As a part of their effort to break down traditional political discourse in a format which appeals to younger audiences, they hosted 'Operation Black Dot Dialogue,' a platform for selected 150 students to engage with political leaders in an informal setting - in this instance, at the picturesque Bandra Fort at Bandra Bandstand, on Sunday 9th March. Their aim was to equip them with the necessary tools to make an informed vote. The students largely constituted heads of their respective college's diverse societies. They are active in the extra-curricular space and are thus, opinion leaders amongst their peer group. The event started at approximately 5.30pm, a half-hour after the scheduled time. That's pretty good for a political meeting! The participants mostly kept to time.
The first speaker was Times Now's Mahrukh Inayet. She articulated the difference between the Left - Right – Centre Troika in political ideologies and expressed her view that distinct positioning was gradually diminishing in favour of issues that cut across such strict classifications. In her opinion, given the state of affairs as evidenced by the Indian voter, it seemed best to focus on the candidate they proposed to select as opposed to parties.
Ajit Ranade an eminent Economist opined on the state of the Indian Economy and explained that in terms of growth, purchasing power parity, the conversion rate of the Rupee and other economic indicators, the country wasn't as badly off as is publicly perceived. He felt that India had progressed `despite the Government'.
Some key points from the discussion:
-India needs $35 billion a year in foreign investment to help our economy
-By focusing predominantly on FDI , we have forgotten really important inequalities such as inflation
-In fact, it’s not the inflation rate but rather mahangayee or affordability which is the problem
Ajit Ranade then aired a few videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt27YqiMDZs) which encouraged citizens to vote with care, just as they exercised caution and deliberation in other aspects of their lives.
The next panel discussion was around Article 377, criminalizing homosexual acts - with lawyer, scholar and professor, Prof. Kishu Daswani, a lawyer, & teaches at St. Xavier’s College Mumbai as well as The Government Law College, Mumbai. Other panelists included lawyer Aarti Sathe of the BJP, Sanjay Jha of the Congress, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi a trans-gender rights activist, and the session was brilliantly moderated by law student Zaid Sufi Wahidi.
Prof. Daswani explained that arcane laws such as Article 377 were inherited by us from the British and were completely out of sync with present times. He believed that the present government did not have the courage to repeal the same. Ms. Sathe explained that her party would like to take an all-party consensus approach. However, her party President has voiced his views against alternative sexual preferences. Sanjay Jha explained that his party favoured repeal but was unable to put this through at present. The session was politically charged and heated.
The next session focused on Governance with a panel comprising of Friends of BJP Convenor, R.P. Singh, Meera Sanyal the South Mumbai AAP candidate, Sanjay Jha of the Congress, once again brilliantly moderated by Samyak Sanjoy Chakrabarty, Managing Trustee of the Thincquisitive Foundation. Singh spoke of Gujarat's success story, which could be replicated all over India. Jha spoke of the improvements caused by the Congress over the past two decades and that more was underway which would continue if they won elections. Meera spoke of the AAP ‘start-up’, which had changed India’s political paradigm by lowering barriers of entry into politics and raising the bar of what we expect from our representatives. She was questioned on her tweets of 2012 favouring Gujarat’s development which she went on to explain were in appreciation of the past many decades of good work done by Gujarat's social entrepreneurs, and not due to the Chief Minister as he claimed. She was questioned regarding Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation, decision to undertake dharna, Somnath Bharti’s conduct and whether voters anxieties over such events were justified. She assuaged concerns, indicating that the Party's organisation was fast developing and voters needs for a cleaner and better-managed country would be met by the AAP.