Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Where do our Netas Stand?

The website is a great resource for the Indian voter. Among other things, it gives information on criminal cases in which candidates for election have been involved. It also gives information on their personal wealth on the basis of legally required documents they have submitted. The movement that runs this website was initiated by a set of IIM Ahmedabad professors several years ago. My hats off to the professors!

What I would like to see next are biographic sketches describing their career, so we can see where all their wealth could have come from. The media is best fit to provide these biographic sketches. Another option is for social activists to ensure that there are Wikipedia articles on netas who need to have more light thrown on them. As it is, the Wikipedia has done “justice” to a few netas I have looked up occasionally. No, I didn’t say “I have looked up to” :=)

Now, let me come to my concern. While probity is promoted by increased transparency, what is there to promote greater understanding of a neta and what he or she means to the country? What is their political philosophy? What are their priorities? What reforms will they push for? What do they hate? Can the bulk of our netas write on these matters as well as the average graduate?  Otherwise, how are they going to manage the country? Media can play a role in encouraging potential policy makers to write on where they stand on policy issues. Those who can write well can be interviewed on television. Regional leaders can be interviewed on regional TV.

There have been few leaders who have written books in recent years. Dr Abdul Kalam is an exception, having authored ten books! Why can’t other netas follow in his footsteps, at least 10% of the way? For a list of other leaders who have written, visit This is not an exhaustive list; it does not list Advani’s book, or Jaswant Singh’s books. I would love to read a book on what Sashi Tharoor thinks we should do in the educational field.

Let me conclude this post by recalling what I had read in a newspaper a long time ago. (This was written from memory and I was unable to locate the original publication). A veteran journalist had recalled his interview with a senior neta. He had tried to coax the neta to spell out his ideology. No luck! The neta had declared that ideologies should be avoided. The journalist tried a related question – which books had influenced the neta the most? But our neta was made of stern stuff! One should not allow books to influence oneself, he had said. I hope that our current netas are a bit better because of increasing literacy in the country!

Srinivasan Ramani

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