Fellow Since 2008
This profile was prepared when Nidhi Prahba Tewari was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Nidhi pressures national political parties to focus more on policy and less on political patronage and favors. By reaching out to the rank and file of the party at the youth, state, and national levels, she discovered how poor the communication between representatives and constituents has become. As a result, those in charge of forming policy and legislating are completely out of touch from the needs of Indian citizens. And even within political parties, junior members have little connection to party leadership about programmatic ideas. Such lack of dialogue within the party around substantive issues breeds future leaders ill-equipped to analyze and resolve tough policy problems. Nidhi recognized three critical needs to get the political system moving in the right direction: political party awareness of issues facing their constituents outside the party, the ability of elected representatives to craft and analyze legislation, and a meritocratic system of rising through the party leadership. She believes the key to such changes lies with young political party members. For example, changing the way that the youngest members of parliament rise through the ranks ensures that greater attention will be paid to policy later in their career, which in turn reinforces the connection between constituencies outside the political system as they become more important to craft more responsive legislation. This idea of reforming intra-party dialogue on a national level is poised to take off because the political parties themselves are starting to feel the pressure of increased competition for political efficiencies. As coalition governments become more common in India the national parties must become resilient enough to withstand a shared leadership role and adaptable enough to understand other party policy approaches. The explosion of advocacy groups, both national and international, has ensured that the trend of increasing lobbying will accelerate, which makes informed policy decisions more important if representatives seek to act on behalf of the welfare of their citizens. Finally, Nidhi has noticed a generational trend towards greater accountability for members of parliament: younger representatives are more willing to take her up on the offer of policy concealing as they look for new ways to become informed about law-making.