Society The Amethi Paradox

The Loksangrah Manch is a rapidly growing team of young people from various parts of India. This team aspires to change democracy such that people set the agenda of their constituency through the Loksangrah Abhiyan – a pro democracy campaign aimed at expanding people’s participation in democracy and political leaders’ accountability towards people. Such a campaign will motivate voters to elect representatives who are committed to the agenda of people and have the capability to deliver. Loksangrah Abhiyan is trying to establish the model of People-Power-Change in the country. The idea is to unite people’s ideas and aspirations to create the power required for the change.

The team members, from various parts of the country, have studied at reputed institutions in India and abroad, and are now back to their roots for development of their areas. The team believes that political leadership is a most important factor in improving people’s lives in the country. Therefore, we started this movement last year in Rajasthan. We wanted to begin the movement in UP as well, and started in Amethi. The choice of this district is well thought-out, as Amethi symbolizes an erroneous model of our democracy. On one hand it has been represented by one of the most powerful political families of the country, and on the other hand, Amethi’s development level is one of the lowest among all the districts in the country.  This is a paradox. Amethi is a place where democracy does not matter.  I say that with full conviction, after having worked at the ground in about 400 villages across Amethi, and interacting with thousands of men, women and children. In this high profile constituency, this is common to see a large number of young and bright boys and girls absolutely unaware of any opportunities for them and uncertain about their future. Sick and elderly people are carried on carts to far away hospitals, the way animals are carried to veterinary hospitals. The MP and his local associates blame the state governments for people’s plight. I believe that leadership is not about blaming others and leaving your people on their own fate. True leadership is about struggling and working for people, giving whatever it takes, and bringing them a better living, higher aspirations and brighter future. Mahatma Gandhi undertook the mission of independence and finally succeeded, not because the government then was supporting him, but because he had unshakeable determination and unprecedented leadership ability. We expect, from those who use Mahatma’s name, to see same determination and leadership.

However, one thing is unanimous in Amethi that their preferences do not matter and they do not have a choice. Children and youth live hopelessly only to grow old in poverty. Schools exist, but villages after villages you find children who can barely read and write their names, and do simple mathematics. Women living in darkness and broken huts fear that when they express themselves, their families would be in trouble. Those who get excited by Loksangrah, ask bluntly – “Do you have a choice to offer?” This was the idea on which democracy was supposed to work. Not a single person in Amethi believes that he/she is represented by their Member of Parliament. But an MP is someone who should be a role model, and in whose life, people should live their lives.

The Loksangrah campaign is aimed at identifying this problem of paradox and doing away with this, working with the citizens in Amethi and other places. The general election is gripping the country. However, the Loksangrah team believes people’s participation must be beyond showing up at polling booths. They feel electoral democracy in India is largely a monologue. Political parties and candidates come up with their agenda for people before elections, and voters have no choice but to accept one or the other. They believe this monologue must be converted into dialogue, and people must set agenda for political parties. Loksangrah is a citizen campaign to bring together the voice of people.

In the next step this draft of ideas is summarized into a two page manifesto, which will be the basis for a signature campaign. After this public ratification, it will be named “the people’s manifesto”. Each candidate would be requested to publically pledge on the people’s manifesto. In the final step, Loksangrah team will conduct a pledge campaign where voters will be requested to choose candidates who have the commitment and the capability to deliver on the manifesto. I believe that the Loksangrah model with situational variations can be adopted in any constituency at any level of governance. When people set the agenda and sign on it, they will own it and drive it. This will strengthen democracy in India and pave the road for better leadership.