Karnataka polls: Public as producer of governance system

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The Lok Satta Party, which was started as a citizen movement in 1996 gained recognition as a formal political party in 2006. Founded by Jayaprakash Narayan the Lok Satta Movement worked as a non- governmental organisation since the time it was founded in 1996. In 2006, it gained recognition as a formal political party.

Their agenda has been to ensure that political leaders share power with the citizens, and must be accountable to them. At the same time,they mean to see that 'political leaders should have the freedom to exercise their judgment on the issues, and represent their constituents independently'.

Their idea on elections is a 'healthy democracy depends on a robust debate among good candidates, and an election process that is easy to understand the trust'.


In 2012, the Lok Satta contested the Bangalore Graduate Constituency elections and secured 16% of the votes. Dr. Ashwin Mahesh was the candidate chosen.

The Loksatta Party, Karnataka will be fighting in the upcoming assembly elections in the state. They recently released the manifesto called Progress. Some of the promises by the party include tackling the 'garbage issue that has been haunting Bangalore within their municipal limits, Twelve hours of three-phase power sup ply to every village, Woman officer in every police station, Comprehensive programme to ensure women's safety in public transport system'.

Ashwin Mahesh has announced his candidature for the upcoming Assembly elections and hope to repeat the successful experiment of the Andhra Pradesh.

His abiding interest lies in 'public problem solving'. He had formal education is in astronomy and atmospheric science, but has spent most of the last decade working on urban problems, especially Bangalore.

"I am particularly interested in problems that we can all work on together, and in the process help build social networks too. I also feel that it is the responsibility of better educated and higher income citizens to spend time and effort in improving opportunities for the poor too, and doing this is also an important part of building a society," Mahesh says.

Here is an exclusive interview with Mahesh:

Question: What is the provocation to contest election?

Mahesh: For a very long time, we have only been CONSUMERS of democracy. Whatever the system has given us, that's what we have. As a result, many of us feel let down. Our cities, villages, states, and the country as a whole should have been so much better, after 6 decades of independence. We have been asking ourselves, 'how can this be changed?' And finally, across the country, many people are coming to the same conclusion - that we must be PRODUCERS of democracy too. Only then will we get the kind of country we want. And that's what I'm doing too - trying to be a producer of the governance system that I want.

Q: How will you campaign because elections require money?

A: People spend a lot of money in elections, yes. But let's also remember one thing - most of the people who spend money LOSE ANYWAY. Only one person wins each seat, regardless of how many others spend money. Often, the person who spends the most does not win. What this tells us that money ALONE is not the determining factor.
In fact, I feel that in most cases, money is just spent because candidates - especially bad candidates who have nothing positive to tell voters - feel spending is necessary to compete in elections. People who have a positive message don't need to spend as much money. Last year we did spectacularly well against all major parties in the MLC election, which I contested. In some parts of the city, I got more votes than all the other candidates combined. What this tells us is that people are ready for change.

Q: Urban voters are not interested in elections. How are you going to overcome this attitude and raise voter awareness and participation?

A: I feel urban voters are just as interested in elections as anyone else. Actually, the problem has been the opposite - so far, politicians have not been interested in urban voters, and so they do nothing for them. As a result, urban voters in the past felt alienated from politics. But nowadays there are more and more urban voters, and in many states they will soon be a majority. Politicians can no longer ignore urban voters, and I'm sure they're recognising this. As they reach out to urban voters and their issues more and more, participation rates - and outcomes, too - will show the difference.

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