Meera Sanyal, ex-chairperson of the Royal Bank of Scotland in India, has many tasks in hand as she is soon to contest from an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket from South Mumbai. Sanyal, who is involved in fund-raising and framing economic policy of the party, tells Somesh Jha in an e-mail interview that the AAP’s success is greater than any individual electoral legacy. Edited excerpts:
At a recently held conference in Mumbai, you said you do not agree with the policies of the BJP and Congress. So which policies of the AAP do you think could be a game-changer in the Indian economy?
First and foremost, we are pro-business. There is a misconception that the AAP is against business. We are against dishonest business. The AAP believes that it is important to unleash the entrepreneurial potential that is currently being stifled in India. One of our main goals therefore is to simplify the rules, remove the red tape and reduce the corruption that make it impossible to set up and run a business in India. In terms of policy, Arvind Kejriwal outlined our guiding vision and principles in his speech at the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry).
Second and very importantly Swaraj — or empowered local self-governance — is our goal. It is only when people are empowered and able to take charge of governing their own mohalla or village that we will see Su-rajya or good governance.
Third is the issue of women’s safety and empowerment - which is a burning issue across the country and one that the party and I personally am committed to.
Last but not least is our commitment to tackle corruption and high prices that have made it impossible for the ordinary citizen of our country to lead an honest and dignified life.
Across the country every candidate will focus on these major issues — and in addition work with her/his constituency to draw up a grass-roots up local manifesto to address major issues in that constituency.
You had contested the Lok Sabha polls earlier as well but you lost that time. How will the 2014 polls be different for you?
I believe that every citizen of India who claims to care about this country should take a stand. We need a new political culture in our country, a new type of governance that is clean, competent as well as compassionate. I joined the AAP because I am inspired by Arvind Kejriwal’s ideals, integrity and courage. India needs good leaders who are also competent and honest administrators. It is time for a new paradigm in politics and I am committed to spending the rest of my life in the service of our nation.
You were part of the corporate world before entering politics. But a few corporates fear a witch-hunt if the AAP comes to power...
India today is at a tipping point. Ours is a country of very hard working, entrepreneurial, innovative and honest people - but sadly our political leaders do not reflect these qualities. The consequence is a lack of leadership and such poor governance that it is costing entire generations of young Indians their future. All of us must unite to root out the corruption that is paralysing our country - otherwise our tomorrow will be bleak.
Do you think it was right for Kejriwal and his team to resign on the issue of the Delhi Jan Lokpal Bill? Shouldn’t they have waited, explored better options to pass the Bill, instead of hurriedly taking a step?
Yes, I believe it was absolutely the right decision. Arvind Kejriwal set up the AAP to pass into legislation and implement the Jan Lokpal Bill. Had he stuck to power when it was clear that there was no possibility of passing the bill, many people, including myself, would have lost faith in his integrity. In my discussions with a wide cross-section of people across my constituency most people say that Arvind’s decision has reaffirmed their faith in the AAP.
The current economic situation looks miserable with growth crawling, industries not expanding and inflation being on the higher side. What do you think can bring the country out of this situation?
I believe Indians are the most hardworking people, entrepreneurial and honest people in the world. In my travels across the country, living in the homes of women entrepreneurs in the remotest tribal and forest areas, I have seen how with a little help, they can create flourishing businesses. Business runs in our blood and all we need is the opportunity to be able to start and run honest business. However, our system is so corrupt that it makes this impossible, forcing people into a vicious cycle of poverty. I believe that in India, the cause of poverty is the absence of equality of opportunity. The lack of opportunities is creating durable inequalities that are being passed down, from generation to generation. We need to create a level playing field in this country, based on the principles of transparency, accountability and equality of opportunity.
The investors fear a hung Parliament this time. What do you think could be the outcome, now that AAP cannot win majority of the seats as it is not going to contest on all and also, that it will not come in coalition with other parties. Do you also foresee a hung Parliament?
Regardless of the outcome, the AAP has proven to be a catalyst in the cleansing of Indian democracy and public life. What we have already achieved is greater than any individual electoral legacy.