The word ‘Politics’ has different connotations for different people. It also has many meanings attached to it and the way it is used is also different in different contexts. I would like to use the word ‘Politics’ to indicate the activities that are associated with the governance of a country or state or a local area. While this is indeed a sweeping statement and necessarily includes development, I would like to exclude all activities born out of a particular ideology or party in order to acquire power to rule. Purists may argue that my understanding and definition of this word is incomplete and restrictive. While this may be partially true, I would like to stick to it in order to communicate what I mean by saying SVYM is non-political.
Saying that SVYM is non-political would sound like an oxymoron. On one side, we talk of SVYM being a development organization. This surely makes us political from the perspective of ‘Development’ being inseparable from ‘Governance’. The point I would like to drive home is that we are non-political in the context of party politics and do not indulge in any attempt to either acquire or influence the acquisition of power to rule over any area or state or country. We are value-neutral as far as electoral politics goes. This translates into we neither endorsing nor campaigning for any person or party in any electoral situation. It surely does not prevent us from advocating public causes on behalf of the many constituents that we partner with in the political system – either those in power or out of power.
Considering the fact that we are interacting with the Government and undertaking policy research and advocacy, it is a tightrope walk to stay this way. But we have been able to maintain this position for the last 3 decades. We have had people from across the political spectrum interacting with us and many of them have indeed lent a helping hand for our activities. Despite our good working relationships with many, we have been careful in not getting too close to any one person or party. We have remained equidistant from each of them and that is our strength. While we may be critical of the positions and stands of many of them, we have never let this come in the way of personal relationships.
Being non-political also means that we do not encourage our employees from contesting elections while they are regular and full-time employees. They are asked to take a call and decide on whether they would like to remain employees or quit and contest the elections. Being an employee does not preclude anyone from having his own personal political thought, but it surely does not permit him/her to campaign or use his/her position to influence any voter during the electoral process.
Being non-political has allowed us to be independent and vocal about our views on development. It has also given us the bandwidth to implement programs like Making Democracy Work. It has also given us the credibility to articulate our positions and be taken seriously. We cherish this view of ours and intend to keep it that way.