February 15, 2007

Let’s do a Juhu in Mysore, says Dr Shenoy

That Mysore residents/voters ought to organize themselves to put up their own candidates in the next city corporation election is a thought-provoking proposal. And,if I may add (with due apology to Dr Bhamy Shenoy), it should not go unconsidered merely because the idea comes from a convener of Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP). Dr Shenoy cites the Juhu citizens initiative at the recent Mumbai city corporation elections.

Alfred D’Souza, Independent, sponsored by the Juhu residents, polled 4,582 votes, defeating his Congress (3,900 votes) and BJP (3,200) rivals. Polling percentage was 43.These figures reflect:1) Citizens initiative works, if the target we set is modest, and tangible with a definite time-frame; 2) campaign power of the political biggies can be countered with effect; and 3) there is still a log way to go in persuading people to cast their vote, even if it is the fate of their own candidate that is at stake. Political pundits may have other interpretation for the low polling percentage at Juhu.

The Juhu people’s campaign story started six months back (a realistic timeline) when a Juhu corporation area sabha was formed on the Janaagraha concept developed in Bangalore, says Dr Shenoy in a Star of Mysore article (Feb.15, 2007).

A polling booth (Juhu municipal ward had 37) was taken as the primary unit, and about 100 residents from each booth met to choose their area sabha representative (ASR). The grass-roots level meeting had folks from various walks of life in varied age-groups (17-70). Names of persons with candidate potential were sent by various booths. Eventually, a short-list of four was considered at a meeting of area sabha representatives. Mr D’Souza was their choice. Citizens, notably, the prominent ones, canvassed for the people’s candidate. And campaign expenses (Rs.60,000) came from ad. Revenue of a Juhu citizen welfare magazine.

Dr Shenoy, seeing lessons here for Mysorean, suggests a start be made in Mysore. Let’s mobilize citizens from five of the 65 municipal wards, says Dr Shenoy.My first thought is that MGP could make a start in such citizens initiative from its home ground, Yadavagiri, and Dr Shenoy should announce right away that he is not a candidate. Maybe, he is not interested. Besides, elections do not favour ex-IITans, as Dr.Shenoy is well aware. But a public declaration by him, and a few other NGO spokespersons with high media visibility (need I name them?), would help create much needed public trust in citizen’s initiative.

One other thought. A person's political affiliation shouldn't be a factor going against his/her choice as people's candidate.Political parties too often ignore the claims their own workers, which could leave party persons, with good credentials, neither here nor there.


Anonymous said...

From a distance, I see the 'Juhu Phemenon' as a flash in a small pan. Also from what I have heard from those involved, it was a meant to be a warning flare to political parties. But the political parties shrugged this off, and they know that putting up one candidate as a protest is one thing and making this a mass movement is another. Soon this furore will die down and the politicos will be back again in numbers to continue with their machinations.

MGP as a former put it to me, should be named as 'Mysore Grahachara Parishad', and he says its internal politics will shame even the professional politicians!

Could we expect Dr Shenoy to rise above any lingering self-interest and declare that in the event of 'Juhu' experiment taking shape in Mysore, he would not be a candidate and that the 'Juhu ' procedure for short listing candidates will be allowed to take place ?

Talking about ‘doctors’ and politics, one is reminded of another doctor- a well known medical doctor of Bengal- Dr Bidan Chandra Roy (Dr BC Roy, MD FRCP FRCS)). He 'ruled' West Bengal with an iron fist in eternity as a CM, a wily old man that he was. Asked about this famous doctor politician, his erstwhile medical colleague said, ' he should have confined himself to ward rounds'!

Dr A.L. Mudaliar, the renowned Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, the eternal VC of Madras University was another 'doctor', with a penchant for politicking, and who for a long time functioned as the Leader of Opposition in Madras Legislative Council. Just who appointed or elected him in that capacity was a mystery to even fellow MLCs! The best reasoning was that he simply assumed himself that position! He was seemingly independent, and his debates in the Council were know to be very incisive and he often criticised the government on various issues. Close friends of Bhaktavatsalam, the then CM who was often at the receiving end of Dr Mudaliar's verbal assault, asked him why he tolerated Dr Mudaliar’s verbal brickbats with a smile . The CM said, ' because it comes from a fellow Mudaliar'! Bhatavatsalam belonged to Mudliar's caste. Dr Mudaliar gave similar treatment to,Annaduarai, when he became the CM. Once, the debate in the Legislative Council became very heated with Dr Mudaliar generating the most heat. An exasperated collegue of Annadurai implored the CM to ‘silence’ the famous doctor. Annaduarai simply replied, didn’t you know what Bhaktavatsalam said? Annaduarai was also a ‘Mudaliar’!

Anonymous said...

Just to add to the earlier piece:

H.V. Hande, the octogenarian doctor and politician was another medical doctor who started his political career with unalloyed altruism. He was and I guess he still is, a busy general practitioner who won the Park Town constituency ( a safe seat for Congress those days) for the Swatantra Party in the 1960s elections when the DMK swept to power. Dr Hande’s brother was my student then and I had the opportunities to meet him many times. He was and I think he still is, a nice person. Politics does funny things to even a person of the calibre of Dr Hande. When the Swatantra party became a nine day wonder, he simply switched to AI ADMK then led by that swash buckling extraordinaire – MGR. With Annadurai’s photograph now adorning his office in his surgery having replaced Rajaji’s, he gave an interview to the press and when asked about his switch, he replied without hesitation that ‘ he always revered Anna’! This seems a little farfetched statement, considering what the doctor had to say about Anna and his politics as a Swatantra MLA. Having served as the Health Minister in MGR’s government, and having stood unsuccessfully against Karunanidhi in Annanagar later, the doctor went for another switch, this time choosing the BJP. The BJP in Tamil Nadu was then an ally of the DMK, and the voters in Annanagar who arrived in numbers and voted for the doctor who came within a whisker of defeating Karunanidhi only a few years ago, could not belief their eyes when they saw their good doctor sitting with Karunanidhi on the dais in a public meeting and criticising his erstwhile AIADMK comrade madam Jayalalitha! A close foot soldier for Dr Hande in his Swatantra and AIADMK days seeing Karunanidhi and Hande together uttered ’ I can’t take this medicine from the doctor’!! As for the other voters in Annanagar, they can remember a cartoon in a local newspaper which depicted Dr Hande as a trapeze artist prone to many somersaults!

To shake off the ‘politics itch,’ and particularly to constrain himself from indulging in another switch, knowing the age is fast catching up on him, the good doctor has taken to delivering Kamba Ramayanam lectures, which many says are rather good. As for what Dr Hande really stands for, perhaps only the great Kamban knows!!

Bhamy V Shenoy said...

This is to respond to anonymous who discussed about the internal politics of MGP. It is not difficult for me to state publicly that I do not have any intention of standing for election. This is not to shirk my responsibility. As a matter of fact, few years back, a sister organization of MGP called Mysore Lok Swaraj Andolan did attempt Juhu experience in Mysore and I handed over the money that I had saved from my MLA Campaign. I could have contested the election myself. But I did not.

In any case I cannot stand for election since I am just a PIO now. Thus there is no hidden agenda for my writing the article on juhu success.

I do not see any relevance of Mudaliyar or Hande to Juhu example. We all know by this time politics is dirty. But it need not. There are also many examples of politicians though few who have showed that it need not be. It is a pity that both the anonymous respondents have tried to write on the obvious drawbacks of politicians rather than how we can try to turn a new page. If indeed the politics is so bad, why did we choose democracy and even more important why do we still claim that it is the best of the worst alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I am can see the relevance of Dr Mudaliar and Dr HV Hande examples. First, both of them thought arrogantly perhaps that they can make a change and make politicking better. Second, they were driven by massive egos- they were better educated, popular professionals and believed in their capability in changing the direction of politics. In both attempts they singularly failed. In both postings I can glean a tongue-in- cheek comments about 'doctors' (or PhDs) getting the 'politics itch' which they could not shake off. The clear link between these two doctors and Juhu experiment is that another 'doctor' (albeit a PhD?), perhaps stricken with with the old ‘politics itch’ seemingly attempts to use 'Juhu' as a raison d'etre to enter politics! For Dr Hande, the raison d'etre was 'permit' Raj of Congress and for Dr Mudaliar it was simply he thought he was cleverer than others!!

Cynics would say that the reason why democracy is the best of worst alternatives in India is that it brings opportunities to make money for those who are victors in elections and who can wangle out ministerial posts. I have so far not seen a poor MLA or an MP! Nor I have come across an MP or an MLA who is clean! This is a pure myth! Those who see Dr Hande today can only detect opportunism but not the altruism that propelled him to indulge in the foolish venture of taking on a sitting powerful MLA in that Park Town constituency in 1960s, like 'Juhuvians' did. Democracy pays and pays well for a few. Hence I am sure that as long as ‘bucket-loads of money-earning opportunities exist in the ‘democracy Indian style’, India will vote for democracy every time!’

Ranga said...

I too can see the 'tongue-in-cheek' aspects in the postings of the two anonymous respondents as well as the subtle link to the 'Juhu experiment'. I have a few relatives in Juhu who were involved in the experiment, and talking with them just today, I understand that it was more of a protest than the beginning of a movement. They were surprised that too much was read into it and messages are created around it. My experience as presiding officer in polling stations in a number of constituencies for 30 years has resulted in losing confidence in fairness of the election process in India. I have been intimidated many times not in KG Koppal as one would understand, but right in polling stations in constituencies in Yadavagiri, SaraswathyPuram, Lakshmipuram etc.. where educated middle class vote. In the latter, unlike in KG Koppal where a 'mean looking man' would deliver a message direct to me, the intimidation used to be subtle but nevertheless as effective. The impersonation likewise was cleverly engineered. Each time I went to the polling station that I was asked to manage with fresh hope. Each time , the hope was dashed. The 'Indian-style democracy' as one respondent has put it survives as it is a means of making money, a lot of it for some.
Can 'a new page be turned'? The answer is an emphatic NEVER!

wags said...

hi Mr. GVK,
I am Vikas Pal, student of IIM Bangalore. I am doing a research on newer methods of election-campaigning in low budget. I am trying to contact Mr. Alfred D'souza to learn about his methods. Can you help me to get his contact? What are your views on this topic? Thanks!

Vikas Pal