Anonymous
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan That is why we need successful people with adequate private means to enter politics. We must make it possible for them to win by honest means. That is where electoral reforms and proportional representation come in. And we must have strong legal framework in which the corrupt not only go to jail, but they lose all their properties and become paupers.
  • Don't you think it's futile to raise the question of corruption as long as people are unaware. In last Andhra polls every 1 said JP's Loksatta z clean. But the end results went in favor of tall promises and cine glamour. Asked by: Sarin Kumar
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan In a poor country with FPTP system we have many obstacles for change. When vote buying is rampant, it becomes near-impossible to win without large expenditure. Only highly credible, strong leaders with impressive track record can counter money power ethically. We must encourage many such people to enter the fray. And if we shift to Proportional Representation, vote buying will give no advantage. The stakes are high. We cannot give up the fight just because it is difficult.
  • Sir, in my opinion providing caste based reservation is one of the most serious form of corruption. Through this our political parties have created dedicated group/block of people who vote the political leaders without taking any other parameter of capability and/or governance into account. Would like to know your views on this type of corruption. Asked by: Anand
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan In a society divided by caste, and centuries of caste oppression has discriminated against the bulk of the people, we need remedial measures. Reservation was meant to be a short term measure before education for all provides a level playing field. Sadly, we failed to give quality education to every child irrespective of birth. Our focus should be to rationalize reservations, ensure that the child of a collector or an MLA does not benefit, improve school education and guarantee opportunities for all. Progressively we can then reduce reservations and make them unnecessary in a generation. There is no instant solution.
  • Money is just like any other essential thing. It has a role to play everywhere. Then why is it being said that money is only reason of all the ills our political system has? I can say that there are not adequate check and balances available to this country. Your views please? Asked by: Anand
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Politics and elections do need legitimate money. Our problem is the illegitimate expenditure in elections. This makes it impossible for honest politicians to survive. In many states an assembly constituency election costs about Rs.5 crore per candidate. Clearly you cannot remain honest if you have to spend that kind of money to be elected.
  • Dr. JP, is it really an issue to separate the money with politics? I think real issue is that of governance.In this country nothing works, unless lubrication is provided at each and every step. Even at top level as it appears now that decissions are not taken in the larger interest of public and hence nation. In your views what should be the way forward? Asked by: Anand
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan We need competition and transparency in all transfer of natural resources. The best must be attracted to politics by promoting internal party democracy. Obama and Cameron could become leaders in a short while, though they were outsiders. This is because their party system allowed them to rise. Finally we need to change our FPTP elections to a Proportional System. This will mean a party will get in proportion to votes. With PR, national parties will be viable everywhere, good candidates become electable and money power will not give an advantage.
  • It is a fact that money can not be seperated from Indian politics due to the people voting being bought easily. However, this can change if the educucated middle class tries vote themsrlves and also taake a lead in educating the common man on the credibility of the candidates. Dont you feel that till this happens along with Govt funding/ strict check on election spending there is no way forward? Asked by: Arun
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Real problem is not accounted funding. It is black money changing hands and vote buying. We need to change political culture and shift to proportional representation to stop vote buying. You cannot really stop illegal expenditure. We can only educate voters and shift to a system like PR which will not reward vote buying.
  • Why money, even caste factor cannot be separated from Indian politics. However modern we may declare ourselves, the caste factor is so strong, even among the educated and progressive people. Asked by: lsakuntala
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan When people feel their vote does not change things, voters will seek money as short term maximisation. Also when individuals feel they don't make a difference, they fall back upon caste, etc... We need to empower Local Governments, enable the vote to change the outcomes, and evolve a new political culture. There are no short cuts.
  • Aren't electoral reforms mandatory to stop corporate funding of political parties and this often turns to favoritism and corruption. What do you think is the way forward doc? Would take this up as you did with the RTI Asked by: Narayan
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan Stopping corporate funding only drives it underground. We need transparent funding and public gaze. Present law allows corporate funding up to 5% profits. Real problem is not accounted funding. It is black money changing hands and vote buying. We need to change political culture and shift to proportional representation to stop vote buying.
  • Sir,there is a lot of talk about reducing politicians power and increasing the powers of selected effectively of serving/retired bureaucrats.Let me tell you when you encounter a gov official,the contempt you face is unbearable act like neo brahmins,something you will never find with politicians.Why should we believe that a bureaucrat is preferable to an elected one? Asked by: kamal agg
  • Dr Jayaprakash Narayan A bureaucrat can never be a substitute to elected politician. We need power to be shifted to the panchayat and urban ward to enhance accountability. And we need citizens' charters to guarantee time-bound services

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Dr Jayaprakash Narayan
President, Lok Satta Party