Today, the 16th Lok Sabha has a record number of new MPs. Fresh minds, fresh ideas and a celebration of democracy. But does this actually set a new agenda? How do we escape the politics of the past or embrace the best of tradition as we look to a new future? Trinamool Congress' Prof Sugata Bose, BJP's Jayant Sinha, K Kavitha of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Gaurav Gogoi of the Congress and Prof Shiv Visvanathan talk to NDTV's Sonia Singh.
NDTV: Good evening and welcome to the NDTV Dialogues, a conversation of ideas. Today the 16th Lok Sabha has a record number of new MPs. Fresh minds, fresh ideas and a celebration of democracy. But does this actually set a new agenda, how do we escape the politics of the past or embrace the best of tradition as we look to a new future? Joining me tonight an entire panel of first time MPs, different ages, different backgrounds but some commonalities as well.
Prof Sugata Bose of the TMC, Jayant Sinha of the BJP, K Kavitha of Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Gaurav Gogoi, Congress, also with me an observer of the political churn, Prof Shiv Visvanathan
Prof Bose, eminent historian, professor at Harvard, now an MP. What has your career in academia, outside India and Indian politics given to you when you fought an Indian election and now an MP in the Indian Parliament?
Sugata Bose: We all have multiple identities and my primary identity as one of a historian and a scholar. I'm trying to make a contribution in the field of public service. But even when I started my own historical research, my early work was in economic history and agrarian economy and I had travelled in every district of West Bengal at that stage. It was fascinating for me to go back to rural Bengal, my constituency is half urban and half rural and it was an educational experience for me. Once you're in the fray you actually begin to learn about the problems that ordinary people face in our country. As for my experience abroad what that gives me is an interest in foreign affairs, so I'm going to try and carve out certain spheres of activity for myself as a Parliamentarian. I'll focus on issues of education and health so far as domestic problems are concerned. I'd also like to play a part in the shaping of a new innovative foreign policy for our country.
NDTV: Mr Sinha, when you fight an election, when you come in new to a party, you will face the accusation of being an outsider. You spent your professional career in a sense in Mckinsey. You were a hedge fund investor, you dealt with sums of money, which seem like dreams for your constituents, you're from Hazaribagh in Jharkhand. How did you reconcile that difference, how did you reconcile that this goes beyond lip service to service, that people of your constituency really need?
Jayant Sinha: Well as Mr Bose was saying, we have multiple identities. I would like to say I have multiple lives as well. Along with my professional life for the last 16 years or so, ever since my father became Finance Minister, I have been drawn and pulled into politics and public life in India. So whether it had to deal with policy or it had to deal with day-to-day campaigning and just being right there at the grassroots working with people, I have been kind of leading two lives at the same time. I have also been born in that part of the world. I was born in Giridih, which is adjoining Hazaribagh; I really do feel very connected to Jharkhand and Hazaribagh, I participated quite actively in my father's campaign. So when I started my campaign this time it was an opportunity for me to reconnect with something that was very near and dear to my heart. So it is because of the fact that I had all these varied experiences that I think I can relate to people, whether in a boardroom in New York or a businessperson in Mumbai, or whether it's a villager in Katia Jhari block in Hazaribagh. One has to be able to understand people, empathise, re-cognise their issues and challenges. Then you set aside one life and pick the concerns and issues of those people and that's how you relate to them.
NDTV: Ms Kavitha your experience has been different, your father was the Chief Minister, but you have been very involved in a different way in political and public life, that's been your education in a way. You haven't come to politics at the same age as Mr.Sinha and Prof Bose have. Do you think being a professional politician in a sense is a good thing, or is it better to do go out and have different experiences, then bring that perspective to politics? Professional politicians aren't looked upon very highly.
K Kavitha: That's one bad thing and I thing as first timers and young politicians we need to bring back the dignity to politics. As you said full time politicians are looked down upon, but full time politicians are what we need. Because we have a lot of part time politicians who are half in politics and half in business and do not concentrate much on the people and they miss out on many opportunities to help out people. I have been involved in the Telangana movement for past 7 years being very close to the rural folk and all. I would understand their needs and necessities much better than a part time politician, I would say. Although it has been looked upon, it is a profession that one can't do away with; we have to be there. Well there must be bad ones also, but politicians have to be there. And we want to be there and we should be good also
NDTV: I'm going to come to part time politicians, interesting aspect. Gaurav Gogoi, it is an interesting time for you, there was, within the Congressin Assam some disenchantment, when you came back you got a ticket straight away and won an election at a time when most Congress MPs didn't. Has it been tough for you, since you're the newest, you haven't been involved in movement like Kavitha has, or practised a different profession and come to politics, you've just come in as a son of a Chief Minister?
Gaurav Gogoi: Well, I think what helped me in this election was having over 7 years of experience in public policy and non-profit. So having worked at the grass root level in India in Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and having studied public policy outside as well, when I connected to people and people's grievances I was able to feel it, I was able to synergise with them. And plus I was not in unchartered territory when I was working in the villages and towns of Assam. And what people saw refreshing in my approach was that not only was I proud of my father's identity, but having started 2 non-profits, one in the area of public policy, one in agriculture, looking at teaching organic farming to the children in rural areas, people saw a kind of sincerity. And in today's world, where people are disconnected from politics in general, what they really look for is genuineness and sincerity. And I think on the basis of those two values is what helped me this election. And of course going forward when it comes to the next election it won't matter whose son or brother I am, but what work I have done and whether I have raised the issues of the people of Assam, in Parliament. So it's been a month and a half in Parliament and I have already strived to make the voice of Assam heard. That is the problem with the North East as well, that we have so few very few MPs, talking about the 6 sisters and one brother, the fact is that our voices aren't heard on important policy issues. So it falls to someone like me, who has the policy background as well as the grass root connect, to make sure that we're heard. Especially in the most recent cases, where Akarsa Saloni was found dead, it was most shocking, that despite a Nido Tania's case we thought that no more citizens from North East would be harassed so brutally. So those issues need to be raised urgently and I think that's my responsibility as well.
NDTV: The interesting fact of course is that everyone on this panel, except you and me, are sons or daughters of a politician. Research was done, 130 MPs have political parents and Patrick French has talked about the genetic privilege of having a political parent in India, the younger you are the more likely you have a political parent. Do you think that's part of democracy or if you think of it as a churn, is it a churn?
Prof Visvanathan: See, if you look at it as statistical trend, it could be burdensome. So you could have a genealogy of incompetence or a genealogy of competence. To a certain extent these MPs have to decide. They could take it as a hereditary right or they could decide to innovate on it. Each of them has to talk about the family background, not in a defensive way, but that it helps make certain choices. Each of them also has to say that it is more than families because to a certain extent you have multiple identities, multiple careers. In thst sense they are all full time politicians. I don't know what a part time politician is. I think to a certain extent that's the focus here. I think the question is not the background but can they diversify the issues that go into Parliament? That would be a more interesting question and I'm waiting to see that.
NDTV: I'd like to go to Kavitha first on this. Telangana is a fascinating case study. It's our newest state and we saw in the Parliament session how issues of a few MPs caused full days of Parliament to be disrupted. How do you actually locate your regional perspective in a national perspective? Are you there as an MP of India, not just an MP of Telangana focusing on regional issues? Do the new MPs get caught up in the trivia of controversies like Sania Mirza being made brand ambassador and then that becomes a huge issue; and then recently the Shiv Sena force feeding rotis? Do we get focused on small issues that take us away from issues of national importance, for you as an MP, or as an MP from Telangana or India?
K Kavitha: This part of India is very diverse and that is an advantage as well as a challenge. Now I need to represent my region's goals, as I also have to look as India as a whole. Anyone looking at me from the outside world will only think I'm Indian lawmaker, not an MP from Telangana. But for me, my people I have to cater to their needs. I also need to participate in law making. Now when we're making a particular law, Assam is in a different situation, Jharkhand is in a different situation, Bengal is in a different situation, Telangana is different. When in Parliament we're talking about a different law, in the back of our minds we're thinking, will it suit my people; will it be good for them; will they have advantage of it or not? I mean we have to protect their rights also we have to protect the image of our country. So it is very challenging. It is not an easy job.
Gaurav Gogoi: If I may come in over here, to talk about the image of the country and what you talked about related to Sania Mirza and what happened at Maharashtra Sadan. I feel like this election is not just a clash of development and who are the better models for development, but is clash of what is our idea of India? Is it an India where multiple identities and multiple ethnicities can co-exist, people from different race, caste, gender, backgrounds, sexual preference can co-exist? Or is it a place where there is a majority and a clear minority? I think that would be interesting to see in the coming days as well, because a lot of us are first time MPs, and we come from different backgrounds as well, but what is the India that we are trying to build through our work, an India, which is inclusive or an India, which is exclusive?
NDTV: Jayant Sinha, come in on that because that is a slight Congress dig at BJP so go ahead and come in on that
Jayant Sinha: Well I think it's very straightforward to answer to that question. As we have said already in all of our campaigning, 'Sab ka saath, sab ka vikaas.' So it's sabka, not saying a little bit here and there. We want to carry everybody along with us. We want everybody to be thinking about the national interest. Of course there is always a tension. Prof Bose here is a professor of history here, he'll tell you whole notion of how minority groups and majorities deal with each other in a society, how you build a Constitution to protect minority rights, that is the fabric of democracy, the heart of democracy.
Sugata Bose: In my first speech in Parliament and I warned the government not to confuses majoritarianism with democracy and uniformity with unity. I think we have to recognise that the composition of the 16th Lok Sabha does not reflect the diversity of our country as well as it should. If you look at the 282 MPs of the ruling party who won, there is not a single Muslim. Of the 336 or so members of the NDA, only one member of Ram Villas Paswan's party is Muslim. I think we can't wish that away, which is why I said that some of us need to articulate the needs and aspirations of under-represented minorities in this Parliament. And Jayant is right; democracy is something where a majority should be earned. If a majority is presented on a prefabricated religious platter then that is not genuine democracy. Now I have to say that in present company I have heard Jayant speak on the Budget; I spoke on the Budget; I have seen Kavitha ji perform extremely very well in Parliament; young Gaurav Gogoi is doing well with his questions and speeches, and I do think that some of the new MPs, even though they are not of a piece, some are young, others have a wealth of experience in some other field, have been raising the level of debate in this 16th Lok Sabha. But sometimes I feel deeply embarrassed at the behaviour of some of my Parliamentary colleagues. So it's a very mixed experience for me as a new MP
Jayant Sinha: I just quickly one, just one quick thing want to say to Mr Bose, Actually I think this Parliament, the 16th Lok Sabha is working quite well compared to what happened in past. It's still not half as good as it should be, unlike the last
NDTV: Of course it's the BJP in Opposition who did not let it happen in the past and Telangana, yes
I am actually going to bring in Prof Visvanathan, because that is interesting. In fact when the Trinamool Congress, when I think Mamata Banerjee said we will take back your one crane and I think many looked at that as a slightly immature response, because look at the Budget as holistic piece of India rather how many cranes my particular state got or railway ministers, we know, they often give their constituencies the best routes and the best trains, but what about the rest of India? Come in Professor Visvanathan, on really what some would say what is the hanging sword of elections, in a sense because all the MP knows that to get re-elected they'd better make sure they perform or at least be seen to perform. And that's why I had seen, Parliamentarians say that you know, the worst thing was when television went live, the Parliament went live, because we all have to perform. And it's one or two MPs who think that if they perform and disrupt Parliament then their constituents will see them and say you are doing a great job, and that's why in some sense the standard went down, that's a controversial view, but what would you think?
Prof Visvanathan: I must first begin with a caveat. My friends in the BJP always say we love you except on TV. So I have to, see first, when I see this kind of gathering there is civility to it, there is sense of civics and you wish this was actually a blown up version of Parliament, but it's not. I mean when I see the sense of civility you bring in, the word noise bothers me and let me connect it to Sugato's idea of Majoritarianism. Majoritarianism is not democracy. By that you are confusing elections and democracy. My fear in what you saying and my fear about majorities is this, the whole becomes less than some of the sum of the parts. The diversity these people are talking about is lost. And as a communication theorist I'd ask you change your definition of noise. Noise is unwelcome music. Listen to the music of the parts.
NDTV: But can the parts become more than the whole because that was the problem...
Prof Visvanathan: That was the old fear. Now what we are trying to do is build a new model, an imagination of ideas, build a new India.
Jayant Sinha: You're going to have to force me to respond to that statement.
Because I think a lot of the dialogue is you know, you're a professor, as is Prof Bose of course, so you study definitions and labels very closely, as you all do. And so I think a lot of the discussion and dialogue we often have is about different definitions...
Shiv Visvanathan: Sure
Jayant Sinha: ... so when I say noise I meant sensationalism, unnecessary sensationalism that overtakes the media, when we should be debating the really important issues.
NDTV: That's how I actually brought it up...
Prof Visvanathan: But I think...
Jayant Sinha: However, however, I actually find it disconcerting and distressing that you would say that what my party represents is majoritarianism. I would reject that completely, because that's not at all what we have said in our campaign. That's not how we are operating as a government. That's is not what we do in terms of a party etc. etc. So, no, I would not subscribe to that at all and I'm happy to engage in a debate now or later on or in Parliament on that.
Prof Visvanathan: Yes, like any academic, so am I. But that's why I have one thing; your statements are promissory notes. Democracy hasn't cashed them in as yet. So if that's a promise of good behaviour, I accept it. But I'd like to wait a few years.
NDTV: Of course I do have to say, and perhaps agree with Jayant, that one thing this vote did show, that in a sense, that the Indian voter was tired of the coalitions, where we talked about a very weak center, where the state and the regional parties are acquiring a disproportionate influence over decisions taken at the center. And I think the vote in a sense was for a much stronger center and that's what we're currently seeing. But to ask, when we talk about moving away from the politics of the past, and in a sense, we are back to the dialogue of you know, how much is my state is getting and the federalism, but looking at how we move away from the politics of the past; we saw an incident in the recent government when of course you had this khap panchayat and various decisions, and many young MPs from those areas were very wary about condemning those khap panchayats, because they felt that the analysts in studios perhaps didn't know what they were talking about. They had to worry about the votes of those people back home. Now say you take the issue about Section 377, and the BJP on record has said that you know we will not support repealing it. The UPA kind of flip-flopped about it, then they eventually changed its mind and went ahead and said we're against Section 377, we think it should go. The BJP has not made its stand clear, even though many MPs within the BJP think that it should go, but it goes against what the BJP voter or the so called BJP voter is seen as wanting. How would you reconcile that?
Jayant Sinha: No, I would say very much that we are a government that's been in power for 60 days. These are very complicated, difficult issues. We want to have....
NDTV: This is not that complicated or difficult actually...
Jayant Sinha: No, no we want to have a very considered view on many things. There are implications on many of these issues that we want to think through, that we can implement and that are appropriate for the country as well. So we have to deal with these issues in a way that is thoughtful and diligent.
NDTV: Gaurav Gogoi come in on that because the Congress I think has faced certain flak and you've done it again in Maharashtra. Then, just before elections, you announced a quota for Jats. Now in Maharashtra, you've announced a quota for Marathas. So you've got more and more dominant castes, I mean, who would have never, who would have cringed many years ago at being called backward in any sense, who are now getting reservations, because they're seen as a vote bank or seen as a way of winning elections.
Gaurav Gogoi: Right so what I think....
NDTV: How do you support that as a young MP?
Gaurav Gogoi: Again you have to understand the community. You cannot enter into a dialogue with such a rigid position, saying that this is absolutely wrong. Because only when there's dialogue, when you listen to each other's values and they hear what I'm trying to say, and I hear what they're trying to say, and we try to find something common, that we're saying both, that I'm talking about empowerment at the end of it, and that's my basic value. The other person is also talking about basic values, about upliftment, about a better chance, about a better life. And now we've come to the middle. We've reached a consensus that we both agree that it's about uplifting ourselves. Now the only way of disagreement is that you think reservation is the way ahead, and I think that if you get a good job and if you get a good salary and if you promote yourself as a good role model, and that's where we can have a conversation on this.
K Kavitha: Can I come in on reservations?
K Kavitha: See in Telangana we had offered to give 12% reservations to the Muslim minorities because ours was a predominantly Muslim state, earlier ruled by a Muslim ruler, and there were a lot of them in government jobs. But as the time progressed, you don't see even 2% of Muslims holding government jobs or 2% Muslims getting good quality education. So, if reservations are for sincerely uplifting them, and putting them back into the mainstream society, I think we should go ahead and I sincerely believe that reservations should only be for one generation, like they should have a cap of creamy layer.
Gaurav Gogoi: Reservation as a magic pill will not work. It has to be part of a powerful holistic strategy.
NDTV: It didn't work in the last election, I don't know if it'll work in Maharashtra.
Gaurav Gogoi: It is no magic pill and the sooner parties realise that, that it's not a magic pill, it'll not win you votes, It'll not even help you in your original objective of uplifting someone. You need a set of holistic strategies, and the basic two foundations you follow which are health and education. In the end it is a healthier society and a much more educated society, which will stand on its own feet and lift itself up.
NDTV: No just it bring you in on that perspective because we discussed two separates, Section 377 and Reservations, and interestingly in a sense 1st time MPs haven't said anything different from what we've heard from 5 time MPs perhaps.
Prof Visvanathan: No, I think there's a difference. First let's give an example. Have you heard the number of times the word holism used here? Even the academic seminars can't match it, okay
NDTV: They're better spoken.
Prof Visvananthan: No, I think it's impressive.
NDTV: Okay great.
Sugata Bose: You know I think some of us can afford to take or articulate some independent positions on key issues. It is virtually impossible in this day and age for an Independent to win an election. You need the organisational resources and financial resources of a kind that makes Independent candidates non viable in our political system. But, it looks as if many of our political parties have chosen to give nominations to, you know, unusual people, who are not professional politicians and I think there ought to be a good mix of full time professional politicians and people who have some kind of a lateral entry from other professions. Members of the latter category ought to be able to push the boundaries of debate and try to take new positions and I think the leaderships of the parties should be a little more tolerant of some variations on a particular theme.
NDTV: There are rare exceptions of course, of an academic entrant as opposed to a film star entrant, Professor Bose.
Sugata Bose: Sure, of course different walks of life are represented in our Parliamentary party and you know what I would say is that we could take a new kind of position on reservation in education, but we also have to accept the reality. We were just talking about how Muslims have been left behind in Telangana. The same is true in West Bengal. After 34 years of Communist rule, we found that Muslims did not have equal opportunities in education, in jobs, in housing and so on. So some degree of affirmative action was called for. Even in an elite institution, which I was advising, I'm chairing the Presidency mentor group, I was aghast to see the under-representation of minorities. And there it's not a throwback to the old politics or the old culture of reservations, but simply to recognise that there have been social exclusions, which have to be addressed in some way, not through that magic pill, as you said, of reservations but recognising that there is an inequality and wanting to address it.
Prof Visvanthanan: May I come in? I think that answers your question about democracy, elections by itself, doesn't bring all issues to the forefront. Representative democracy does not represent all constituencies, all issues. So while elections are important, I think to an extent you need a different kind of politics to articulate silences, suppressions, which any country faces and I think that becomes important.
Jayant Sinha: That's precisely why we have the Constitution. I mean that our Constitution is, I think, the world's lengthiest constitution. We have tremendous case law that's been built up around the Indian Constitution and Constitutional law. Many, many issues have been litigated on the Constitution and we have, through Parliamentary protocol and rules, learnt a way which very few other large democracies coming out of Colonial rule, have been able to pull off, as to how we deal with the diversity and manage to include everybody in the process.
K Kavitha: But upholding the Constitution is majorly lying with the ruling party, that is what the Professor said holds good, because when the majority party does not take care of the groups which were already not part of the law making or any benefits. For example...
Jayant Sinha: But we have an independent Judiciary. If there's any way in which you're making the law the Constitution will be held accountable for that.
K Kavitha: No, no..
NDTV: Let her finish what she is saying, yes
K Kavitha: Let me finish. So I was just saying that they just came up with the Pollavaram Ordinance, which practically changed the borders of 2 or 3 states. But because we did not have the majority we could not stop it. In fact we were asked to go to Court. And so now the debate of Parliament being superior or Court being superior comes in and takes us back to the same question, that the ruling government should take everybody and go in an inclusive manner.
NDTV: I just want to ...
Prof Visvanathan: Just one point. It's not just a critique of BJP. I think we are looking at structures; that's the point I want to bring. So let me put it this way, I love the Constitution, but I wish you'd re-write the directive principles of state policy. It's pretty antiquated in many ways. All I'm asking for is new imaginations, new Constituencies, new voices to be represented. That's what gives richness to diversity, which goes beyond this certain sedateness of diversity that we've operated with so far.
Gaurav Gogoi: And I feel like as important the role of the Opposition to be part of the India building process, when we're talking about the culture and the India we want to build over the next 10 years, what do our villages look like? What do our cities look like? What does a heterogeneous society look like? What do our laws look like? How do the people from different minorities and religious backgrounds, do they walk around with a sense of freedom or do they walk around with a sense of fear? In that particular aspect the Opposition has an equally important role as the ruling party.
Jayant Sinha: Gaurav, you're talking to a party that was in opposition for 10 years. We've just gotten into government for 60 days. I'm glad you've settled in your role as Opposition very quickly.
NDTV: He's a first time MP so he didn't taste the time when the UPA was in power.
Gaurav Gogoi: But I hope Jayant that you didn't say, go to the electorate saying, give me 60 days; give me 70 days; give me 80 days. You went with the promise that from day one you'll start working
Jayant Sinha: That's exactly what I'm saying. That's exactly the point I'm making. Which is as I said we went to the electorate saying give us 5 years. All I'm saying is and this was said in Parliament as well. This is not a T-20 match. This is a difficult complicated issue that every democracy; you know I've spent 20 years in America. It is the world's oldest democracy, you can ask whether the United Kingdom is a bit older, but it's one of the world's oldest constitutions and so on. You still see them struggling with very similar sets of issues. And that is true across all the advanced democracies. These are not easy problems Gaurav, these are very difficult complicated problems. As I said we have a Constitution, we have a Judicial system, we have a Parliament, we have you all of you to give us the appropriate criticism when we go wrong, that's how we have to operate. We have to operate as I said in the framework of democracy.
Gaurav Gogoi: But Jayant you do realize as Prof Visvanathan said, the time will come to make hard choices. The time has come to maybe not let certain MPs get away with the un-Parliamentary behaviour that Prof Bose showed in behaviour or outside.
Jayant Sinha: Of course, the Idea of a representative democracy is that when the time comes to make the hard choices, which is what you all did for 10 years, then you demonstrate whether you earn the trust of the people or not. At this point we have earned the trust of people, we'll have to make the hard choices. We'll have to face the people just like you had to face the people. So we'll be accountable.
NDTV: And I think it is also will be collective responsibility, because I think when MPs behave like this, people don't say that oh look, they are Shiv Sena MPs or those are NDA MPs, but people say they are MPs and look what politicians have come down to, it's the larger cynicism of politics. But just I wanted to take a look at new ideas and new vision. All of you of course from political families, how difficult do you find it to come up with your own views, your own vision? And maybe I will start with you Kavitha, because your father is currently Chief Minister, how difficult do you find it to go your own path? Are you just your father's daughter? How do you establish your own identity? Not just in terms of being an MP, but in terms of what your vision is for your constituency or your role as an MP?
K Kavitha: I'm just fitting into the new role, but previously for the last 7 years when I was working in the movement, I just didn't want to work under his shadow. So I floated my own organization, which worked in its own way and I had a few times I had different stands and I spoke about it vocally in public arena. TRS as a party has different views, and me, Kavitha, my organisation Jagruti has a different one. But now I am a TRS MP and TRS has become a ruling party there, so now I have to be in the party line and probably not as freely I can talk about, but not because I am his daughter, but because I am a member of the party, I'll have to respect the leader and his ideology and have to stick to that framework which the party usually creates and puts the MPs in.
NDTV: Prof. Bose I want to just ask you on that. Because yours I know is a different case in the sense; Dipanker Gupta had just made the observation just recently that whenever we talk about young MPs we actually talk about old MPs, because of what's new and what they're actually bringing to the table. So if I look at you as a recent first time MP and first time ideas, how do you reconcile, because Mamata Banerjee's style of governance is controversial, to say the least, and we've seen the recent focus on whether it's rape cases and even the recent deaths because of encephalitis. And this is a point I've talked to many MPs and I've spoken to Gaurav also about, because I know that health and education are areas which many MPs feel passionately about, but that's not the debate, that's not what grabs media headlines, that's not what is on the national agenda really, in a sense, and may be that state agenda.
Sugata Bose: But that's precisely my point, that those are the things that are not grabbing media headlines, but a lot that is happening in the area of rural development, particularly in the tribal areas in the western districts of Bengal. I think the Maoist problem has been tackled best in West Bengal among all of the states that have been confronted with that challenge. But I did want to say a word about the question of dynasticism, because I had to confront that issue head on during my campaign, and in two different ways. First of all of course was the fact that I happen to belong to the family of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose by an accident of birth. And I made it clear in all of my political speeches that he used to say that his family and country is co-terminus. So I claim no special privilege on that count and you have to look at the individual credentials of members of that family. Have I done anything worthwhile in life? Do you think that I can bring integrity and some ability to the work that I have to do as your representative?
The other of course was that my mother was a Member of Parliament from Jadavpur for 3 terms. But she too was an unusual politician. In fact she wrote a book called An Outsider In Politics. She taught for 40 years, and after retiring as principal of her college, she had 3 terms in Parliament and I just hoped that the hiatus of 10 years means that there has been a bit of a gap. But I have to confess that her record helped me. One thing had changed. In my mother's time, my mother had to take the initiative to say that I am going to help girl's schools, and primary schools. This time I felt that there was a demand from the people, that we want good schools, we want toilets in every girls' school in this constituency and so on. So that was the one shift that I noticed. But we have to be individuals, and we have to even tell our constituents that look at us for what we are able to do for you as individuals. But I would also say that it is too early to think about re-election. We ought to do, at this point at least, at least up to, for the next 2 years, what we believe is right. What we believe will take our society and our country forward. And as I said that I think party leaderships, including my own, ought to be more tolerant perhaps of both internal criticism and also new ideas, so that we can focus on the real issues such as health and education.
NDTV: You're a brave Trinamool Congress man to say that. But Jayant Sinha to bring you in on that, because of course the BJP plank against the Congress was the Congress baba log, dynasty politics. Mr Modi often addressed Rahul Gandhi as shehzade, but many would turn around and say why aren't you a baba log, why aren't you shehzade then, in that sense?
Jayant Sinha: Well first of all I'm 51 years old.
NDTV: so there's certain age limit for...
Jayant Sinha: ... so if you call me shehzade I'll be flattered, baba log, you can see the greys on my temple so I Think I am a little bit older than that. And you know to just build on what Prof Bose was saying. I think as far as family connections in politics are concerned, you have to distinguish between one, style of a family in politics that I would call dynastic, and the other that I would call legacy. I think around this table you have 2 examples of people I would call with more in the dynastic bucket and the others I would call more on the legacy side. The dynastic I would define as people who are relatively younger, who have not necessarily had a career outside of politics, or maybe a long career outside of politics, and then come into politics. Obviously there are privileges associated with that. For Prof Bose and myself there are certainly privileges associated with our legacies. We're much older, we've had very successful careers outside of politics, and therefore the case I could make, and I think that's the case Prof Bose also made is, yes of course we are also taking advantage, and we've had certain privileges because of our parents and so on and even our family, but what has drawn us to politics, is not that we have certain privilege here and it is easy entry to get in. What has drawn us to politics is public service. You know I have left...
NDTV: But what if it's easier to get a ticket. It's rare that another 50 year old....
Jayant Sinha: Let me just say the following, which is that if my name was Jayant Prajapati, I had the qualifications that I do, I had spent 16 years in a constituency helping out, working on a variety of social service projects, and worked for the party in the way that I have, I think I would have had a pretty good chance at getting a ticket. So I think I would have gotten a ticket on my own merit. Of course I benefit from my father's legacy, I'm not denying that. I'm very privileged and fortunate to have him as my father. But I think that I bring something unique to the table as well, so you have to add that to the mix.
NDTV: I'm going to go to the dynasty once after you finish.
Sugata Bose: As far as the legacy is concerned, I sometimes feel that we are destined to be out of power and that we might be better in Opposition. Because I kept pointing out that don't compare us with the Nehru Gandhi dynasty, which has supplied Prime Ministers for, what, 40 years after Independence and my grandfather was briefly in the interim government before Independence. But no Bose has been a minister or in power post Independence.
NDTV: So never say never
Jayant Sinha: So Let I just add one quick fact, my father's been in politics for 30 years, he's been in government for 6 years.
NDTV: And Finance Minister in those 6 years, not bad
Sugata Bose: and he was leader of the Congress opposition in the Central Legislative Assembly in 1946, so I see pictures of him in the lobby. But, so I'm actually quite enjoying my role in Opposition.
NDTV: But, never say never, I mean the son and daughter of two Chief Ministers sitting right opposite me, so go ahead Gaurav Gogoi, I can call you babalog, but go ahead
Prof Visvanathan: I think we should understand the difference between the dynastic and legacy politicians. Do you would disagree with that?
K Kavitha: I think I would disagree with that
Gaurav Gogoi: I think in a huge political party, which the BJP and the Congress and the other parties are as well, there are so many qualified deserving candidates, who have come from the grass roots, who've come from different cities, who've come from different backgrounds. So especially when there's a Lok Sabha election, where there are very limited number of seats, as you rightly pointed out, who gets the ticket? There are a lot of factors, which come into play. Somebody with 45 years' experience and with grassroots connect, should he get the ticket or someone with an impressive CV? So I think getting the ticket, really your family background really helps. But, maybe it helps you too for the first election as well, and after that election it doesn't help. In my own personal case, I never wanted to get into politics. I was always averse to politics. For me, it involved a lot of quarrel, less of work. So, although I was motivated by public service, my dream job was to become a CEO of a non-profit and work on rural development. But having seen the state of North East India and especially Assam, where you don't have any industry, where you don't have an active civil society, what brought Assam from 2.6% economic growth to a 8% till 2008, what brought down the level of violence, what increased the level of infrastructure, was just good governance on the basis, back of a good political party, and that's what drew me into politics. Because while being in the non-profit sector, it was very easy to sit and have intellectual conversations about the state of politics, but when I saw that in a complicated state in Assam, where there are so many ethnic communities, where we have an international border, where there are separatists wanting a separate autonomy, where there is annual floods, there is ecological crisis as well and there is lack of industry, so, to see the role, the meaningful role that politics played was eventually what drew me in. And it was during the the 2012, the 2011 Assembly elections, and the 2012 Panchayat election when I just travelled across the state and I just saw the transformation. I had been inside houses where people told me that 10 years ago ULFA terrorists would come and now you are coming in.
NDTV: How to combat, Kavitha, you come in, how to combat the notion which has become, we talked about the cynicism about the politicians? I think Jayant reflected some of that when he said that people say that politics has become a family business. People don't go into it because every neta is corrupt or is a chor and the whole, when you meet friends who are not in politics, you know what their impression about politics are. Does dynasty perpetuate that, or does the belief that you know you're going into politics you're just family business, just part of his work?
K Kavitha: See first of all, all of us sitting here have got the tickets because of our family background, no matter how much we deny point blank, that is one. Second, having said that, each case is different. In my case, we didn't know if the state was going to form even, whether my father would be Chief Minister or not or we're going to come to power or not. We were fighting for a movement. I felt for the movement, I felt for the cause, I just joined. For example Jayant was working somewhere else, but he felt for his constituency, he started working there. But I know how tickets are given. I know how we screen people. So when you're looking everything else, you simply look at one thing. The leader looks at one thing. Can this candidate win that seat for me or not? He could be anybody's son or daughter. He could be anybody, anybody, but end of the day I need that one MP. Winnability is definitely a criterion. So one thing we have a family background, there's no doubt about it. But then as Gaurav said, one shot and after these 5 years you don't perform, people will not elect you after this, there is no doubt about it
Gaurav Gogoi: And also, just being a son or daughter doesn't mean that you win the election. There are sons and daughters who've lost as well.
NDTV: Professor Visvanathan, come in from the other perspective. Why do voters have an immediate sense of connect and is it a sense of we'd rather vote a son or daughter, we know the name, we know the family, good or bad or however it may be, but they are winning elections and they very much have the democratic stamp of approval on them? Why do voters connect with the people from a dynasty or legacy however you may call it?
Prof Visvanathan: I think this is the positive part. You know I come from a family of scientists. I was once trying to conduct an interview with an engineer and I was trying to explain what we were doing. He said I don't need to know you, I knew your grandfather. There's a sense of continuity and to a certain extent, certain kinds of families, to me, guarantee eccentricity.
NDTV: It's not the feudal mindset of India?
Prof Visvanathan: Feudal mindset you could have. But even feudal mindsets are sometimes interesting for me as an anthropologist. See what I'm trying to say is, look at the imagination each one of them comes from. If family adds to imagination and competence, why not? And a past in that sense can be very interesting. It provides a certain understanding of how to create a different kind of future. I have seen scientific families. I come from one of them. I think to a certain extent there is a competence of a different kind. But here also to a certain extent in a democracy, you can't take it for granted.
Jayant Sinha: No I would just like to just build onto what Prof Visvanathan said because he is exactly right, and I think Gaurav and Kavitha are also right in that regard, which is that what would really gall me, and what would make me unhappy, because I've spent my whole life competing, whether it was IIT, or the Harvard Business School or McKinsey, every one of the institutions that I've been to is a very competitive merit-based institution. I would feel very badly if we had a democracy in which merit and competence could not flourish. That would really impair our democracy, and diminish it in very serious way. So that would really concern me. The reason why I am not particularly, really concerned to a certain extent is, because as Kavitha points out, yes, we're all privileged when it comes to ticket allocation, maybe someday we'll have open primaries, which I would be completely in favour of. But at the end of the day, I think, and this is the redeeming fact in all of this is that this is a representative democracy.
NDTV: I'm just going to take a final round of Dialogue. As I began with the fact that we have a record number of first time MPs, what do each of you have as the one thing, as a new idea, or what is that one aspect that you would really like to focus on during your term as MPs? Maybe different, maybe the same as your predecessors, but something you think you could bring to the table really in this Lok Sabha? Go ahead Jayant
Jayant Sinha: I think the biggest role that I can play in Parliament is to really try and make sure that our economy becomes much less a crony capitalist economy and becomes much more entrepreneurial and innovative as an economy, where we can have dozens and dozens of great start-ups like Google and Facebook Apple and Twitter, because I think that that's what creates wealth and jobs.
Sugata Bose: I'm glad that Jayant has said that because we feared that this government will actually be a government of 100 billionaires rather than a government for the people that we have. I would really want to make a difference in the world of education. Even though I come from the field of higher education, it has become very clear to me that our focus has to be on primary and secondary school education. And I have been trying to tell this government and its Finance Minister that in fact, rather than simply building new institutions of technology and management, for which money will be spent on brick and mortar, we really need to invest in old established, existing colleges and universities which have promise, which may have gone into decline of late, but which can be turned around with some strategic investment and some visionary leadership. I also want to play a role in foreign policy, because I think I want to play a part in what we talk about in general terms is the rise of Asia for 200 years, Asia is recovering to try to regain the position that it had lost in late 18th and early 19th century and India has to be a part of that, but there will be huge problems of internal inequalities, both in China and in India.
K Kavitha: For me it's more basic you know, my constituency does not have drinking water, no compound wall to many schools, no train connectivity, no road connectivity and the list goes on, these basics first. And also, definitely, I want to take IIM to my district, so I have to fight with them, so you know that is another aspect. So looking at both welfare and development you know and they should go hand in hand. And just to continue to the previous one, see when we get elected, people have a chance to get rid of us after 5 years if they don't like us. But in case of film stars or people who are in the films, who just are there because of their fathers or dynasty or you know generations together, people don't have an chance but to watch their movies and bahut logon ko jhal rahe hain...
NDTV: We only watch them Friday to Friday, but you still have 5 years no? But it's interesting, just the diversity, just of the issues from compound walls to the role of Asia in the world. Go ahead Gaurav
Gaurav Gogoi: For me it is 3 things, my constituency, my state and my region and my country. I represent my constituency first and my projects are key. I'm already focusing on bringing more food processing industries, as well as trying to build a library in each and every block, so as to promote a reading culture amongst my constituents and I'm indebted to them first because they are, it's because of them that I'm here. Secondly, for my state and for my region, it's still a misunderstood place in our country. You know we still don't understand what the North East is or what Assam is and how different identities blend together. So for me it's very important to be a strong voice for the region, to show its assets, to show the beautiful things it has, and multiply them, and again, not beg for respect, but ask for respect.
NDTV: Prof Shiv Visvanathan, optimistic after this dialogue?
Prof Visvanathan: Interested, because I think to a certain extend you saw that there was a certain combination of the abstract and the concrete. You could begin with the compound walls and go to foreign policy. I'm interested in the connections. How does the South Asian universalism allow for a role for the North East in Indian politics? How does the question of minorities come into the issue of the economy? How do the local and global combine? So, at one level, I think you all raised fascinating problems, I do feel optimistic. But, there has to be a certain sense of suspicion. I'll just wait and see, because that's part of our democratic role. But I must say at one level I feel hopeful, At one level, the politics of politicians seems more hopeful than the politics of the academia, which I have faced for years.
NDTV: Thank you all for joining me this evening, it was great having you, thank you.