I gave a talk last week at a Friends of BJP event at Jai Hind College in Mumbai. Here it is.
It is good to see middle class Indians all charged up and taking action against crooked politicians and corruption. But first, we need to understand what we are fighting for. What is our goal and what are the ways to get to that goal?
As I see it, the ultimate goal is a prosperous India in which every citizen has the means to live free from poverty. Good governance is the most important means of India’s prosperity. Good governance, in turn, depends on good people in government. We are ultimately in charge because we elect those who form our government.
There are at least two paths to get to this goal. One approach, as is being demonstrated by Anna Hazare: punish corrupt people and replace them. Unfortunately, the supply of corrupt people is unlimited and other corrupt people will replace them. The Jan Lokpal Bill will not solve the problem because the system which gives us corrupt people remains in place.
Is there an alternate path? Let me propose one.
The real problem in India is a lack of demand for good governance. Ultimately, politics and politicians mirror society. We get what we demand. In India, there hasn’t been a demand for either good people in politics or good governance.
We need to realise also that the change can only happen through the ballot box. As we have seen through the Anna Hazare agitation, there are absolute limits to what civil society can do and tell our legislators.
This is where we in Middle India have to act. Earlier, our numbers were too small and our ability to connect with each other to take collective action was limited. This has changed. We can change the outcome of 175 Lok Sabha constituencies, a third of the total seats because we can act collectively for the greater good.
One way to do this is for urban voters to unite and create voting blocks, and demand good governance from political parties. This concept has been explained in Atanu Dey’s book “Transforming India”.
There can be other ways. The key point here is that, for the first time in India’s history, people like us – middle class voters — are able and willing to play a role in shaping the country’s future. If we can focus on the right problem, we will come up with the right solution.
The movement to punish the corrupt is a worthy one. But we have to realize that it does not end there. We have to move beyond that and root out corruption by understanding why public corruption exists. The major cause of corruption is bad governance and therefore the solution is good governance. We have to demand good governance and only then we will get it. Our demand will bring about real change which will not only end corruption but help India become prosperous.
This is what Friends of BJP hopes to do through engagement and education.