Will the honest netas, please stand up

Updated on Nov 29, 2011 11:38 AM IST

An HT-CNN-IBN survey confirms the public demand for honest and accountable leadership. Abhijit Patnaik writes. State of democracy in India - HT–CNN-IBN survey

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Hindustan Times | ByAbhijit Patnaik, New Delhi

World's largest democracy. A tagline that has been used to describe India over and over again. But the results of a Hindustan Times-CNN-IBN survey should worry the stewards of this democracy, our politicians. Reflecting the sentiments of the urban-middle class, most respondents prefer a strong leader who is capable of making decisions on merit, not having to worry about electoral considerations.

If one were to confuse faith in democracy with faith in politicians, the results of our survey would be rather depressing. The outcome was particularly extreme in Mumbai, where only 2% want elected leaders to run the show.

The media has been under the scanner after the Radia tapes controversy. Thankfully, those surveyed have more faith in the power of the press than the chairman of the Press Council of India. 66% people felt that the media, played a positive role in the Anna Hazare-led campaign against corruption.

It has long been said that one needs crores of rupees to campaign successfully in an Indian election- one of the root causes of corruption. The overwhelming majority - 86% - of those surveyed think that India needs electoral reforms to correct this. Interestingly, the youth (under 35) gave a bigger thumbs up to electoral reforms than those over 35.

One such reform proposed recently was the 'right to recall'- if your legislator does not perform, his election can be set aside in a special vote/referendum. Politicians and experts may have pointed out many loopholes in this idea, but 80.4% of respondents support this move - a clear sign of the disenchantment that people feel towards their elected representatives and the demand for more accountability. The support for this right was highest in Mumbai and Delhi - well over 90%.

Finally, what qualities do we want in our leaders? The answer isn't surprising. About 65% people want an honest leader above all else - even if he/she is not accessible.

However, 30% of respondents in Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Chennai are ready to ignore corruption charges against a leader as long as the work gets done.

It seems, people in these cities are either more realistic, or just more cynical.

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