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Democracies are expected to empower citizens to take genuine control of instruments of the state for their development. At the core of this concept is the idea that citizens will participate in governance at the local level, making decisions for themselves, and vote in representatives to legislatures for higher-level decisions. India is an implausible democracy, an audacious experiment, attempting to bring together a billion people with starkly different languages, religions, and food habits. However, the state of our democracy remains perilous, a country hanging on by a slender thread to its claim to being defined a democracy. Like with many other aspects famously considered ‘Indian’, our democracy is a mediocre one, fulfilling satisfactorily, only the most basic requirement of regular (and reasonably free and fair) elections. Democratic accountability in particular, appears particularly at risk, as we the people, have fewer ways to hold those in power responsible for their performance.

Four scenarios raising concerns about democratic accountability currently playing out in India:

Propaganda rules over facts

Late last year, the central government pulled off ‘Demonetisation’, an exercise in purging cash reserves of the political opposition after ensuring the ruling party’s own reserves were safely parked (or converted) well in time. Manipulation of the press by political parties through direct funding (or proxy measures) continues unabated, as news channels spectacularly out-do the state broadcaster in peddling propaganda. The true extent of damage caused by Demonetisation will never be known — not because we do not have the tools to measure the damage, but because voters are being herded like sheep, not to ask any questions. As a result, the Reserve Bank of India can get away without releasing key data, and the lack of that data need not deter the government from making grandiose statements that go almost completely unchallenged in the public domain. Those who do question, do it with the knowledge that nit-picking on facts is futile.

Dissent is anti-national

The state’s response to dissent continues to plumb new depths. Civil society voices have been muted, farmer/dalit protests are killed in cahoots with a friendly media, etc. Those speaking up against the rampant terrorism in the name of the cow, or the fast-receding freedom of the press, are labelled anti-national. Dissent, whether from the grassroots or from intellectuals in society, are continuously demonised by a government that seems to take pride in its own anti-intellectualism, and celebration of mediocrity as evident from the various appointments to institutions of repute. Activists are being silenced everywhere. Today, Medha Patkar languishes in jail, as a government utterly insensitive to citizen protests makes no conciliatory move.Decimation of political opposition: A string of election defeats, poor public image, still quite unable to overcome the ‘corruption stains’, a lethargic party, and a seemingly disinterested leader — it is the perfect storm for the Indian National

Decimation of political opposition

A string of election defeats, poor public image, still quite unable to overcome the ‘corruption stains’, a lethargic party, and a seemingly disinterested leader — it is the perfect storm for the Indian National Congress, and a sign of the times for political opposition in India. This decimation is now fully reflected in the composition of India’s Parliament, and the erosion of checks and balances that the Legislature is supposed to have over the Executive In a parliamentary system. The few states that are not ruled by the BJP get undue attention from partisan Governors and federal anti-corruption agencies. The use of the Governor’s office as a pawn in the hands of the central government must evoke a sense of deja-vu. Politics that seemed to have matured in the last fifteen years or so now lies in tatters.

Narcissism and hero-worship

When the BJP government recently completed three years in office, the government launched the MODI Fest — the Making of Developed India festival. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly Mann Ki Baat speeches were released as a book at an event in the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Every government scheme is credited to only one man, and no failures are ever pinned on him. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, Modi-bhakti seems to be his second-last weapon of choice.

The point overall is this — to celebrate our incredible democracy, it is not enough to just conduct every five years, and for everyone to accept the election results. That is a very low bar. What matters is the quality of our democracy as measured by how the polity, the people, and the institutions operate once elections are over.

By this measure, India’s democracy has a long way to go. The systematic destruction of institutions, which need to function with a degree of competence and independence, will eventually kill our democracy. In the last three years, our institutions have shown themselves to be utterly incapable of protecting themselves from a government with authoritarian tendencies. The power that we have to hold public officials and politicians to account is directly proportionate to the credibility of institutions of governance. The way the Reserve Bank of India has folded in the last nine months should be serious cause for concern. The repeated attempts at politicising the military forces, the bellowing nationalistic media, our sanskari cultural guardians, and the uber-patriotic people’s representatives — together foretell a scary future for India.

The immediate casualty has been democratic accountability. No one seems to be responsible for the sluggish economy, now showing alarming signs of slipping into deflation. Similarly, no one seems responsible for breakdown in public services that the government is responsible for, nor is anyone held accountable for the questionable and inconsistent foreign policy decisions. Neither national security, nor corruption or cronyism seem to be topical any longer. Vigilantes break the law with impunity, as representatives of government hail them as patriots.

It is a great tragedy that after completing seventy years as a proud independent nation, our democracy is faced with such an existential crisis. If you are a liberal progressive Indian, this spectre should concern you.

*****

A short addendum

A friend pointed out that none of this is “new” — that this has been the nature of politics in India, and indeed, is something I recognise in this column on politics and power:
It is in the nature of a government to exercise power. Every political party in power manifests power in one form or the other — never mind if the one exercising it is being labelled ‘Left’ or ‘Right’. Often, these labels allow us the convenience of picking sides based on who we like, rather than the issue at hand. This only serves to lower the quality of public debate. In reality, it would appear that at their extremities, the Left and Right are indistinguishable; and that is a clue that what we need to really discern is the manner in which both sides choose to exercise power. And for citizens unaffiliated with these labels, understanding power is the first step towards engaging with it.

The exercise of power, and the “feudal” nature of politics in India is a reality. And yet, there is distinct shift in the pattern that we need to recognise. A government running amok with little counter-balance from the Legislature or the Press, and an inconsistent Judiciary has created an unique operating environment. Political parties that are now emaciated are of course responsible for their own fates, but the corporate control of the media (and an organised effort on social media) has emboldened the current government in ways we haven’t seen in recent years. And while ordinary citizens and observers cannot replace a conventional political opposition, we need to keep demanding accountability from the government — ultimately, that is the essence of a democracy. The voters may yet surprise us again, (who knows!), but this column is about holding governments to account in between two successive elections.

Originally published here.

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Update: @Kapsology on Twitter raised some doubt about a missing line that I did not understand. Given the volatile nature of opinion around this issue, here is the original email trail @MPunjab1 speaks about in the article for anyone interested to download and independently verify. Original email trail regarding accusations against Shalini Gupta

With reference to the following hit piece by Ajaz Ashraf: Read the controversial emails by Prashant Bhushan's sister that pushed AAP to breaking point

Let me expose the lies in this hit piece one by one which will prove one of the following is true by the time you're done reading my analysis:

  1. Ajaz Ashraf has access to the original emails yet chose to deliberately twist & lie in order to malign Shalini Gupta.
  2. Ajaz Ashraf does not have access to the original emails and was simply passed selective sections (cut-paste) and "used" to plant a hit piece.

Para #2 - Lie #1

This strain had been caused by two emails sent by senior leader Prashant Bhushan’s US-based sister, Shalini Gupta, to members of the AAP GlobalGroup, which consists of 700-800 NRI contacts of the party.

FACT: No such email or message was sent to AAP Global which is the Google Group for NRI volunteers from all around the world.

Instead, there was a private exchange between at the most 10 members of the Chicago chapter related to AAPs "Adopt a Constituency" program. The entire article takes that exchange out of context with the sole purpose to malign Shalini Gupta.

Para #2 - Lie #2

In the messages, Gupta tacitly discouraged members from donating money to the AAP’s war-chest on the grounds that Kejriwal had fielded corrupt candidates in the Delhi assembly elections.

FACT: Either the "journo" does not know the meaning of the word tacit or is trying to create drama & innuendo where none exist. Shalini Gupta states as a matter of fact that there is controversy around some candidates due to volunteer objection and the matter has been referred to the Lokpal.

In light of the allegations on several candidates, she advises the group that:"We need to support candidates who we are confident will work in public interest if elected."

I suppose such statements can be construed as "discouraging members from donating money" if you have a vivid imagination!

Para #3 - Observation

Her emails sent shockwaves through the party higher echelons, ...

OBSERVATION: Why did the party "higher echelons" NOT take IMMEDIATE and STERN action against Shalini Gupta after experiencing SHOCKWAVES? Why did they wait till *after* the make-or-break elections to "expose" Shalini Gupta and that too through a "leaked" piece in the media?

Why did the "higher echelons" risk losing the NRI supporters who constitute 30% of AAPs funding and play the role of a major moral, intellectual and financial support base? If the statement in the article is to be believed it smacks of gross incompetence on part of the "higher echelons."

Para #4 - Lie #3

Her emails demonstrate that she was not willing to wait for the verdict of the AAP Lokpal, Admiral (retd) L Ramdas, on the suitability of 12 nominations that were being challenged.

FACT: Nowhere do Shalini's emails (there are 3 in the entire exchange) demonstrate that she was not willing to wait for the verdict of the Lokpal. Infact, Shalini is giving a mature "heads-up" by stating that:

  1. There are serious complaints against some candidates
  2. Party Lokpal will be examining the charges
  3. Tickets of some of these candidates may have to be cancelled.

Also see the FACTs for Para #5 - Lie #4 below.

Para #5 - Lie #4

Yet emails sent by Gupta on January 5 and January 6 show she had already made up her mind that Kejriwal was guilty of violating party norms by choosing dubious candidates.

FACT: Nowhere does Shalini pre-suppose guilt. In her Jan 5 email she asks one volunteer to obtain the feedback on a candidate under consideration by contacting the ground team in Delhi and volunteers who have worked with the candidate in the past.

In her Jan 6 email, Shalini Gupta categorically states the following:
"That is the mandate to the Lokpal now to determine if these candidates pass the moral standards test expected of an AAP candidate."

Once more, it takes the vivid imagination of a "journo" to conclude that this"demonstrates she was not willing to wait for the verdict of the AAP Lokpal"or "she had already made up her mind"

I'll stop here because I don't think such a poorly executed hit piece deserves further effort on my part to debunk it. Trust me, the rest of the article can be dismantled line by line if one has access to the original email chain. I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader once Ajaz Ashraf demonstrates the ethics of his profession by revealing the full email chain that he claims to have access to! 😉

The onus is now on Ajaz Ashraf and Scroll.in to come clean by disclosing the entire email chain AND revealing the source which planted this hit piece through him / them.

Guest post by @MPunjab1 on Twitter

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Given the events unfolding in the Aam Aadmi Party, AAP's Internal Lokpal's letter seems almost prophetic. This is the letter written by Admiral Ramdas to the leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party. The events of yesterday evening demonstrate how the thinking of those controlling power in the party has gone beyond comprehending caution. This is a letter that could have saved AAP if the Kejriwal camp had taken their own internal Lokpal seriously.

Dear Friends,

Please find enclosed a note that we have prepared for the PAC and NEC members as we will not be able to attend the meeting on Feb 26th at Delhi.This note contains some essential issues which I hope will be discussed during the meeting as part of the Way Ahead item for the party included in the Agenda. Wishing you a successful and constructive day together.

Admiral and Lalita Ramdas

NOTE TO THE PAC AND NEC FROM ADMIRAL RAMDAS

I am writing this note to members of the PAC and NEC today, to share with you some of my concerns and related issues regarding the governance of the party. I would have presented this in person on 26 Feb, but I am not too well and so this note.

As Lokpal of the party, I have often been called to do damage control to avoid the AAP ship from capsizing! Today I want to ensure that this ship will stay afloat to make many voyages in the years to come.

A Brief Recap

In end December 2014, there was a crisis situation brought about by Shri Prashant Bhushan’s unhappiness with candidate selection procedures and decision making processes. If not addressed, he said, he would be forced to resign from the party and go public. To contain this, a special meeting was called in Delhi on Jan 3-4, 2015 at which a decision was taken to refer the issue to the Lokpal, assisted by a specially selected team. Thanks to preliminary investigative work by this fine young team from across the country, I could finalise my own findings in time for the candidates to file their nomination papers by Jan 21st 2015.

This was not the first time that I had to use my good offices to defuse a crisis situation; the previous one being immediately after the explosive Sangrur NEC, [August 2014}. In response to my letter, members of the PAC and special invitees, agreed to take a pledge not to go to public and to stick together and show a united face until the Delhi elections were over.

In early January once again I had occasion to address a note to key players and those attending the Delhi meeting, urging them that this was not the time to allow inner differences to surface in the public domain. Once again I assured them, especially those who raised the complaints, that we would certainly address the several concerns being raised with respect to candidate selection procedures, decision making , committee meetings, financial transparency, ethics, after our government took charge in Delhi.

Had the inner conflicts exploded in front of a hostile media, there is no telling what the impact could have been on the unprecedented election results.

I had hoped that the thumping results of the recent elections would have restored a positive energy in the party and that many of the mutual suspicions would have been set to rest, given that all of you had pulled together, despite differences, to deliver a stunning victory. Alas, this was not to be, and most recently while in Delhi during the results and swearing in, I also spent many hours in many difficult conversations where many of the old ghosts were constantly raising their heads.

As Lokpal, I have therefore gone beyond giving a narrow judicial verdict on the ethics and standards pertaining to candidate selection alone. Rightly or wrongly, I have taken upon myself an expanded role, namely, acting as an elder statesman to ensure that the party remained united throughout this period. I did not join the party only to preside over a potential split down the middle. My paramount interest is to nurture AAP and its potential as the only political entity in the country today which can change the way politics is practiced. I see my role as one who will unambiguously point out that mistakes and compromises have been evident in many areas -and from all sectors - with no single person exempt from some element of responsibility for the present impasse.

THE WAY FORWARD

I would urge all in the NEC to play the role of an objective, wise and statesman like  body whose role will be to play with a straight bat; be impartial, heal and cement the wounds and fissures. I hope that the members of the NEC will not take sides, but be able to build mechanisms and find people who are acceptable to both parties to find solutions. The press and media and our opponents are waiting like vultures to rip AAP apart at the slightest hint of rifts and dissension within. We need therefore to address the points detailed below.

1. Our spectacular performance in the recently concluded Delhi elections implies that we have to provide good governance in Delhi. It has raised hopes and expectations to a new level among the people of Delhi. This means that we will have to perform and make sure that we do not fail them.

2. National Convenorship  – To discuss and arrive at creative and visionary decisions on redefining the role of the National Convenor of AAP. Can the Chief Minister of a state and the National Convenor if he/she be the same person be in a position to discharge both the the duties efficiently?  Do we need co-convenors? What kind of profile are we looking for? Whether we like it or not, today we are a national party; and we can no longer keep our vision limited to Delhi or some region within the capital. The Delhi results have also impacted at the national level; and expectations have been aroused amongst all AAM AADMI supporters outside the capital and across India.  We need to recognise this and programme ourselves accordingly.

3. Dissent and Democracy – There has been criticism within the party regarding decision making and inner party democracy. This needs to be further analysed by an independent, group who should carry out an internal audit and make suitable recommendations in keeping with the Constitution and the high standards of probity and ethics that we have charted for ourselves. Most importantly let us not rush this; these processes take time; and as we have done with Mission Vistaar, so must it be with the next round of change and expansion.

4. Volunteers and management of volunteers  – Volunteers are our life line. We neglected and took for granted our volunteers and their commitment, especially after the national elections in 2014. This may well have been, one of the contributory factors for the emergence of AVAM.  We need to learn the right lessons from this experience and put in place robust mechanisms and people to handle this resource.

5. Conspiracy Theories , Trust Deficit and Communication Failures  – During the past six to eight months there has been an abject breakdown in communications and mutual trust amongst the topmost leadership of the party. This has in my view led to the growth of two camps within the party and loose talk about conspiracies. This is unacceptable and shows that we are no different from any of the parties whom we criticise so vocally. I sincerely urge the entire leadership of this party, especially now that we are also running a government in the capital city, to stop listening to rumours and to discourage colleagues no matter how close, who continually bring negative feedback about each other.

My comment comes from, over forty four years of experience in the Indian Navy, where lending an ear to a single mischief maker can create havoc within the organisation. There is no substitute for one on one dialogue to understand each other better knowing that we may also disagree. Managing dissent is both an art and an imperative.We have managed to keep this under some form of control and avoided an implosion within, until now. This has only been possible because of the untiring efforts by many well wishers from the party, people with extraordinary loyalty and integrity spread across the country.

6. RECONSTITUTION OF PAC AND NEC

We need an open discussion on how, when and whether bodies like the NEC, PAC, and even the National Council might need to be  reconstituted to better represent region/geography, gender, ethnic and other forms of diversity, as well as to reflect the current developments in the party.

I was both surprised and disappointed at the manner in which decisions were taken at the Delhi NEC meeting in June 2014, be it on expanding the PAC or inviting new members onto the NEC.  Such important decisions need far more rigorous methods and processes, and not the hurried, almost ad hoc tabling of names and a show of hands or voice votes to take decisions. If a system of setting up a search committee with agreed parameters and criteria can be set up for both these important core committee, it would go a long way in streamlining our procedures. For both bodies, we also need well thought through criteria of skills, experience, and qualifications, as also better representation on the key questions regarding gender, region and other diversity related  issues mentioned above.

7. SYSTEMS, DISCIPLINE, CONFIDENTIALITY AND ETHICS.

I have spent my life in a disciplined service, where secrecy and maintenance of confidentiality is  often a matter of life and death. Frankly I have been aghast at the way in which decisions taken in our meetings are leaked within minutes; where conversations are recorded and uploaded, and sting operations conducted with little or no accountability.

Every email and letter I have sent out seems to become common knowledge and often has found its way to the media! All of us who were at Ram Lila Maidan on Feb 14th heard each Minister take a separate oath of secrecy as he took office before the Governor in public view. This is not merely a formality but a sacred duty. We need to discuss whether some form of inner party discipline is required within our own core committees?!

I daresay we could argue that a political party is not the same as a defence force. And yet we must all observe certain agreed upon rules and regulations, put in place systems to which we must all pledge allegiance and slowly but surely evolve into something of which we can truly be proud and where taking shortcuts even for winnability and exigencies will slowly be an exception and not the rule. We could then genuinely claim to be setting high benchmarks for the country in the future.

6. GENDER JUSTICE AND WOMEN IN AAP

Finally, last but not least, we need to make much efforts in the direction of becoming a genuinely Gender sensitive party which will do far more than pay lip service to women’s empowerment and ensure that we work to improve women’s visibility and participation at all levels. I personally find it difficult to defend AAP against accusations of being mainly a Boys Club especially when we were not able to have even one women in our team of Ministers! Women Empowerment and Justice has to go deeper and farther than mere security alone the Delhi Dialogue on Women was a good start. I hope that a group like AAP Shakti, who have been working systematically on a range of practical and supportive measures will be  treated as an important resource to help us move in the direction of genuine empowerment of women.

7. POLICY, THINK TANKS, AND LONG TERM PERSPECTIVES

The crazy period of headlong rush from one election to another is mercifully over for a while. This is a time for us to consolidate to return to our initial and path breaking dialogues on Policy, on the huge range of issues that confront our country. We need to have special groups that will create a pool of ideas, of projects and a road map both for Delhi and the country as a whole.

8. CONFLICT RESOLUTION, OMBUDS-PERSONS, SENIORS ADVISORY COUNCILS

The sheer time and energies that have been consumed in the past year and more in addressing various levels and kinds of conflicts and problems shows us that this is an area which will continue to exist and will continue to demand a council of elders, of people who can give of their time and wisdom, to anticipate, head off, and resolve, debilitating disagreements and conflicts.

CONCLUSION

Finally by way of conclusion, I wish to say that we are lucky to get this time to put our own house in order. This is not the time to go back in history or take any hasty decisions. We need to be statesmen like and work our way through this quagmire deftly and cautiously. After all just two years and a few months have lapsed since we formed a party. We are not magicians and the environment we have had to face is not one of our making!

We must accept with all humility, that we are all on the learning curve. It is important that we give out clear signals that all senior members of the party, primarily the PAC, are together and united. Let us be positive and not resort to any form of hasty action against our members. The leadership will have to carry the team together. Everyone has worked very hard to arrive where we are today and the country expects a lot from the party and we should not disappoint them and miss this golden opportunity.

Mrs Ramdas and I have also not spared ourselves over these months to keep the AAPship on an even keel. She joins me in wishing all of you Good

Luck.

Warm regards

L. Ramdas.

One wonders how long Admiral Ramdas will be allowed to continue as Internal Lokpal as well, given that he's questioned the holy cow Arvind Kejriwal holding both CM post as well as National Convenor. Not to mention the women free cabinet.

After all, if AAP can preach RTI compliance for parties but refuse to do it themselves, they can also preach Lokpal without trusting one themselves.

I have said this before, but it bears repeating. The common man of India does not care much about corruption. They care about what the bottom line is for them. This is exactly how corrupt - even known corrupt politicians keep getting reelected - they do things people find relevant and useful and keep their corruption irrelevant to the immediate interest of their voters.

It would be folly for Aam Aadmi Party to ignore this aspect while being an anti-corruption party.

The common man has little awareness of National Wealth. How much wealth the country has, how it gets used or looted or who loots it are so distant to him, that they might as well not exist or be the same difference either way. It makes little difference to the common man whether an expose happens or the loot continues unabated in terms of direct relevance to their lives - the money is out of their reach anyway. If the corrupt are doing good things, they will ignore the corruption because either way the money won't reach them, and vote on the basis of the interest satisfied.

Exposes alone will fail to "clean" Indian politics.

What Aam Aadmi Party should do as strategy - and I believe that it is also appropriate justice and accountability - is that it must make an effort to accompany every expose with a desired demand for action that is immediately beneficial to the people. For example, an expose of an electricity scam should demand that the losses suffered by people from undue billing should be recovered and refunded to them. This is beyond the actual demand for justice or PIL that gets filed. Perhaps the demand can also be in the PIL.

Exposing the irrigation scam is not enough when people are losing orchards to drought. the expose should be accompanied by a demand for immediate arrangements of water on an emergency basis by the government - on the establishment of the fact that irrigation paid for has not been delivered for a decade - regardless of who is found guilty or prosecuted and so on. When the guilty are found,the amount the government spends can be recovered with interest from their hide, but the aid to the region must not have to wait for projects to complete or cases to be judged. The PIL itself should include a plea for the government to make immediate arrangements and amends on a war footing and the conclusion of the case will decide who ends up paying for it.

Such actions will also pressure the governments to conclude cases faster to recover own funds and will help citizens understand what corruption did to them and what advantage an accountable government can offer them.

When I suggested this on twitter, several people claimed that AAP cannot do such things if it is not elected with majority. This is not true. Many agitations and protests happen through non political channels too! Let alone political channels with some representation and voice at least.Besides, the demand being stated itself will provide people with a vision of possibilities - that wrongs done to them can be repaired to some degree, not merely relegated to the abyss of newsprint while their lives continue to be the same.

As a side bonus, it will also provide AAP with ready data on exactly how many lives their expose improved.

Hope this makes sense.

 

Comment away, make suggestions to improve this, pick at fallacies, whatever.

Arun Jaitley's advocate, Pratibha Singh has sent a legal notice to blogger Prashant Panday and Arun Jaitley has posted it on his personal website as well. The blogger had made certain accusations about Jaitley's finances.

I think this is a good thing. Not the practice of sending notices to bloggers to shut them up, but the act of a politician challenging accusations of corruption himself without letting them fester and blow up into rumor mills. Of course, exposing corruption runs the risk of angering people, and a legal notice serves nicely as a weapon to try and get a corruption expose taken offline. We saw it on my blog when I got a notice over an expose I had made. So it is not as if I don't understand what happens to the blogger who cannot afford to fight legal battles.

Firstly, I believe that blogging is conversations. It is an important voice for people, but there is no logic in assuming a blogger is always correct or in dismissing the harm done to a person who is on the receiving end of bad publicity. Asserting a blogger's right to say whatever he wants regardless of the consequences to another is not a responsible call, in my opinion. Particularly when the article is published in a newspaper. As the notice states, it was published on the Times of India website as well as getting picked by a newspaper in Tripura. The Times of India piece seems to be taken down, but the Tripura one is still available online. There is no telling where else it has spread, since newspaper content does spread like wildfire.

While I am against the arbitrary imposition of a 48 hour deadline for taking down content that can be imposed by anyone at large, I am not against demanding accountability from content itself. There is no such thing as the right to slander. And inventing it will be dangerous to a country that thrives on polarization, not to mention the overall quality of information where stakes are high. This is a stand I have taken fairly consistently regardless of which political party is accused or doing the accusing.

A whistleblower ought to have documents that back up his accusations, without which it becomes malicious gossip. And the hate between political parties as well as parties basing their entire existence on anticorruption is such that a person with proofs against a politician getting a legal notice cannot be silenced as easily. Worse, the internet smelling injustice has a way of decimating attempts to silence it. The content targetted for removal would get a wider audience instead. Unlike the common man of India, the common netizen of India isn't that easily silenced.

Even in the case where the issue is not as high TRP as a politician, a whistleblower who has proofs can simply present them as proof that he is not defaming. It is not defamation if you can prove it true. My reply to the notice had presented the sources for my claims and the matter ended there. I did take down the original post for fear of legal harrassment, but I believe that if I had the time (which I don't, for personal circumstances), I could also have defended it in court, which is something that is highly unlikely to pan out if your expose is genuine. No one wants to prove themselves corrupt to avoid a blogpost.

Now look at the rest of the scene. Politicians are ganging up to avoid RTI into political parties. Our sources of accurate information are severely restricted. In such a situation, a legal notice such as this actually helps clarify the issue, in my opinion. There are claims the person is making on record. If those can be proved wrong, the whole matter becomes much simpler - in the case of a corrupt politician. If the notice makes explanations that make the sources of the accusation of corruption wrong in some manner, then it is a clarification got at relatively less effort. In any case, the accused person responding to the accusation on record has to be a plus if the objective is against corruption rather than a PR war.

Also, I think given the deteriorating standards of journalism, demanding accountability from content that can make or break the reputation of a politician in the run up to elections is hardly unreasonable. I hope that this sets off a flurry of notices against mass media by politicians who would like to set the record straight. This is also what I thought about the allegations of US citizenship of our new RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. These things must be on record and clear as a matter of transparency. It should not be a matter of either silencing a blogger/journalist or defending a politician.

In my view such actions will be very welcome in today's vile political scenario which thrives on disinformation and mud singing. They will help the common man separate manipulation from facts and empower democracy.

In my view, politicians themselves addressing accusations of corruption with any visibility will go a long way toward getting some answers while we figure out how to get the RTI working.