Matthew Schneeberger attends a meeting organised by the supporters of Captain G R Gopinath, the airline pioneer who is contesting the Lok Sabha election as an Independent candidate from Bangalore South, and finds a group of citizens who are working towards a transparent, corruption-free and inclusive political process.
At a college lecture hall in Bangalore South, nearly 150 residents have gathered to lend their support to Captain G R Gopinath, the founder of Air Deccan and Independent candidate for Karnataka's most prestigious Parliamentary seat.
Some are veterans of political participation, through non-governmental organisations and citizens' movements. But most are first-time voters, who in the past have been apathetic about politics. Many are educated and well off, and hope to become involved in a political system that is largely foreign to them. Despite the lack of experience, their sincerity is evident.
Meanwhile, just a few kms away, the Bharatiya Janata Party is engaged in the most Indian style of political campaigning, for incumbent candidate and heavyweight Ananth Kumar. Party members, decked in saffron and green, wave their flags and beat their drums as they dance through the streets and chant slogans. The atmosphere is electric.
But here, at the meeting, things are rather subdued. Rather than packaged slogans and a pulsating drum rhythm, conscientious dialogue drives the proceedings. Rather than a heavily costumed and moustached supporter leading a march through the streets, an MBA-type moderator asks and answers questions about civic leadership and how to curb corruption. Citizens work through local and national level issues and Gopinath himself chimes in with little nuggets of wisdom.
Clearly, the businessman is helping foster a new kind of politics in India. And that's the whole point, say his supporters.
Gopinath wants to change Indian politics for the better, they explain. This movement is about truly serving the citizens, not politicians themselves.
Rediff.com caught up with three of Captain Gopinath's supporters to discuss their hopes for the 2009 Lok Sabha election.
Image: The meeting, attended by Captain Gopinath (in white shirt, front row) discussed issues of civic leadership. Photographs: Dominic Xavier.
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