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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Results of Bommanahalli election and what next?

The results from Bommanhalli (see link) show the obvious fact that we (Yogesh and all of us who fought it together with him even if some of us with limited commitment due to personal constraints) lost the election. We lost and so did for now, the hope for good clean politics. But, while it is a small battle lost, let's not lose hope and continue to focus on the bigger war ahead. Between Yogesh Devaraj and Ashwin Mahesh, there were 15K people in Bommanahalli (or around 10% of electorate) who voted for Clean Politics. Hopefully many more thought about voting for them, but decided against considering the enemy (greater evil in their eyes) that they wanted to defeat (Congress, BJP).

While both had issues with the way each other's campaign & why we were working against each other, the promise that both made were very similar: Greater empowerment of citizens, clean governance, zero corruption, prioritizing and focus on solving people's problems instead of filling their own bank lockers and many more and nearly 10% of the electorate has responded and many more were denied the opportunity to express themselves by missing names on electoral rolls, incorrect information of booths, misleading of educated people who came out to vote (similar to attempts with misleading me and Bhagyasri Hebbar). In addition, the over 500ppl arrested for attempting to cast fake votes means that a % of the 80+60K votes that Congress & BJP polled might also have been fake (we'll never know for sure). Last but not the least, this is the story in every constituency. A LSP candidate in my constituency polled over 6K votes, many others polled between 6-12K votes and it is more often than not close to 8-10% of the votes polled.

So, what this means is good clean politics does have a chance. I know most of my colleagues at work don't even have a voter id OR atleast don't go out and vote. But the good thing is that some OR most of them because of me atleast started talking politics. I might be the taboo to some at work today because I went out and openly became a part of politics ... but hopefully, things will change and people who don't participate in politics will one day be a taboo.

And that's also probably the case in 100s of companies around Bangalore. So, if all of them get registered by the time of the next parliamentary elections and even if a small portion of us go out and actively participate in the election process by even just talking to people in our neighbourhood and most importantly, the EC can find a way to eliminate fake/bogus voting completely OR atleast to a large extent, the next election is going to be a close fight and the one after (Municipal elections 2015) will be a cake walk for good clean politics. Let us all work together by associating ourselves with the cleaner parties (AAP, LSP and others) even if you can spend just 2-3 hours per week and continuing this fight onwards towards zero corruption and good governance.

If you want to start this weekend, there is an AAP meeting (https://www.facebook.com/events/431688986927365/?ref=2) that I might try and attend (not sure yet). Ping me or Drop in a comment and I can ask some of my friends to connect to you. Of course, this does not mean I am joining AAP. I have a lot of questions & concerns about AAP including why they chose not to contest this election - but will never know unless I engage with them and some of the other parties.

More about some of these candidates I spoke about at:

PS1: In addition, let's be fair to this campaign and not judge this by the number of votes cast in his favor. We reached over 25K houses door-to-door without doing a big rally of any sort (maybe that was something that could have helped get some belief in his winnability - kind of sad if that's the case considering all of us get irritated by the traffic jams and noise pollution they cause), helped over 4-5K people register (it does look like many either failed to get the voter ids, did not receive it in time OR didn't get the intimation that they could vote with just an EPIC#), reached over 100K people per week on FB (especially in the last two weeks incl. of course people from outside Bommanahalli & well-wishers of Yogesh). Everywhere we went, people responded favorably and expressed the need for such people to come out. We just need more structured build of this rather than reactions such as nothing will happen, we are bound to suffer corrupt politicians, etc.

PS2: Afterthought, while the BJP and Congress have money and muscle power that enables their wins, what they also have is a strong committed group of party workers at the street level and while they themselves with their family not only vote for their party candidate, they are also empowered to solve problems (as heard from certain friends). i.e. If any citizen faces a problem, the citizen reaches out to the party worker in the street and he will call the MLA to get the problem solved (calling police, getting a water tanker, getting a road done, etc). Interesting similarity to a Ward Committee of sorts that all the new politicians are talking about and in a way, becoming the eyes and earls of the leader. The difference is obviously a centrally elected representative instead of the local party worker. Some might say, not much of a difference. Definitely does mean that, for good politics to succeed, we need people coming out in every street and spreading the word, working for the good. All of us should do that, even if it means a few hours a week only OR even to start with, a few hours every month. Almost like your CSR activity for the quarter. What say, folks? :-)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

B.PAC - Not a great start

A few friends asked me why Yogesh didn't get endorsed by B.PAC and many more probably wondered about that. You go to the B.PAC FB page and read the comments and you'll learn of lots of idiosyncracies in their list of 14 that they endorsed: Virtual greenhorns with no background of service (only claim to fame being that she campaigned for one of the B.PAC Core Committee members Ashwin Mahesh in his last campaign for MLC election), Candidates from mainstream parties with complaints pending against them (Krishna Byre Gowda - see link in image, Tejaswini Gowda - as seen in one of the comments, Ashwin Mahesh - click on http://myneta.info/karnataka2013/index.php?action=show_candidates&constituency_id=54), Two candidates in some constituencies but not in others where there are good candidates.
Edit: B.PAC has clarified that the complaint against Ashwin is that of a defamation case filed while he was an editor of a magazine. There are other improprieties he is a part off. But, let's leave out the criminal case for now.

B.PAC's response is that we went through a thorough process. A process doesn't become thorough by saying that you are thorough. And what about Agenda for Bangalore being endorsed by candidates from parties which doesn't endorse it. They will easily sit behind the excuse of the party to do nothing. The only ones who got unlucky are people who didn't care enough to speak to them, didn't know them personally OR those who didn't realize that saying the right things was what mattered.Having said all this, it could have been a great initiative if the execution was correct.

On the why was Yogesh not endorsed question, we knew all along that Yogesh would not get the nod ahead of Ashwin Mahesh (considering that he was on the core committee) and actually attended several B.PAC meetings (including the inauguration) as well as featured on the B.PAC homepage till recently. Per a tweet from one of the people in B.PAC, he resigned after he filed his nomination. That is a good 3 months after he started his campaign and also several months after he became president of Loksatta Party. Does reek of gross impropriety (using a position in a neutral forum to favor yourself)? And being a part of Yogesh's campaign over the past 6 weeks, I know some of the things that Ashwin and his team have stooped to during this campaign (spreading lies, spamming folks, volunteers posting on different forum recommending Ashwin without as much as a disclosure, etc) that it doesn't surprise me at all that he might have used some of his friends to get together to endorse him and a few of his party members under the guise of a neutral initiative.

Isn't this like maybe a Congress Party getting 3-4 of its promoters to form a so-called neutral governance improvement initiative and just before the elections use that forum to promote some of its candidates? How is this different?

A few friends who volunteered for B.PAC and took part in some of their activities earlier have started showing their frustration on the forum. This definitely could have been avoided if 
1) They asked Ashwin to resign from B.PAC and avoided all references to him after he officially joined politics as president of a party (especially)
2) They were more open about how they chose candidates and why they chose multiple candidates in some constituencies and not in others. If splitting votes is a problem in one constituency, it is a pain in other constituencies too, isn't it?

PS: Subsequent to this reaction, B.PAC has now come back asking other candidates to request them to consider them now. Isn't that a little too late? And will they drop the names on whom criminal cases have been found OR other better candidates were found. Question will remain.

PS2 (update on 5/2 at 11:15pm) : Two days after Yogesh submitted his credentials of over 18 years of volunteering under various groups part-time, his last 3 years of full-time service under IAC, AAP, Corruption Saaku, BANA and other initiatives after he quit his job to go into full-time public service and how he was aligned to B.PAC's AfB and there's not as much of an e-mail acknowledging the receipt and no-one receives the phone. Again, looks very convenient to favoring their favorite. Maybe, they plan to endorse Yogesh after May 5th and say "Oops sorry, we were busy organizing events for Ashwin Mahesh and others". :-) I personally have lost all respect for M.D.Pai and all the others with all of the above events. I am sure he and his group don't care about my one voice. But, I will make sure I tell everyone who'll listen about what I feel are the true colors of B.PAC.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A super campaign day for Yogesh and the Team ...

I spent the entire day (a holiday and the festival of Ugadi at that) campaigning on the ground for Yogesh Devaraj in and around Arekere with a team of 10-12 committed volunteers (all doing it just because they believe in Yogesh and his commitment for changing the system & of course changing people's belief in their ability to change the system one person/voter at a time).

Two things that stood out after a long and tiring day ... the hope that the poor and quite a few of the middle class still have for change and their needs are very very basic (Water, Roads, Drainage, Better education and Get my son a job) and the apathy among some of the apartment dwellers (some of them claiming to have a voter id in their home town) while almost scolding us saying "Why didn't you come earlier, you could have got us a Voter ID card and we would have voted for you". While it is sad that people expect to be spoon-fed into doing their most basic duty to the nation,, one thought in hind-sight was if ONLY our campaign had started a few weeks earlier, we really could have if nothing helped bring up the voting % by another 5-10%.

All in all a super campaign day ... the team met probably a record number of people today and also got a record number & % of "Yes, we will definitely vote for you". Surprisingly, among even the poorer class of people who said almost every time, we have realized that selling our vote for a few 1000 Rs. is hurting us. We will never do it again". There were a handful of jerks who said, "I have 100/150 votes, how much will you pay". We responded with lines like "Is that what your children's future is worth?", "God save you", "He'll give you 1000 and make sure that you end up spending 5000 or even 50000 more over the five year term for Water, Electricity, Travel from one place to another and for your child's education", "Keep getting fooled" and so on and so forth.

On the positive side, we also heard several people say, "I/my family/my extended family of 20+ have been voting for BJP/Congress for the last god knows how many years. Now, we have had enough of it. Thanks for coming today and giving us hope. We will definitely vote for Yogesh." And as the buzz gets stronger and stronger and spreads across wards, any fears that people have that my vote will go waste is slowly and surely going away.

Yogesh is sure to make an impact and the best testimony to that is some so-called good parties starting a dirty game of spreading lies about Yogesh (again revealed because they happened to say the same lies to a friend of Yogesh that we met) and also spreading cleverly written propaganda (read lies) about them being supported by AAP, establishing cheap alliances with mainstream political parties with a record of corruption, violence and no match in ideology OR reason for doing so. Come on, guys. What is the difference between you and the Congress and BJP now if you will do all this to try and get a few more votes?

Anyway, to end this on a happy note, I will share what Yogesh said to us during the break. I will never stoop down to that level even if I lose this election because of not doing so. Because, I am thinking long-term and the cause of cleaning up politics and governance in India. I don't want people to lose hope that there are good people in politics. And people will see through their lies & cheap tricks either today OR some day when word gets around and they will lose out their place in this campaign for cleaning up politics sooner rather than later. The crusade will go on.

Read more about Yogesh at www.vote4yogesh.org and his Facebook page. Please like and share his page with friends and do try and see if you can join one of his Weekend campaigns (one contact with him and your belief in the possibility of CHANGE will definitely increase). You can enroll for one of the campaigns by calling Yogesh on his personal no. 94803.25600

Saturday, April 06, 2013

What is a VOTE worth in the Karnataka Assembly Election?

How much might a vote in the Karnataka Elections be worth? 

A rough guesstimate and how you can overcome the buying of votes.

  • Total Karnataka Budget > 1 Lakh Crore
  • Assume our politicians eat up at least 2% of it (Conservative)
  • Total Population of Karnataka: 4.2 Crorer
  • Registered Voters: 70% (assumption) = 3Cr
  • Voting % in the past: 50%
  • Assume 2 serious candidates and 10% serious (non-bought) voters
  • Total Votes Bought: 40% of 3Cr = 1.2Cr

How much is going into our politician's fat pockets?

One vote should actually get paid Rs. 1700 (assuming 2% goes into politician's pockets). And what I last heard is that the rate has gone up to about 4000 this election (per one of the maids in my friend's house). They surely wouldn't be paying 4000 OR 800/year to just make a 2x return over 5 years considering that there is a 50% chance of them losing all that money. No stupid investor would do that, leave alone our smart businessman politicians. That must mean that 2% assumption was grossly incorrect assuming the politicians need to make a profit if they have to invest (most of them are pukka businessmen). Probably more like 10+% of the budget is going into our politician's pockets.

How much are you losing every year, you stupid tax-payer? 

Just imagine how much your taxes will come down by considering the tax-paying population is a small % of the total citizens of Karnataka if you just go out and VOTE and get a clean government in place. Should definitely be worth spending 30 mins going to a booth if you can recover upto 40K every year in reduced taxes or increased facilities (assuming 10% cut and 25Lakh Tax Paying population) by just voting in a clean government. Good return for your time? Be a good investor and invest your time suitably. Don't fall for the "My one vote won't count" ... do the opposite you also vote and make sure every one of you and your friends vote.

What can we do now?

Having said that, we can still beat this system of buying votes.  All we need to do is vote for serious citizen candidates like Yogesh Devaraj (More at www.facebook.com/YogeshDevarajForMLA) instead of saying sab chor hai and the good guys won't win and sitting at home. In a typical constituency, it only requires about 10-15K additional people to come out and vote and the non-serious good candidates who have a decent base and will get between 15-20K votes will soon become a viable good candidate and possibly the MLA who will work to meet your needs and transform your constituency. And considering all the voter drives that have happened in companies, apartments and elsewhere thanks to Smartvote.in ... this is definitely in the realm of possibility. It's your choice ... want to try and save that 30mins of your time OR have a chance at saving 30-40K per year and of course doing your duty to saving your country?

All we need to do is just increase the voting % from 50% to 70% and most of the increase should be in the educated urban youth and I am positive none of the educated urban youth will vote for any of the mainstream political parties (viz. Con'gress, BJP, JD-S) after all the ghotalas in the Center by Congress and in the State by the BJP and JD-S. That will mean that we get rid of the mainstream parties once and for all atleast from the major cities (Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore). That would be a start, wouldn't it?

Will put together a list of my preferred candidates and the reasons soon. Still trying to figure out a good candidate in my constituency #BTM Layout. Anyone you know?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Why Yogesh for MLA - Bommanahalli?

Those following my posts on Facebook might know that I have been all about Yogesh Devaraj and Yogesh Devaraj - MLA for Bommanahalli for the past couple of weeks. Forgive my spamming you with it and please bear and share until May 5th ... have tried to restrict the spamming to FRIENDS in BANGALORE for the vast part but for the occasional rant.

Who is Yogesh? 

Yogesh is a friend who I met through two of my closest friends in Hong Kong way back in 2007. Yogesh was travelling back to India for a vacation and had a 6 hour stop-over. Yogesh wouldn't miss a chance to meet his friends for the world and since I was at home that afternoon, I decided to join and meet them. My first impression of him was as though he was my friend too and not just Pushpa & Deepak's. We ended up chatting for long and he almost ended up missing his flight. He just about made it to the boarding gate on time and pretty soon, I forgot all about him. A few days later, a mail and a Facebook request followed and we stayed in touch for a long time. 

A few more things about him that you might be able to connect with ... Schooling in Marimallappas, Engineering in RVCE, Sr. Manager in CISCO, Born in Mysore, Living in Bangalore since 2007 in Pride Regalia, near Bannerghatta Road, Arekere, Founder President of BANA, Active Volunteer of IAC, AAP [worked full-time for IAC coordinating various activities], BIG Fan of Anna Hazare & Arvind Kejriwal. :-).

He quit his JOB

I heard from friends that he had quit his full-time job and was committing to social causes. I heard about a few things he was doing (An NGO, A School, Fights against Corruption in Government Agencies like BDA and BBMP, founding and leading BANA - A group of RWAs, Organizing Socio-Cultural activities to encourage young talents) and the impacts it was having (again from friends and the occasional update on Facebook). When he got actively involved in IAC, I always admired what he was doing, the courage he was showing, the conviction he had shown to go the whole hog and wanted to join ... but like 90% of the Facebook crowd, I just liked and commented and never did anything to follow-thru in terms of even attending a dharna OR a meeting OR a candle-light.


Things changed on a lazy Sunday Afternoon when I was chilling and checking out Facebook in early Feb/late Jan (Not sure), I saw an update from Yogesh that he was going to contest the coming Assembly Election ... while I was happy for him, I didn't know a lot of what, why, etc. Continued giving free gyaan on various topics around what he should do in his campaign, what he should not do, etc ... all along frustrated with myself that I was not able to do much.


One fine day, Yogesh had had enough with my free gyaan. He pinged me, asked for my no and almost immediately called me back. Spoke about his campaign, what he had been doing (in more detail) and why he wanted to contest the election, his vision and how this would be a game-changer for Bangalore and Karnataka Politics. He also spoke about how he is different from all other candidates including some people with a good-image but who were all talk and little action. He spoke about his sacrifices and the motivation for his sacrifices. He had got a lot from the State and the City and the people here and he wanted to give back to society. More importantly, he saw the clear need for people like him to come into Politics and clean it up from within. If not, he said, the day is not too far when all of us will need to pack our bags and move off to a Europe or a South-East-Asian Country (since US would anyway not be able to handle all of us).

I obviously knew most of what he was saying about Doomsday being near being an active follower of politics and corruption (in the State by the BJP, Congress & JD-S) and in the Center by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and her bunch of servants. And the nagging feeling of not having done anything to fix the mess that we are in and disaster we are moving towards finally got me to say "Yogesh - What you are saying sounds great, how can I help?". He sought help in 2-3 areas that included Social Media Campaign Management and Website Optimization. These were obviously my strengths being an Online and Social Media Analytics Consultant at one of the world's most active company in Social Media and one of the early movers in the eCommerce space (way back in 1995). So, I jumped at the opportunity.


Since that day in the first week of March, a lot has changed.  I have met him and talked to him so many times. I have actually gone on a couple of campaigns with him in his constituency. I have asked him so many questions including many that people in his Facebook Page ask as well as many of my own. I have learnt so many new things about him. So many unsung achievements (schools he has transformed, NGOs that he has given a huge fillip too, enabled a signficant increase in voter registrations in his area) and transformations he has been able to achieve in the last 4 years of full-time public service that I am convinced that come what may, we need to ensure he makes it to the Assembly on May 5th. I don't care if the richest businessman (embroiled in the land-mafia) OR the worst goon is contesting. We need to make sure Yogesh wins and he's going to change not just Bommanahalli, but politics in Bangalore and Karnataka too.


As many of my friends asked me, I asked Yogesh too. So, what are your promises to your electorate? What are you going to do if you win the election. His answer is simple ... people are tired of promises. People need MLAs who can deliver and have shown a track-record of delivering, a track-record of service, someone who they can approach when they need something, someone who will make sure that all the basic needs of a human being (whether rich OR poor) such as Water, Electricity, Roads, Employment & Self-Employment Opportunities (by Skilling, Training & creating Jobs), Health and Hygiene and sufficient well-equipped Civic Amenities and someone who can ensure that there is zero-tolerance to corruption.

He says once I achieve this, then we can think of the moon and the stars and then I'll refer to the manifestos of all these parties. The other thing he says is why second guess what people want ... he seeks opinion from people at every stage in his campaign on what they want and more often than not, he is proven right. The odd occasion when someone brings up a valid point and it makes sense, he is quick to absorb into his vision and also then start talking to various people in relevant roles / departments about how that can be achieved. E.g. One such point that came out from a young graduate who was looking for a better job (he was doing some part-time work) was how are you going to help people like me in terms of opportunities and skilling. He took the youth's number, spent the next few days thinking about this and talked to various friends in companies in a range of sectors and came back with a clear answer and an action plan of what he would do. The kid was not only impressed ... he now volunteers with Yogesh (and yes, he volunteers - not paid employees just called volunteers to feel good about themselves)


I asked several trying questions to him around how will you achieve each of the objectives and there are five key traits which I feel will help him achieve whatever he has set out  to do:

  1. He understands the pulse of the people really well. He knows exactly what the people on the street want since he's talked to 100s of 1000s of people over the last three years in his various community service initiatives and activities. His conversations with people are so wonderful. It almost feels like his pitch is exactly what everyone on the street is looking for. And no, this is not just a pitch. He feels strongly about it.
  2. He is fully committed to this cause. Who would quit a well-paying job and work full-time on various activities that affect society in terms of governance, social-welfare, education for 3-4 years. Most candidates I know are either full-time businessman OR employed in some kind of role.
  3. He has clear ideas on each and every need and how he is going to fulfill it. But, more importantly, he has the humility to seek inputs from the grass-roots and experts, listen to them and implement suggestions when good ones are made.
  4. He totally believes in democracy and empowerment of local bodies. So, while his priorities are the basic needs, he is not going to go and start doing what a corporator OR a Govt Employee has to do. All he will do is to get the team to focus on achieving his vision of meeting all the basic needs and give his 100% to fulfilling it.
  5. He is a doer. Unlike most other well-minded candidates, he is one person who has achieved in his short public career achieved so many things that he's built a huge fan-following across the constituency and actually across the state and even in the US during his time there.

As regards his winnability, he is super-strong in 3-4 wards of the constituency (where he stays and where he has done a lot of good work for people there) and is also gaining a lot of traction in others with strong teams of volunteers getting formed. And every new ward that his team goes after, people are seeing him and realizing that there is still HOPE and the HOPE is leading to a WAVE for CHANGE across BOMMANAHALLI. And more importantly, this time is going to be a 6-way fight (BJP, JD-S, Congress, KJP, BSR and Independents/Small Parties) and even if TOTAL VOTES go up to about 150-180K (from 120K last time), getting about 40-50K votes should get him into the reckoning. Then, it's just a matter of a few more things falling in place and we should have Yogesh as our MLA for Bommanahalli. :-)


My request to my friends and family is this:

  1. Please VOTE for him (irrespective of what your political affiliations are, what your friends tell you about any other candidate, what Social Media tells you about the race being between BJP, Congress and JD-S)
  2. Please spread the WORD between now and 5th May (Talk to at least 3-4 people about Yogesh every day, Share our stories about Yogesh and his campaign on social channels, email to friends, chat with them) - Basically do what it takes to help Yogesh win. DO IT FOR YOURSELF (even if he is not in your constituency, I believe his winning will change KARNATAKA and NATIONAL POLITICS). For more info about Yogesh OR pass on the word, please refer to www.vote4yogesh.org OR www.facebook.com/YogeshForMLA. Use this post if you like.
  3. Please VOLUNTEER and join his campaign team. Believe me, you'll really feel good about yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed the two days when I was part of it and am sure you will too. Don't worry about not being in his constituency ... I am not too. I plan to take part in as many as my JOB and my 3-month old kid allows ... to be fair to her, it is more my wanting to be with the kid than the kid wanting me right now since she's settled down significantly now (touch-wood). :-)
That's it for now. Over to you in terms of Liking and Sharing this post on e-mail, FB, Twitter, LinkedIn and every other channel that is available. Let's get working!!! :-)

Coming Up: Some interesting stories from the Campaign Trail including one on how not to mess up our Social Media campaign (as one of the other candidates did) :-)