The latest entrant in India’s electoral fray claims to change the country’s political humdrum with some unusual supporters: retired soldiers.
The National Confederacy of India (NCI) — which was registered in 2014 as a political party after a nearly 11-hour gruelling meeting with the Delhi-based Election Commission of India — is headed by A Kriishnamohan, brother-in-law of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.
In the last two years, an estimated 200,000 retired soldiers have joined the party and started propaganda work at the grassroots level.
Kriishnamohan’s party flag, interestingly, resembles the one used by Germany: a tricolour made of three equal horizontal bands coloured black (top), red (middle) and gold (bottom). Inside, he has a golden eagle embossed as the party symbol. Ancient Indian maharajas often used the fearsome bird as their state symbols.
Backing him are a group of illustrious retired soldiers, ranging from former IAF chief Dilbagh Singh, former air marshall KC “Nanda” Cariappa and Lt Gen Rostum K Nanavatty to former chief election commissioner SY Qureishi, Kargil hero Captain Arun Chakravarty, and a host of former Indian maharajas.
But what’s the need for a new party when there are already 1,866 registered political parties?
Kriishnamohan says its important to make a distinct mark than flow with the crowd. He could have easily joined the Congress, like his brother-in-law and cousins.
“Then I would have been one of many, now I am one of my own. I have worked for almost a decade to reach here,” says Kriishnamohan, a trained sitar player and historian.
On paper, the party looks too idealistic. Chakravarty, the national general secretary, and Kriishnamohan says they wish to keep their slate clean, and had worked on the party document for years. The party will not seek any corporate donation; it will collect money at meetings. “The war veterans will reach your door to seek help,” says Kriishnamohan, supported by Chakravarty.
But will the idea, once propagated by the legendary revolutionary, Rash Behari Bose, work in today’s India?
Chakravarty is confident it will. “When Indians will see war veterans appealing, honest people walking door-to-door to raise cash for an idealistic party, they will respond in hordes.” The Kargil veteran says he is not making an unrealistic promise. “I am not saying, the party is not saying it will clean corruption within five years. We are saying we will work with honest people and retired people.”
But if the party is full of veterans, won’t it lack fresh blood?
Chakravarty says he is not worried about it because the recent student turmoil in various universities over idealistic issues have given him hope. “It would be wrong to presume students are bothered about Facebook and Twitter and nothing else. Students are becoming very vocal in India, our party hopes to address their concerns through regular meetings.”
Kriishnamohan says the party has taken a German term for the same: ‘jugend’, which translates into ‘youth’. “We will galvanise them, talking to them about one thing that worries them: employment.”
He wants small- and medium-scale industries to revive with global tie-ups , push them into mainstream and flood the markets, both nationally and internationally with products like the Chinese did more than a decade ago.
“Even if we can capture 30 percent of the Indian market, we will have enough jobs happening,” says Kriishnamohan, who considers unemployment India’s biggest crisis.
There are other plans as well. NCI wants to get total medical and education cover for all Indians; root out the land mafia; push new land reclamation policy and drive smart cities; influence international policies in South Asia, Afro-Asian and Central Asia nations; restore old, decaying royal palaces to push affordable tourism; drop sporting events which have no takers.
And then he adds: “I wish to take MTV off air; we will encourage out own bands, our own music.”
“I do not need a Prashant Kishor to tell me what I should do, I know getting jobs are a big crisis zone. On the flip side, employers rue they do not get the right candidate most of the time. Our party will address this issue.”
Kriishnamohan says his party has decided not to take corporate cash, which he calls the bane of all problems in India. “Once you take cash from companies, you are at their beck and call, at their mercy,” says Kriishnamohan.
But time is not on their side, agree Kriishnamohan and Chakavarty. Within three years, the party has to galvanise support, raise enough cash and field candidates in strategic places.
A slogan has been coined: 2019, NCI Nischit. It translates as “2019, its sure-shot NCI”. There are plans to gather party seniors on the banks of Sangam in Allahabad to make the mega announcement.
It will happen very soon, on an auspicious day in 2016. And then, Indians will either agree or disagree with NCI’s agenda.
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