Not Against Anyone But Against Dynastic Politics: AAP Face from Hyderabad

Dr Lubna Sarwath

Dr Lubna Sarwath

HYDERABAD, April 16 — (TCN) Women’s under representation in political sphere is inextricably linked with their low and inferior status in the Indian society. When it comes to participation in active politics in the country, Muslim women remain far behind compared to women from other communities. However, things have dramatically changed for fair sex in general with the coming of internet and penetration of smartphones in some of the remotest parts of the world. Girls are acquiring advance degrees and skills through both direct and distance education modes, in order to keep themselves professionally competent in the era of sophisticated gadgets and machines.

Popular on global map as an IT hub, Hyderabad also produced some of the finest minds, including Nightingale of India Sarojini Naidu, renowned Marxist poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin, and reputed politicians Dr. Zakir Hussain and Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi. Dr. Lubna Sarwath is one of the contemporary bright minds from the city who joined politics, with whom SM Fasiullah interacts to explore her achievements and know why she entered politics. She holds PhD in Economics from an Indonesian university and is a recipient of IKFS’ Best Economist Award for 2012.

TCN: What are the challenges you faced being a lady who stepped out of home to serve the society?

Lubna Sarwath: No specific challenges as such because of my community or my gender. I have been educated at a higher level and currently a Visiting Lecturer at a university abroad. I see men and women as humen first. It is the people in the city who are actually facing challenges. They are at a deprived level from where they are neither in a position to dream nor realize their dreams. I find myself in a position to address their challenges from a participatory platform.

TCN: You have been involved in numerous social activities. When you joined active politics, what was your family’s reaction to it?

LS: I just informed them of my decision to enter active politics. I never took the permission. And their reaction was not positive one, as Old City (Hyderabad) dynamics are different. When you think of politics in Old City, immediate concern that pops up in mind is life security.

TCN: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) offered you ticket to contest for Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat. What was the rationale behind accepting the offer?

I was among the 27 women who participated in ‘India-Women in Leadership Programme’ at IIM Bangalore in 2012, which gave huge exposure and we got the opportunity to speak with national-level politicians from across parties. Prior to that I was already involved in social activities in the city, and knew the ground reality of majority of aam aadmi. Situation at ground zero is gruesome. I visited some areas in the city where people have to line up early morning to relax as there’s only one lavatory in some quarters. At this stage you can’t tell them to work hard and do something extraordinary. They need backing, at least to fulfill basic necessities. The situation is changeable. Hence I thought of connecting with masses through political platform, with the hope to bring a positive change in the lives of aam aadmi.

The Owaisis have won Hyderabad LS seat for eight consecutive terms. How confident you feel in proving a contest in the Owaisi’s bastion?

First of all, I am not treating it as a contest in Owaisi’s bastion. It’s not a contest against Mr. Owaisi. I am not anti-anybody, including AIMIM, TDP or any party for that matter. My agenda is different. My view point and focus is something else. I am against dynastic politics, corruption, communalism, parochialism and miss-governance. Being an AAP candidate, I am against all these things. If the current regime or any regime responsible for these then I am against them. We want to focus on issues, and expect people to think in the same way, instead of going after caste-based politics, communal-politics, or dynastic politics, etc. We want people to think ‘out-of-the box’ for their own development. People should not vote on the basis of social status or family status. They should vote to those who work for public, and are honest with good character. For me MP means ‘meet the people’. An MP is like a patron whose responsibility is to look after the entire constituency, irrespective of whether any person voted for him/her or not.

As far as Hyderabad is concerned, the Pearl City or the City of Gardens has lost the charm – water bodies are not preserved, trees are being cut regularly, pollution is increasing, there’s no sufficient supply of electricity, security problem, and no dignified life. It is a bastion of these problems and miss-governance. Knowing the ground realities, I will take them up for practical policy design then see that those designed policies are informed at the ground level, and also ensure its implementation. Defects are at both designing and implementation levels. I feel all these problems are resolvable with existing resources and technology.

An influential person turned down AAP offer in Hyderabad as the party’s presence is barely felt and no prominent national AAP leader visited the city to boost up fervor this election season. How do you evaluate your strengths then?

There is a huge support for the party that wants participatory governance on the basis of insaaf, insaniat and imaandari (justice, humanity and honesty). The regime we promise is not about ruling masses, but about allowing the masses to rule. There is a huge mass out there that wants change. Every other person wants a change, and is looking for an alternative. They simply need to be directed towards the change. This is my gut feeling. In AAP, you give your vote and you rule. Aam aadmi will rule our MP and MLA. These are humanitarian concepts which actually invoke accountability and responsibility.

Though we do not have enough funds at the state level now, but fund raising started the moment I was given ticket. Hopefully we will have enough funds to contest smoothly this time.

How will be AAP different than other political parties that take Muslim votes but don’t deliver?

We do not differentiate between Hindu or Muslim voters. We are seeking votes on humanitarian grounds. TRS says it will give Deputy CM post to Muslim. Why not CM post, I ask. What these parties are playing with? The concept involved in AAP is so encompassing that it talks about justice and humanitarian grounds upon which every citizen of the country must be dealt with. It is all about equal opportunity and affirmative action. As far as security issue of Muslims is concerned, keeping them educated and informed would make them self-reliant to deal with any authority when there is any wrong. All other solutions in this regard are temporary and for time being. Empower them through education then they will take care of their security.

What you hope to achieve by contesting in this election?

Choosing a candidate is voters’ choice. If they prefer me over other contestants then I will deal with material concerns as well their mental wellbeing. Wellbeing of a nation or a constituency is not just about having some material things.

In other case, I will strive to strengthen party through percolation of AAP concept so that more and more people join us. The party will empower people at grass-root level so that they can resolve various problems facing them, and represent to the concerned by offering innovative solutions. The party will also work as a pressure group at policy making level.

TCN & Caravandaily [April 15, 2014] –


Chandrababu Naidu broke the promise he gave to public by joining hands with BJP: Zahid Ali Khan

Hyderabad: Muslim leadership is responsible to an extent for the community’s vulnerable and pathetic conditions, says some intellectuals. In such a scenario, the leaders who are sincerely striving for the betterment of the community have to assume added responsibility. Numerous concerned community members are doing their bit to uplift the community from its various levels of backwardness. But with political empowerment, the betterment of the community could be achieved speedily and at a mass level.

Zahid Ali Khan

Zahid Ali Khan

SM Fasiullah speaks with Mr. Zahid Ali Khan, a popular figure among Hyderabad Muslims and editor of Siasat newspaper, to know how he can benefit the community without being in active politics. He quit Telugu Desam Party (TDP) after it formed electoral alliance with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for upcoming general elections. Though Mr. Khan gave strong competition to AIMIM supremo and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi in last Lok Sabha elections, he has now decided not to contest in the election.

TCN: You quit TDP after its electoral alliance with BJP. How will it help the community you represent?

ZAK: I was sure what agenda Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would come up with. When talks were going on between TDP and BJP on seat sharing and TDP hoped to gain few seats in Telangana, I told Chandrababu Naidu that it would hurt me and the Muslim community. Also, I clearly informed him to fight elections on his own strength capitalizing on the party cadre, without joining hands with BJP. I warned him that I would be the first person to resign in case of an alliance with BJP. Mr. Chandrababu Naidu broke the promise he gave to public by joining hands with BJP. In the wake of these developments, I decided to quit in the best interest of the Muslim community.

TCN: Why BJP or its policies make you so uncomfortable?

ZAK: Apart from Ram Mandir and Uniform Civil Code, there are hidden agendas of BJP that do not come out in public – such as, whether they are trying to make Muslims secondary citizens in the country.

Also there is no ethics found in politics nowadays. Any politician jumps from party to party for his/her personal gains. For me, my interest is my community’s interest. I entered politics to serve my people, but realized that it is not possible so far you are in active politics.

TCN: Considering your position and influence, don’t you think your presence in TDP would have yielded better results than your absence?

ZAK: No party gives value to Muslim leaders, including TDP. When Congress was not in power, Muslims did not leave Gandhi Bhavan (Hyderabad) even in such times. But when Congress came to power it neglected Muslims and their needs. On the contrary, Congress played role in looting waqf properties of Muslims in the state, including 1300 acres of court land and the land where Lanco Hills are being built. What politicians and their parties want is to amass wealth, and promote members of their kin. I would have joined any other party but all political parties are tainted. I have realized that service to Muslims can’t be done by remaining in the party. Being editor of Siasat Daily I can work much more for the community.

TCN: You have decided not to contest in this general election. What happened to your goal to ‘uplift Muslims of Hyderabad’ that you set in 2009 then?

ZAK: I have been working from my Siasat office for educational and economic development of Muslims, more than an MP does. Now I have taken up the issue of widows and divorcees in the region. Being a political representative of any party, one may not be able to do much because of party leadership interference. As an editor, I feel more independent and comfortable to take up any community welfare activity.

TCN: When you entered active politics, you were hopeful of bringing out Muslims from their ‘pathetic conditions’ by entering politics. How will you realize it now without political power?

ZAK: Show me a community leader in politics who did substantial/satisfactory work for the community in the last two decades. Nothing much changed for people living in Old City (Hyderabad) in the last two-three decades, despite so called powerful leadership. Had doors to Middle East not opened (job opportunities in gulf countries), conditions of Muslims in the city would have been worse. They have improved standards of living by working in foreign countries. In fact the facilities they should have been provided in the city are still missing. It becomes responsibility of their political leaders to offer better facilities within the city.

TCN: Don’t you think staying away from active politics will disappoint voters who voted for you in last elections?

ZAK: I have promised them. Whatever I could have done being an MP, much better than that I will do by being the editor of Siasat. It’s hard to believe in any politicians nowadays. They give false promises and fool people. To contest elections you need crores of rupees. Where does this come from? I want to use my own money to benefit the community, unlike others who loot their community to amass wealth for themselves. I believe, if you have determination to serve the people then you will surely do.

TCN: Even before formation of Telangana State, political parties in the region have discriminatively sidelined Muslims by not giving tickets. What is your comment on Muslim interests in the new state?

ZAK: Parties should give ticket to their respective Muslim members. In addition to giving the ticket, the party must provide necessary backup and resources to ensure the candidate wins. The candidate’s victory means party’s victory. Last time TDP gave me ticket, but neither Mr. Chandrababu nor late Lal Jan Basha came to support me or took part in my public activities. TDP did not offer any financial help to me for contesting, and K. Vijaya Rama Rao too did not come for support. Whatever performance I delivered in last elections, it was due to my efforts and love of people who voted for me. A political party does not pay much heed to a candidate. If a community decides not to vote then the party will run after it; primarily to come to power and retain it.

TCN: TRS promised 12% reservations to Muslims in Telangana State, after it becomes reality. How feasible it is from legal point of view, and what your experience says about it in general?

ZAK: Politicians are expert in giving promises and breaking them. For instance, Mr. Naidu promised in a public meeting long ago that he will not join hands with BJP ever. But he did now. When it comes to reservations to Muslims, not only TRS but also TDP promised it. False assurances are part of politics in the country. Muzaffar Ali Khan (of TDP) worked continuously for last two years, but he was not given ticket because that constituency has been given to BJP. There is no guarantee of politicians or parties. Therefore, I am fed up of this politics. I want to start a new politics. The one which helps Muslims attain educational, economic and social empowerment, something which they were denied in last sixty years in the country. It would ensure development of the community. It will keep Siasat in forefront for this task.

TCN: Do you have plans to join AAP, especially when it offered you the ticket?

ZAK: Yes I have received letter from Aam Aadmi Party to join it and contest for Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat on its ticket. I have tried to analyze whether the party that exists over a 1,000km away from Hyderabad and riding high only in North India could have considerable influence here in the city. A clear picture would have emerged only when Arvind Kejriwal visited the city and addressed public. Neither he visited AP nor did any wave of him become visible here. Anyway, I have finally decided not to contest.

TCN: Your son Amir Ali Khan recently joined YSRCP of Jaganmohan Reddy, who openly praises BJP PM Candidate Narendra Modi. What’s your comment on this?

ZAK: Amir Ali Khan is a childhood friend of YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Therefore he agreed to support Mr. Jagan as a Muslim face in both the regions (Telangana & Andhra). Amir told Jagan that he would join YSRCP only for the development of the community. Mr. Jagan also offered ticket to Amir to contest from Secunderabad Lok Sabha seat. I have told him not to take part in electoral politics sensing that YSRCP may also join hands with BJP in future. Thankfully, Amir turned down the offer to contest from Secunderabad.

TCN [April 12, 2014] –

Bring political parties under the ambit of RTI

With every election in India, influx of huge amount of money into public domain becomes apparent. Police officials and I-T sleuths gear up to nab those politicians and their aides who pump in black money to woo voters ahead of voting dates. Where does all this money come from?

For political parties and politicians, money could come from various sources like donations, gifts, or may be some kind of investment. The most common and easy way of receiving/giving money is through hawala. Hence, it is really very challenging to cut this chain and bring this route to light. It would eventually help voters know about the ugly means politicians use to them.

In recent times, politicians from both ruling and opposition parties have been very vocal and vociferous about black money stashed in foreign accounts and have been tied up in serious verbal duel with each other over the intention of bringing it back. This was apparently to project an honest image of themselves or to create news headlines. BJP even made it one of its potential issues in the past to pry at Congress.
Given this situation, it is very shocking to see huge amount of unaccounted money being used by our politicians in every election. This approach certainly makes a voter corrupt and greedy for quick
gains. No party seems serious to take substantial measures to address this issue.

The Hope (RTI): When it comes to passing bills, obviously Congress leaves other political parties way behind. It was Congress that introduced the much-talked-about Right to Information Act (RTI) bill in Parliament. The intention, as reported, was to bring in transparency and accountability in government functioning. It really has proved to be a very important tool in bringing many irregularities to light.

Since the Act was passed in 2005, it empowered citizens and acted as a tool to make public institutions and government officials accountable as well as helped in fighting corruption. Information accessed through the RTI Act helped in unearthing scams worth thousands of crores including Commonwealth Games (Delhi), 2G Spectrum, Adarsh Society in Mumbai, etc.

The RTI Act even brought accountability in judiciary, though in principle the judiciary does not come under the purview of the Act. As a result of an RTI application filed by RTI activist Subhash Agrawal, assets of all judges of the Supreme Court were published on court’s website and it is now updated annually. The Act has brought a kind of revolution by opening up government departments for public scrutiny. In one of the recent public rallies, Mr. Rahul Gandhi, with the intention to take the credit, said his party introduced the RTI Act so that “the whole system becomes answerable” to the common man.

Problem Within: In our democratic country, politics and politicians often interfere in bureaucratic functioning. In order to bring transparency in the entire system, efforts must be made to bring transparency and accountability in bureaucracy as well as politics. Though Mr. Gandhi hopes “the whole system” becomes answerable to the citizens, his party (and for that matter all political parties) did not approve the idea of bringing political parties under the ambit of RTI Act citing various legal and
technical glitches.

The Congress party was not alone in this issue, though. Despite insistence of the civil society, activists and public in general, political parties have sought to keep themselves out of the ambit of the transparency law. Welfare Party of India (WPI) was the first national political party that offered to come under the ambit of the RTI Act. Now in its 2014 elections manifesto, AAP also showed some
similar interest.

These players even backed the amendment to the RTI Act for keeping political parties out of the ambit of the RTI but it could not be passed before the end of 15th Lok Sabha. Now it’s pending in Parliament, and the issue may bounce back again. Meanwhile, it must be recalled that the Chief Information Commission (CIC) has already passed an order last year that brings six major parties under the RTI Act: Congress, BJP, NCP, CPI-Marxist, CPI, and BSP.

Debate Re-ignited: Ahead of general elections, the debate has been reignited by noted activists Aruna Roy, Anjali Bhardwaj and Nikhil Dey. They filed an online petition asking leaders of the political parties to appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs) to bring greater transparency in the political system. Even after passage of the order 9 months ago, none of the aforementioned parties acted on it. By not acting on the standing orders of the CIC, the petitioners wondered as “what message does your party is passing to the people”.

Use of unaccounted money and illegal expenditure during elections certainly raise doubts among citizens of this country. It’s right time for the political parties to act and give out a positive message among voters before elections as they are keen to know more about the political parties and the leaders before casting their valuable vote.

(SM Fasiullah is based in Hyderabad.)

TCN [April 7, 2014] –