Mandate 2014: The Citizen Politician Debate Series

Logo debate series

Around the General Elections 2014, LILA Inter-actions hosts a series of debates featuring major political voices of the country and various stakeholders responding to them.

Post-Script as Preface: Who is a Citizen Politician?

Governance: Miles to Go

Rizio Yohannan Raj 24 April 2014 Kumar Shahani & Rizio Yohannan Raj 21 April 2014
India 2014. Through the election fever, the Citizen Politician arrives in our midst on the heels of shame — a spring of revolution, an “awful daring of a moment’s surrender, which an age of prudence can never retract.” Bearing witness to the astounding churning that follows, it comes home to us: yes, by this, and this only, the human race has truly existed. Undoubtedly, the most enduring revolutions in the country’s political history have indeed been testimonies to the revolutionary potential of the poignant experience of shame. The disgrace you feel in your bones could fling you into a strange hope, and fill you with an abandon that could in turn draw up a march of humanity for the sake of change. Hence did shame connect Gandhi and Ambedkar as citizen politicians, in a way more profound than the separation their individual self-assuredness had imposed on themselves and their times. We have numerous lesser known instances of the seminal role shame has played in shaping our history. But let us cut to a 2014 parliamentary poll campaign in the Barmer constituency in western Rajasthan…Read button
Reflecting on the art of thinking, Havelock Ellis observes that “in reality we only have succession and existence, and the ‘force’ is something we imagine.” The role of imagination in defining the power play among various processes of life must be treated with the gravity it deserves. In these techno-intensive times burdened by the deadweight of rationality, it is but hard to bring home to the citizens of such a fast-changing country as India, the crucial need to evaluate the imaginary of governance. Yet, such an evaluation alone will equip one to engage responsibly with one’s political context and arrive at a viable means of understanding and channelling powers towards action that transforms lives, thus shifting the equations in politics humanward. This is the primary responsibility of a Citizen Politician. In a lucid transpolitical exposition, filmmaker and philosopher Kumar Shahani discusses the possibility of evaluating the category of the imaginary. In her response, writer Rizio Yohannan Raj reflects on the ways to evaluate power in the political context of India.Read button

Indian National Congress: In Safe Hands?

The Indian Left Front: Recasting the Spiral of Negation?

Tarun Gogoi & Teesta Setalvad 14 April 2014 Brinda Karat & K Venu 24 March 2014
Even as India has gone to the polls, the UPA government and the Congress banner have come under severe scrutiny for reasons ranging from non-inclusive growth and corruption to ineffectual leadership and caste-based politics. Has the party mislaid its ‘moral authority’, which Gandhi had held to be its ‘only capital’? Should the Congress hand be written off as too weak to clasp our secular democratic dreams? Or, with the onslaught of the media-boosted Modi wave, is it essential that this party reorganise itself to evolve development and communication strategies pertinent to the sustenance of its core ideology in these times? Such a reimagining seems possible only if the wobbly central leadership of the INC opens itself to learn from the rather stable regions. Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Assam, presents a sustainable model of governance. In this east-west dialogue, civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, draws our attention to the profoundly secular role the Congress party must urgently play to stop the fascist forces from taking over the nation.Read button
The history of ideas on the law of negation took a definitive left turn with Marx adapting the third aspect of the Hegelian triad – ‘negation of the negation’ – to refer to the inevitable collapse of capitalist production. Later, Lenin’s spiral history of the world emphasised the continuity of human resistance to oppression. But as the spiral advances, a seminal question emerges: from which centre is its movement drawing power, and in which direction is it continuing? In the pluralistic Indian space, it is vital for the Left to resolve this puzzle through a new imaginary. In this week’s Inter-actions, Brinda Karat highlights the pre-poll efforts of the Left to form a secular democratic alternative to the communal and corrupt forces in politics. K Venu discusses the challenge faced by the Left to transcend the centrality of its spiral of negation, and cast a more dynamic political philosophy: the Left must launch a thorough introspection to connect their democratic inspiration with an organic political, intellectual and cultural practice.Read button

Bharatiya Janata Party: Searching the Vital Centre?

Aam Aadmi Party: Making the Citizen Politician?

Jaswant Singh and Vidya Subrahmaniam 10 March 2014 Sarah Joseph and Rajgopal Saikumar 24 February 2014
In his 1949 book, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. coined the phrase ‘the Vital Centre’ to refer to the contest between democracy and authoritarianism. Sixty-five years later, we are faced with an acute political dilemma in India. Are our dreams of liberalism challenged by a growing conservatism within democracy? Or is our democracy itself threatened by a totalitarian movement from without? This is the starkest question that our national political parties are confronting now, as India runs up to General Elections 2014. The problematic seems to be presenting itself more intensely to the Bharatiya Janata Party, with the emergence of an arguably new brand of personality-oriented politics within its own administration. For our second issue of The Citizen Politician debate series, senior leader Jaswant Singh discusses the criticality of following the middle path, and creating a vital centre within the party. In her response, journalist Vidya Subrahmaniam critically assesses the BJP’s claims as a centrist party, and the hurdles that it has to cross before reaching this goal.Read button
49 days. The AAP ministry in Delhi lasted less than two months, and curiously, its closure, owing to the resistance to the implementation of the Jan Lokpal Bill, echoed the wave of commitments at its inception. Today, supporters as well as critics agree on this: AAP has been an unprecedented political exploration. The AAP government deployed unusual methods and strategies for a major party. What are the lessons of the AAP rule in Delhi? Where did AAP pioneer? And where did it fail? What was its political or ideological faux pas? Sarah Joseph returns to the events of the last two months, observes the appropriation of the AAP rhetoric by the two main national parties, and looks forward to the continued efforts of the movement, particularly in the parliament to come. In his response, Rajgopal Saikumar assesses the actual effects of the party, beyond its rhetoric, and returns to Martin Luther King to re-posit political tension as the main gain of the AAP rule.Read button

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