India is the place where there is real democracy, highlighted by the stupendous performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that swept aside the ruling Congress to form the government in Delhi, Indian-origin British entrepreneur Karan Bilimoria said here Wednesday.
Addressing a session on soft power at the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD), the largest gathering of Indian diaspora in the world, Bilimoria said Britain may have its Magna Carta on democratic reform and Westminster, “but this (India) is where the real democracy is”.
“This is where the real democracy is, where a party can start from nothing and in one year win a state election,” said Bilimoria, to loud applause from the audience.
Bilimoria’s reference was to the AAP, which won the Dec 4 Delhi elections to oust the Congress after 15 years of uninterrupted rule. The AAP was formed in November 2012.
Bilimoria, the owner of Cobra beer, also said Indians vote much more than in Britain.
He said evidence of India’s soft power could be seen in the 10,000 Indian restaurants in Britain and with Indian cuisine becoming a favourite food in the country.
However, he said the Indian foreign service needs to be strengthened from the 600 at present to push ahead with public diplomacy.
Bilimoria said Indians are excelling in many fields in Britain and gaining in prominence. He said he was hopeful of seeing an Indian becoming prime minister of Britain in his life time.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the reach and influence of India’s soft power, including Bollywood films, Indian culture and health care was immense. He said the young Indian diaspora members need to share ideas, network on social media sites.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said the 25 million-strong Indian diaspora was the best example of India’s soft power. “They have done us proud in the country of their choice,” he said.
Quoting a study, Sibal said India was on the verge of the second largest urban migration of 600 million people by 2020. “Over 600 million people would be living in urban India by 2020, they would be young and better educated.”
By 2025, India would have 900 million people in the working age group, he said.
“We must ensure we give this 900 million the opportunity they deserve”, he said, adding that the 21st century can be defined as “aspirational India, with the youth eager to be part of India’s growth story.”
He said 56 percent of India’s GDP is the services sector, which reflects its soft power.
India is also turning into a major health care hub, which is another example of its soft power.
“But all Indians can’t be absorbed in soft power, we need to create jobs, we will have to move to manufacturing,” he said.
To a question on alleged corruption in the system, Sibal said there would be elements in every system who are corrupt.
“That does not mean everyone is corrupt. The government is dealing with the issue of corruption very effectively,” he said.
Sibal said all auctions of spectrum are to take place online, discretionary powers of ministers have been abolished and with the Right to Information Act, people can ask any question.
“It is the most transparent government in the world… tell me (about) any media anywhere in the world as powerful as in India. The media criticises us day in and day out and in the most vitriolic of terms, and no action is taken against them,” he added.