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We are demanding that these 2 MPs & 42 MLAs resign voluntarily: Srikant Sastri
In the midst of turbulent India, where every individual is in a protesting mood asking for change in the quality of governance and rule of law, I suddenly woke up to the fact a group of fellow entrepreneurs and investors had started a self-motivated campaign aiming to clean up the country's political leadership.

I WAS introduced to the campaign by one of my board of directors, Mr. Vikram Kant Upadhyay. And I decided to catch up with one of the prime founders of the campaign – Srikant Sastri. So why did Srikant Sastri who is an entrepreneur cum angel investor cum consultant in his regular life, juggling his day between business plans and marketing jargons  jump into activism, I decided to find out. Incidentally Srikant was also a citizen journalist on merinews.com, and has written about his campaign. Despite feeling strongly in favour of his call for action, I decided to turn a devil’s advocate, and question him on his plan. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

You don’t want to see political leaders who have a crime record against women in Rajya Sabha or Loksabha. Isn’t it what many people have already suggested?
 
Mr. Sastri: It’s certainly not a new topic, but there have been no practical outcomes in all these years. Waiting for lawmakers to get convicted will never get us anywhere. Instead, given the outrage across the country, we are urging the President and the leaders of political parties to get these 2 MPS & 42 MLAs (charged with crimes against women), to step down. Their cases should then be moved to fast-track courts that should be mandated to deliver a verdict within six months.
 
But are we not the same people who voted them to power? Why should they resign now when it was actually our mistake in the first place?
 
Mr. Sastri: We have a right to demand this. The details of their crimes, though filed as part of the election process, became public news only AFTER the elections. So, their crimes were never debated as part of the election. And, it’s wrong to say that people voted them in spite of the crimes they’ve been charged with. That apart, we are a democracy - if we voted them to power, we must have the right to call them back too. Also, many of these leaders got accused post their selection.
 
What about ministers with other criminal records? We have people accused of murder, dowry, extortion and all sorts of crime in the political circuit. Isolating the person with ‘crime against women’ seems to be riding on the flavor of the season. Isn’t it?
 
Mr. Sastri: ‘Flavor of the season’ is a demeaning word to downplay the importance of the matter. But yes, it’s true we have woken up the situation recently. And it’s time to act. This can be the beginning, and a pointer about how to eliminate bad blood from political leadership. Let’s start by focusing on lawmakers with crimes against women; we can then move on to include other offenses also. Also, if we manage to pull down these few leaders, it will send a strong message to many others. Political parties may also think twice of putting forward any convict forward as their candidate from next time. Politicians themselves also will be scared before they indulge in unlawful activities directly. I would say this can be a small step towards many other bigger changes we aspire to see in future.
 
So what are you exactly demanding - that these people should voluntarily resign? Isn’t that a wishful idea? What is the backup plan? What if they do not resign?
 
Mr. Sastri: We are demanding that these 2 MPs & 42 MLAs resign voluntarily and that their parties put pressure for the same. Let’s see if somebody actually has the shame or embarrassment to resign voluntarily. If they do not resign, we will make the movement stronger and submit the signed petition to President. We also believe that the innate political instincts of some of the parties (especially those led by women or forward-looking leaders) will lead them to the conclusion that this is also the right political move at this stage. Parties that take the high ground and demonstrate morel and ethical leadership, on this issue, will gain rich dividends electorally in next two years.
 
We will also request for a change of legislation for bidding the participation of these leaders from next election.
 
I happened to talk to a few Greenpeace activists last week who were running a similar petition campaign against coal mining in forest areas. They reportedly have 90,000 petitioners and yet the PMO refused to acknowledge their request. Keeping the importance of two issues aside, what makes you believe that your campaign will be considered?
 
Mr. Sastri: The big difference lies in the immediacy and public and media focus on this issue. Unlike other relatively longer-term or ongoing issues, where people believe that "nothing will change", and "this is too big/complex a problem to solve," this is a tangible and immediate issue that’s on everyone’s minds.
 
We believe and hope that the political instincts of parties’ leadership will gauge this for themselves. We are also banking on the fact that the leadership of most political parties is comprised fundamentally of decent people, with many of them being run by women- with an iron hand! They would appreciate that voters are extremely concerned about this issue, and it is in the parties’ interest to take a strong (moral) stand on this topic even though these lawmakers may not have been convicted yet.
 
And what about the risk of running out of political brains? Not many among the 'common man' takes up ‘joining politics’ as a career option.
 
Mr. Sastri: The ordinary citizen stays away from politics because of the perception that it is all about money power and muscle power. If we succeed in eliminating or minimizing crime from the political scene, it would serve as an incentive for the common man to consider joining politics as a career option. Starting with the current movement to tackle crime against women, in politics, we believe that it can spread to tackle other kinds of crimes as well, eventually leading to cleaner politics.
 
And what about we, stupid Indians, who keep voting for the wrong person every time…
 
Mr. Sastri: We Indians have an inordinate amount of patience. But, I am optimistic that just as patience eventually ran out in many other cases- e.g. British rule; the emergency; long years of mis-rule in Bihar and engal, there will be an eventual realization that enough is enough. When we eventually get our act together, we usually do a decent job. Something like India’s Election Commission is a shining example.
 
We also need to get to a point where each MP & MLA’s ‘report card’ is widely available in the public domain to educate the common man about the person’s background including his education, past record, etc.
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