Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lobbyist : Nobody tells me What to Do or Say?

 I had lunch at Luytens’, played golf at the exclusive greens of Delhi Golf Club and had a private party at Minister’s official residence and dozen other places. Who am I? Currently, in India I am termed as an ambiguous phenomenon. People scream from rooftops to curb me, dismantle me, and regulate me, etc. I belong to a super-exclusive group which have members like Niira Radia,Tony Jesudasan, Deepak Talwar, Suhel Seth,  V. Balasubramaniun, Dilip Cherian etc.. I am a Lobbyist.

According to Wiki’s description, “A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby. Governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential”.
Hail the world of the influence-rs who fit in to a small breed of men and women. The clan who understands that to generate more money out of money, you must know how to manage power. In addition, power is managed in many ways. Slick conversation, apt response, subtle pressure, camouflaged media reports, a coordinated design of public good and always the last resort: personal profit. They carry forward these skills and resources to benefit their clients. Finally, the question arises “Who are the clients?" They are big MNCs’, politicians, businesspersons and numerous other people or organizations. It engages people from all quarters like senior retired bureaucrats, lawyers, PR agents, media persons with some legitimate and influential industrial lobbying groups like CII, FICCI etc. to push forward the influence in the policy-making. An industrial organization may claim of playing political advocacy. But even they know that advocacy is always a nicer replacement for the term lobbying.

In United States and elsewhere around the globe, lobbying is a legitimate activity. Lobbying firms are prevalent in every public sphere of influence. Some lobby for greenery, some for more oil and some for civil rights. Yet, the good thing is, they are regulated with laws intact. But, in India it is something far more unclear. Lobbyists here, fancy to be heard rather than being overheard .Overheard here is meant for those people who are none of their businesses. Definitely, Niira Radia got overheard. Even if she didn't try, her leaked out tapes of 2G spectrum allocation scam did push that doomsday button. She didn't scream out but her tapes did about how a policy is influenced by the most powerful in India. The tapes affirmed the facts about how these powers influence the decision regarding which minister to have a certain portfolio and what flexible policies to be made in near future. And to move forward the names of person to discard who develop into a bone of contention, with the sole motive to benefit the influential. What followed thereafter was a natural progression demanding for lobbying laws in our country.

Unquestionably, lobbying has reached either a point where it influences or attempts to influence, who holds the ministerial rank. What we need is, revelations. For sure, lobbying is not legal in India but it’s not illegal as well. At this point, resisting lobbying is never a solution but regulating it though a flexible law, certainly is. As too stringent laws on regulating or restricting it too much, threatens people’s interest. And we must realize that. Politics is all about the conflict of interests. Especially if the citizens demand, the importance lies in greater disclosure, transparency and sincerity. Because public do have a distinct right to know why policy makers are formulating the decisions they do and who has influenced those decisions. India must open up to the lobbying. We have to legalize it and make it apparent for the public interest. Someone quoted it right “The President is people’s lobbyist”. That’s why Lobby-ism shouldn't be subject to dismantle but certain lobbyists should be.


Manish Singh Chauhan said...

What are your views on lobby-ism?

Betsy Grant said...

I don't know much about lobbyists, but I do find the idea to be an interesting parallel on a personal level. Lobbyists on both levels are fine as long as their "self-interest" is based on true service to life. This, of course, is a rare thing - to be able to see the 360 degree view of a situation.

Ravi Kumar said...
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Manish Singh Chauhan said...

Thanks for appreciation Betsy.