Thursday, April 18, 2013

B.PAC : Promoting 'Selection' Democracy?

In a representative democracy like India where elections play a major part in the democratic process and are in fact called 'the dance of democracy' there can be no such thing as 'selection' democracy. Voters have a strong linkage with manifestos of political parties and the parties have to finally decide what represents the people's demands and needs in consultation with the public.

But now in the recent formation of the Bangalore political action committee (B.PAC) we note that there's a deliberate approach towards 'selection' democracy. The elite of the city of Bangalore wax nostalgic for the heady day's of brand Bangalore. Some of them are the same ones who strongly objected to the renaming of the city as Bengaluru.

And that is where their frustration begins. Their frustration is about the lack of infrastructure and the un-governability of the city- because of its messy local politics. And these elite feel that the elected politicians are unaccountable. The elite of the city would like to see governance, and service standards of infrastructure which would suit them whether they lived in New York or London, or Bengaluru.

The B.PAC members believe it is beneath their level to deal with local government officials or elected representatives. It is also too difficult for them as well and so their strong sense of hierarchy forces them to deal with only the state or Union govt. In fact they would like Bengaluru to be a Union territory or a 'city-state' so that the messy local govt politics will become a thing of the past.

based on the USA super PAC's model

The B.PAC model is entirely based on the Super PACs in the US elections of 2012 and earlier. In the US these PACs are mainly corporate lobbies focused on creating specific profitable outcomes in the elections for themselves by supporting candidates. Indian democracy does not allow an important role for individual candidates, instead it depends on parties to select candidates based on political winnability.
B.PAC is a reactionary move by frustrated leaders of the corporate sector who feel they are losing control over the saleability of brand Bangalore, and its governance, and would therefore like to see a new law for BBMP and the passage of the Bangalore region governance (BRG) bill even if it is not consistent with constitutional mandates and priniciples. This bill which was promoted by abide during the entire 5 year term of BJP (2008-13) could not be passed due to opposition from the people, local elected reps and other MLAs. The govt could never even introduce this in the state legislative assembly (KLA).

So the b.pac now feels that the MLA's, corporators, councillors, panchayat members and all organisations and common public who opposed the BRG bill conceptually- such as on the proposed centralisation of powers, policy and legislation should be dealt with by possibly supporting and 'selecting' candidates for the Karnataka MLA election in May 2013. These candidates could be from any party - BJP, Congress, LokSatta, JD(S) etc. But they should support the b.pac Bangalore agenda. And they expect the 'aspiring' middle class to join them for the joy ride.

What is a fact is that they support the BRG bill, which these corporates have agreed is suited to their legislative requirements of governance, infrastructure and policy and their display of consensus through b.pac now, means that they have secretly cast their own 'vote' in favour of it (backed by corporate money power) prior to such a legislation even being readied for tabling in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly (KLA). This sort of secret 'voting' is highly anti-democratic and reactionary. Should such a method of remote control, whether it be from money or corporate clout be allowed in the upcoming 'dance of democracy'?

This sort of secret 'voting' by consultants, non-profits or even the 'policy community' is not new. The Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of the Govt of Karnataka (2002) was prepared with the agreement of the World Bank. And it was the brute majority of then ruling Congress party in the state which was utilised to pass this act. This unleashed a process of fiscal responsibility legislation for the entire country. The NDA led Indian government introduced the Fiscal responsibility and budget management act (FRBM) in 2003. Ultimately, in 2004 the UPA govt passed the act. all the states were later forced to adopt the same as a condition of the finance comission.

the impact of these FR Acts on the citizens of states needs to be the subject of another blog ...

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