“Whatever we are doing today is adding to the bank balance. One day you can draw from it”, consoled Dr Jayaprakash Narayan, founder, Lok Satta party and sitting MLA in the Andhra Pradesh state assembly. Addressing his party colleagues, well-wishers and supporters in Bangalore, Narayan asked them to not be disillusioned by the outcome of the BBMP election results. “I salute your courage”, he added.
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In the recently concluded city council elections, Lok Satta put up five candidates across five wards. Contesting in an election in the state and the city for the very first time, the party did not win any seat. On the back of results that were announced on April 5th, Narayan addressed a gathering of about 70 people on April 6th.
"While we must take the lessons learnt to the heart, we mustn’t feel bad about it", JP, as he is popularly known, said. He added that the outcome of the results were a reflection of the state of society. JP appealed to his party colleagues to "erase the thought that this is a personal ignominy".
He urged his party members to continue working, saying, "There are things we may need to do knowing that it may not give an immediate outcome."
JP gave the example of Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladesh-based economist, who had initially expressed to JP, his intention to start a political party. "Within two weeks he withdrew his proposal because he was not getting the kind of support he needed. I was devastated", JP said, indicating that Lok Satta has an uphill task ahead.
The talk, which was titled ‘Indian politics needs the brightest of minds’, instead centred around the performance of Lok Satta, their next plan of action, the state of affairs in Bangalore with regard to voter registration and voting.
According to party members, Lok Satta got seven per cent of the vote share from the five wards they contested in, in the council elections. Even as JP said, in an interview with Citizen Matters before the talk began, that he is not suprised by the outcome of the results, he expressed his disappointment over the middle class not coming out and voting. "Most middle class people do not take municipal elections seriously", he claimed, adding that Lok Satta at present has only a small vote share.
In line with this, JP also said that Lok Satta is planning to carry out a survey in the five wards where their party candidates contested, to assess why people didn’t come out and vote.
JP also disapproved of the first-past-the-post system followed in Indian elections, wherein the person with most number of votes wins. "In the proportional representation system, every vote will count", he says. Proportional representation system is a voting system wherein a party will receive seats in proportion to the percentage of votes he/she has received. For example, in an election for ten seats, if a party gets 40 per cent of the votes, the party will automatically get four of the ten seats.
On compulsory voting, JP said, "I think a time has come when we have to seriously consider this. It will increase turnout. You can add penalties to property tax in the cities". He however added that the implementation will be complex and will take another five to ten years to get a better sense of this.
Are voters are demanding clean governance?
In the run up to the BBMP elections, Lok Satta campaigned for corruption-free governance and took a public oath with regard to the same. With mainline parties not campaigning on these lines, ask JP if voters themselves do not expect ‘clean governance’, he says they do.
He says while some sections are influences by short term returns pre and post elections, others are hit by a sense of despair. "People are sceptical because time and again they have voted, seeking clean governance and have been disappointed.
Interestingly, with regard to the election expenditure for the BBMP elections, all five Lok Satta candidates together spent around Rs 4.5 lakhs on their campaign. This, with the ceiling limit for each candidate set at Rs 5 lakhs by the State Election Commission.
Lok Satta’s post-election promises
On their post-election plan, JP says that they are planning to constitute a citizens watch group to exercise vigil on the newly-elected Corporators and work on specific issues in each ward. "We will also engage with political parties", he said.
JP said that Lok Satta will also kickstart a shadow system to improve quality of governance and services. Party members will also push for improving voter registration to make it more citizen-friendly, said JP.
It remains to be seen which of these plans take shape and materialise. ⊕