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ICAI Elections:
January, 09th 2013

Alibaba & Anti-Incumbency
Last time it was DSCR (Defeat Sitting Council Representatives) campaign. This time it was the Alibaba campaign (exhorting every CA to be an Alibaba to take on the 32 Council members ) run by well known Chennai based CA, political & economic commentator - M.R.Venkatesh! The message went viral and had an impact on ground. Of the 32 sitting Central Council members, 25 re-contested of which 5 lost (2 each in North & South, 1 in Central region ). 20% of the sitting members losing the election is no joke, especially in CA elections, where incumbency is a big advantage, not a liability. Quite a few other sitting members barely made it. The message from voters – Perform or Perish! The New Council better take note as CAs are fast losing patience, especially with regards to issues of governance/mis-governance at the ICAI.

2. Visibility Matters

With 5 sitting Council members losing and 7 not re-contesting, there will be 12 new entrants to the Council. But make no mistake – almost each one of them is a sitting or former Regional Council Chairman/Member. Here’s an even more interesting statistic – 3 of the 5 new entrants to the Central Council from the Western Region, contested and lost the 2009 elections. Point to keep in mind – If you aren’t a Regional Council member the chances that you can directly make it to Central Council is slim….and even if you pass this test, there is a good chance that you may have to endure a defeat or 2 before conquering the final frontier!

3. Coaching Class Express

The only exception to the above rule seems to be if you own or run a coaching class. The toppers of both the Western & Southern Regions run big coaching classes in their respective cities and hence had an easy, direct route to the Central Council. Another candidate from Surat ( a young, popular coaching class owner and sitting Regional Council member) too has deservedly made it, though to the surprise of many. If this trend spreads to other cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur etc then the Coaching Class Express will be unstoppable! That day may not be far off when CA exam papers are set by those running Coaching Classes!

4. Setback to Smaller Towns/Mofussil area Candidates

Nagpur, Coimbatore and Gwalior all had representatives in the outgoing Council. 2 of them became ICAI Presidents – G.Ramaswamy from Coimbatore (2011) and Jaydeep Shah from Nagpur (2012 ). Yet candidates seeking to replace them lost and by a decent margin…despite active support of both Shah & Ramaswamy. The key reason behind the 3 defeats seems to be the explosion in the number of CAs in the last 5-6 years (almost 20% of voters in Western Region cleared the CA exam in last 3 years, a staggering number! ), most of whom are based in metro cities. This automatically means a higher turnout and therefore a higher number of 1st preference & 2nd preference votes required to get elected. If this trend of ‘demographic explosion’ in the CA profession continues, it is not going to get any easier for smaller town candidates to recover lost territory.

5. Mixed Bag for Big 4

The Big 4 accounting firms ( E&Y, Deloitte, KPMG ) had 4 representatives in the outgoing Council, of which 3 were from the Western Region. 2 of the 3 did not seek re-election and the replacements from their respective firms lost. But the message is not in the defeat of these 2 candidates as it is in the victory of the 3 other Big 4 candidates. All 3 (1 from E&Y, 1 from Deloitte & 1 from KPMG ) were running their own CA practices and were popular even before they merged their practices with the Big 4 firms and joined them as partners. The trio won without breaking any sweat. The message from voters – If the Big 4 nominates candidates who have a grass-roots connect, they will vote for them despite the tag of a multinational accounting firm.

6. Lack of Diversity

Of the total ICAI membership of approximately 1.9 lakhs, almost 50% are in Industry and close to 1/5th are women. But only 1 candidate from Industry has made it to the incoming Council (better than the current ZERO representation ). Sadly however, there will not be a single female in the new Council ( there was only 1 in the outgoing one ). The Council is a 32 member, male, practicing CAs private club! But that’s how it’s been for the last 60 years! This pathetic lack of diversity will hurt the profession in the long run. I rest my case by quoting Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, US House of Representatives (women make up 20% of both houses of US Congress ). .. “The more diversity of opinion at the table, the more consensus you can build, the more sustainability of the solutions, and the more respect it commands.” 63 years after the CA Act was passed, the ICAI still awaits its first Woman President! Finally, it will be worth watching how the Council reacts to the citizen activism of CAs like Venkatesh and a dozen others (myself included) ! We have been branded the Prashant Bhushans, Arvind Kejriwals, Subramanian Swamys of the CA profession. Many Council members will be itching to get back…. The next 3 years promise to be exciting!

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