The first edition of Swaniti Talks @ IIMB was held at the IIMB Auditorium on 11th August 2013. The event was conducted as part of the Annual Entrepreneurship Fest – Eximius ’13. The speakers were Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (President of Lok Satta Party) and Dr. Rajeev Gowda (Professor at IIMB and Spokesperson of the Congress). The topic of discussion was ‘Is Voting Enough?’ The premise of the conversation is that while the Karnataka elections have come and gone, and with it the flurry of activity associated with elections, the power has shifted, but has the citizen done enough?
The event saw a huge participation of over 150 attendees not limited to students from IIMB but also students from other institutes across Bangalore, political pundits, admirers of the leaders and other interested citizens from Bangalore.
Dr. Rajeev Gowda stressed on citizens going beyond voting and participating in ideation with policy makers. He cited examples of Ashwin Mahesh and Sridhar Pabishetty from Lok Satta who have engaged with the policy establishment actively to bring about change. Dr. Gowda mentioned that the system responds to those who put pressure on the system. Hence by actively engaging with the governance and thus putting pressure would result in bringing about a positive change. He added that politicians too are extremely hardworking people and demands from them are also extra-ordinary. He went on to say that citizens can also look to go beyond ideation and be a part of events and discussion. They can also look to contribute resources to help democracy. He mentioned that the election spending limits that the Election Commission imposes is extremely farcical and impractical and needs to be revisited.
Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) touched on a lot of practical aspects during his opening remarks. He started with a revelation that something extraordinary and abnormal is required to just sustain (let alone win) a political campaign for any political party. And a vast infrastructure is required to address even the basic grievances of the people. He also highlighted with an example of a US Public School that if outcomes and services are directly linked to the taxes, people develop a trust in public institutions which currently are loathed at. Similar link also applies to vote and public good.
He stressed on 4 specific themes that need to be looked at. a) Service delivery at the grassroots level b) Local government and stakeholder empowerment and collective assertion with knowledge c) Focus on ideas to confront the grand issues that stare us and threaten our future and communicate them at relevant media and d) Bigger electoral reforms engaging the political reforms with evidence based discussion to give them viable solutions
The opening remarks were followed by some interesting questions from the audience. The questions ranged from effectiveness of public institutions such as Lokayukta which is a medium of intervention by the general public to improving the judicial system and making it efficient.
JP summarized the essence of the topic well when he quite bluntly mentioned that:
Political parties are not out there to destroy this country. They are only there to maximize their electoral outcomes and survive the system!