The election jynx…

Counting the recent loss in the ICAI – WIRC elections, my losing streak with elections has now reached 4. And this makes me strongly believe that elections are not meant for me. Will I stop contesting, very unlikely. But at the moment, I am NOT thinking of 2021 ICAI WIRC elections and honestly, my chances of recontesting are minimal.

I am writing a blog after a real long time because this is the best way to feel better about it; though it comes second to talking over a pint of beer.

The last 4 odd months have been hell of a ride. Though I was contemplating running for the council since Jan 2018, it was only on 15 Aug 2018 that I convinced myself to contest and announced the same. And my main two reasons to contest were plain and simple a) I was not really happy with the way ICAI has been functioning b) I was not really happy with some candidates in the fray. And I believed that even people believed in the above 2 parameters. I don’t practice as a Chartered Accountant nor doing a full time job where I utilize my degree skills. Yet, the love for the profession made me take the leap of faith. Servant leadership is what I have been taught at Toastmasters.

It wasn’t an easy start. I had been off the professional field since years now. I wasn’t active in the Institute activities over the last 3 years, I wasn’t a convenor of any study circle, I wasn’t a professor or any GMCS faculty. Fellow candidates had been contributing to the professional cause over the years – I had not even made a start. Yet, I believed that I had a decently good candidature and strong support from certain members across the spectrum which would convert into actual votes. I knew I wanted to still give this a shot, a chance at alternative cleaner politics because I had a belief that our profession worked and elected candidates professionally. It made be believe that if done right, 3 months of efforts would be good enough. But buoy I was proved wrong and how.

I was polled 320 first preference votes (this was 50% lower than my worst estimates). And trust me it felt like crap. I had no reaction for hours at stretch because something was wrong and I had no clue what. But I prolonged writing this blog to ensure they it is not an impulsive post but more like something I actually felt about the entire process. Two major factors for the number are a) People did not go out and vote (verified) b) People did not give their first preference (unverified).

The biggest mistake I made was ignoring the first advice that I received ‘ Do not trust any commitments made to you by any person’. This is where I went totally wrong.  Not that these people do not give it their best (they have reached out to more people than I did), but it doesn’t necessarily lead to conversion.

When I started my campaign a lot of people kept joining into the campaign – some volunteered, others I reached out to. I knew winning the elections with 3 months of efforts is going to be a herculean task but we still kept going. This is a big thank you for all of you who spent a good amount of time for the campaign though there was nothing in return at a personal level for any of us. They all did it out of sheer love for the profession and belief that together we could change the system. And that is again where we went wrong.

We believed that the system is corrupt & not transparent and that people would vote for change. With the way media has been bashing our profession and the disrepute pouring in with the PM slamming at our own function, and the reducing enrollments of students; we had a right to believe that something was seriously wrong with the way we are running ICAI. But with the election results already poured in and all sitting council members being reelected to the regional council, it makes me wonder if the entire story on which the campaign was built was even true in the first place.

We were very clear from Day 1 of the campaign to usher in an era of clean and change politics. We had 4 strong pillars – Respect | Integrity | Service | Excellence. We ensured not to spam people’s sms inboxes, not to random call them, no unwarranted email notifications, not to play the caste/ community card, not to throw election parties/ matches – but again, this is exactly what seems to have worked. One of the biggest learning for us was, be it national electoral or professional elections like ours, polarization works – either in the name of caste/ community or flexing money muscle or having a godfather. Would I change my campaign to include any of this – a big NO.

I remember, one acquaintance calling up a friend to arrange cab from Worli to Churcghate as there were 10 confirmed voters. My friend refused. This is not what we stood for and will not change that even for 10 votes. We did not stand outside polling booths annoying every voter to vote for candidate number 39.

The results definitely call for a detailed introspection and that is where the team has spent a good part of the last week. I am not sad that the transition from a member to a council member did not happen (somewhere I was prepared for the same); I am disheartened with how the votes finally polled. The next generation not coming out and polling was a major setback. We were 6 candidates in the age bracket of 30 who contested and together we polled 3300 votes as against more than 25000 CA’s in this age bracket i.e. less than 15%. Maybe it is not yet time for next gen to take up the leadership mantle. (I even did a vlookup of members who did not vote and the numbers were roughly the same so it is possible that the younger generation may have voted for others but this is just a rough estimate)

Did I give my 100%? Yes, I did. Did I give it my everything – probably not. Would I want to change something about how I ran the campaign – just one thing, the result. Jokes apart, if there was something I would want to go back and redo would be touching base with more people than I did on a personal level. That matters a lot. Social media and whatsapp forwards creates a noise – doesn’t lead to conversion.

This blog is not only about venting out my frustration and anger, it is more about channelizing the same to the members at large – especially those fence sitters who are contemplating contesting next elections and those who believed that my 1 vote doesn’t matter. The entire campaign was mainly asking people to go and vote and provide myself as an alternative candidate. There wasn’t a single pitch made to give me the first preference – it was eventually the members’ discretion. And I would be happy if my campaign could inspire even 5 people to take up service leadership at ICAI. Start working on it from now. To win elections, you need to make a few compromises – but that can be another conversation over beer or coffee.

Not being a pessimist, I strongly believe in what happens, happens for good. It was an amazing journey being the youngest candidate and just among 46 out of 97000 registered members in the western region to contest (It is a worrying sign, we are short of leaders). I am really thankful to having been given a chance and many of you considered it worth investing your time and effort on my campaign. Sorry, if we offended any of you in the process and a big thanks to my non CA friends who managed to survive with all the flurry of updates on my social media channels.

I wish the 22 elected regional council candidates the very best and the pledge that I would be available at all points to help them fulfill their responsibility towards the profession. Remember that 45000 people who voted for you either directly or indirectly & are going to hold you accountable at all points in time for the next 3 years. And to all the people I met over the course of last 4 months – I am still a call or message away as promised and one more promise to all of you is that I shall play the role of a constructive opposition to the elected council.

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