These days, the crusader in 26-year-old Laxmi Sriram gets precedence over her homemaking role. She is engaged in exposing politicians. “If we don’t do it, who will,” asks Sriram.
From a tiny flat in Hauz Khas, Sriram and her Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) are working to put criminals and corrupt politicians out of business this election season.
ADR’s members include professionals, housewives, retired officials, corporate-MNC-type former executives and even absolute novices. Together, they sift through terabytes of data to discover which politician has amassed how much wealth and who has how many criminal cases pending.
“We all need to know if the person seeking our vote is a criminal. It is these guys who are not letting the good guys join politics. Obviously, they don’t want to talk about it. That’s where we come in,” said 37-year-old Anil Bairwal, Delhi head of ADR. An alumnus of IIM-Ahmedabad, he was a software engineer in the US before joining ADR.
During November’s Assembly polls, ADR found out that Delhi’s legislators had increased their wealth 218 per cent in the last five years, and most of them had criminal cases ranging from murder to defamation on their CVs.
“So far, this time, two candidates from Congress and one from BJP have criminal cases on their records,” said Ruchika Singh, a 24-year-old former Jamia student, who left an NGO to join ADR this election season. These days she comes up with one-liners against criminals in politics that go out as bulk messages from ADR. They also manage a very busy, toll-free helpline, a website and online queries.
“It’s good fun, actually,” said 26-year-old Dinesh Bhatia, who joined the group 15 days ago leaving her schoolteacher’s job.
“It might take another 15 years to see major changes in the electoral process due to our efforts,” said retired Dean of IIM Ahmedabad and senior member Jagdeep Chokar.
As for now, ADR members are looking forward to April 11, when Delhi’s candidates will file their nominations and disclosures. In the past, politicians have threatened them for doing what they do. “But we cannot buckle, because for us, the ‘Subject’ will always be the Master.”