Thursday, October 05, 2006

Reply from Election Watch Kerala

Dear Abhishek,

I am a sorry to say that Election Watch Kerala is somewhat in the doldrums at the moment without sufficient volunteers for work. The demise of our Chairman Prof M.N.V.Nair has weakened us. The members are still keen on the work except that each is busy in his or her own work and unable to provide the kind of time and effort that we managed to put in during the 2004 election. We need fresh blood to take our work forward.

As far as the 2004 data base is concerned, I shall be happy to check out its availability and share the data with you. I think we did have information on how many had cases against them due to agitational politics. This was significant in the case of Communist party candidtaes who have come through the ranks (DYFI, SFI, etc.) and their 'graduation' process involves proving their capabilities through such agitational politics.

I agree with you that the agitational politics has become somewhat meaningless and is a block for Kerala's growth. However, a lot of the problems stem from the image such agitations create rather than any real difficulty. It is worth nothing that the last two decades have seen very few workers strikes and agitations, especially for wages or working conditions. The agitations are mostly political in nature and related to percieved injustices of various policies (education, globalisation, etc.). Kerala is probably the only state that has at least one bandh every year against generic issues like 'globalisation".

Will get back to you on the data base issue.




A Letter to ElectionWatch Kerala

Dear Sir,

I am an Indian based in the U.S. and am very interested in India-related issues, especially electoral reforms. I have a bachelor’s degree in economics and I keep abreast of economic and political issues related to India and Kerala in particular.

Recently, I have begun researching the backgrounds of Kerala Legislative Assembly candidates through the help of the ECI database containing their affadavits. I noticed that your organization has prepared a study of the candidates for the General Elections in 2004. I am focusing on the 2006 State Election candidates. Although the election has already been conducted and therefore, making people aware of the candidates' backgrounds may seem like an outdated goal, I think it is still highly relevant to show the public what can be done.

One of the conclusions of your report on the 2004 elections in Kerala was "Unlike many other states, Kerala does not have a serious problem of criminals entering the election arena. Most cases declared by candidates relate to law and order issues and are a by product of Kerala's agitational politics."

It is true that by and large, Kerala does not have a significant influx of candidates with criminal backgrounds into elections. However, there is the problem of Kerala's "agitational" politics, which is an issue that has grown uncontrollably. Of all the Indian states, Kerala is most prone to strikes and hartals, which effectively shuts down essential and non-essential services in the state. Most people assume that these state-wide shutdowns are supported by political parties from the whole spectrum. Another assumption is that people react complacently and accept such calls for hartals and shutdowns. I wish to test those perceptions by studying the ECI database and analyzing whether such practices are supported by just a few candidates or a significant proportion.

I would like to request your assistance in helping research this topic. Kindly feel free to forward this email to whomever you think appropriate.


Abhishek Nair