Archive for the ‘ General elections: India 2009 ’ Category

Arch rivals with a common agenda

The BJP and left parties of India are supposed to be poles apart, and they do keep their distance most of the time. But at times they flock together though they are birds of different colors. When Indo-US nuclear deal was under discussion in the parliament the BJP, the main opposition party opposed the deal tooth and nail but what surprised everyone was the attitude of the leftists who were supporting the congress led government from outside. They found themselves in the company of their arch rivals (BJP) and when the government decided to go ahead with the deal the left parties withdrew support to the congress led government much to the joy of BJP. Of course, the government survived with the help of some other neutral parties. The next general elections were to follow soon and the impression was that the BJP led front would emerge victorious and the newly formed third front led by the leftists would be a force to reckon with. But the results were so shocking to the above said parties as the congress led front swept the polls. BJP and the left front still keep their distance but unexpectedly they are once again hand in glove on a new issue.

Their poor performance in the elections upset them to such an extent that they believed they were let down by the electronic voting machine. Now in one voice these two arch rivals are favoring the good old ballot papers.

BJP and Hindutva

The BJP, one of India’s national parties, found itself in a disarray following its poor performance in the recent general elections. There were post-poll problems in some other parties as well but the chaos in BJP was glaring. There is a general impression that the main reason for its debacle was its hindutva policy because it smacks of communalism or pro-hindu approach. The so called secular parties, big and small, won’t have any truck with BJP because according to them it is communal; but the very same secular parties have no qualms about having tie-up with other communal or caste-based parties.

At the most, hindutva stands for Indianness and it is in favor of safeguarding the country’s ancient culture. It also envisages a common civil code. In fact, Hinduism is a negligible minority at the international level when compared with Islam or Christianity. But some religions are bent upon wiping out Hinduism (which exists mainly in India) by converting as many Hindus as possible, taking advantage of their poverty. When Hindus do not interfere with the private affairs of other religions, why do other religions indulge in provocative conversions?

As such, the BJP has to be seen not as a communal party but as one which wants to prevent the collapse of India’s ancient religion.

Dr. Manmohan's Dilemma

Belying the opinion polls, exit polls and the fear that it was going to be a hung parliament in India and the uncertainties resulting from such a verdict, the congress-led front returned to power with a comfortable majority. The BJP-led NDA did somewhat better but the III front led by the leftist were almost wiped out. About the IV front, the less said, the better. The poll pundits gave several reasons for the debacle of these fronts but in my view one major reason for the set-back was their adament stand against the Indo-US nuclear deal which might have scared away the educated youngsters.

But it was not a cakewalk for the Congress before and after the elections. Normally, it is the prerogative of the Prime minister to choose his ministers but Manmohanji was under tremendous pressure from the partners to accomodate their MPs in the cabinet irrespective of their qualification or experience. And, some of them seem to be over enthusisatic and are in a hurry to prove their mettle. Some have already indicated their partiality to the state they belong to.

The Omni Present Journalist

A leading News channel in India can be proud of one of its reporters whose name I know not but who loomed large. There were serious discussions on News channels by one and all on the chances of victory of this group or that alliances; but when people on the screen are too serious or too noisy, the viewers are tempted to switch over to other less important but more interesting channels.

Election campaigns had been in full swing. The media people were on their toes and she was among them… the one I had referred to at the top. She was different from others, but I won’t say she was more scholarly than the rest, or more charming. She was Omni Present! Today she might be in a South Indian city, chatting with hawkers or taxi drivers and the next day she could be seen in a remote village in North India, listening to the grievances of the farmers.

Besides English and Hindi, she seemed to be quite at home with a couple of other languages; and her mission was not exactly to know the preferences of the voters but to highlight their problems. In short, even as she was enjoying every bit of here encounter with all sorts of people, she was making you happy too.

Beware of unsocial elements

In 10 days from now the suspense will be over in India but not so, if it is going to be a hung parliament. Right now all of them are optimistic about the victory of their alliances which include the congress-led UPA, the BJP led NDA and third front led by none or all (it seems there is a fourth front too). One hopes there won’t be any uncertainty after the verdict.

Anyhow, whoever manages to scrape through, their top priority should be efficient handling of the law and order situation, which is hopelessly bad now. In a democracy, it is not unusual for the people to protest against certain policies but what is happening in the name of protest is violence, destruction of public property and at times even the police and army personnel are not spared. Then comes the most dreaded violence, which is euphemistically called ragging in the educational institutions.

The success of the next government will depend on its ability to contain these unsocial elements and it needs courage and a down to earth policy and cooperation of all political parties. In short, India needs an efficient home minister who means business.

Wither Indian Democracy

All the forgotten things and closed chapters are resurrected in India during the election time. A candidate’s criminal background or involvement in scandals a decade or two ago are raked up with a view to embarrassing the candidate so that he will have to spend more time on defending himself than highlighting his parties policies and promises.

Every party has a skeleton in its cupboard but people see them as part and parcel of politics and do not attach much importance to such things but the mudslinging game goes on and on. If a candidate is found to be spotless his rivals come out with some nasty stories about his great grandfather! Or if a leader happens to be a soft natured person he is seen as a weak and incompetent leader and not as someone who can deliver the goods without much fanfare. Some parties refuse to change their economic policies or their attitude towards some western countries though the whole world has undergone a sea change. They still talk about American imperialism and stubbornly resist the growth of private sector in India….and there are people to believe them.

India and Indianness are shrinking as a result of the unbridled growth of regional parties—a dangerous trend indeed!

Certain TV gimmicks

I like watching TV programs but I am not a couch potato. The shows I watch regularly are a couple of TV serials, comedy shows, favorite film songs, cricket matches, and of course, the news channels just to keep myself abreast of the latest developments. 

 

Since most of the news channels are 24/7 by nature, you can’t expect fresh items all the time. Sometimes it is interesting to watch the young media persons extracting the views of the VIPs on a particular event and we feel a bit embarrassed or overjoyed when the VIP struggles for words—depending on who that VIP is. 

 

But I have my own reservations about those exquisite interviews conducted by certain senior journalists. The persons interviewed are invariably some top ranking politician and it is made to appear that it is a friendly chat but very soon we realize that we are watching a one man show. The person interviewed hardly gets a chance to express his views in a calm and collected way. He is not allowed to complete his answer, he feels so uncomfortable that he blurts out something. The next day that part of the answer hits the headline!

Hats off to the politicians!

There is a general tendency to criticize the politicians for anything and everything. I must admit that I am one among the critics. If anything goes wrong all the accusing fingers turn against some politicians. Of course, they make our task easier by reacting quickly to some unpleasant incidents to pin down their counterparts or rival parties.

 

Since democratic form of government is said to be superior to any other form of government politicians play a vital role in safeguarding the supremacy of democracy. We have to bear in mind that the toughest job of a senior politician is to keep the flock together. Call them communal, corrupt or power crazy; they are not saints or holy men to expect nothing in return for their service.

 

My goodness, you cannot but admire the way they conduct themselves during the election time. From morning till night they have to be on the move, making speeches, collecting information about the rivals or preparing rejoinders to accusations. It is an uphill task indeed!

Adieu to truth and non-violence

What is happening in Mahatma Gandhi’s India? He was an embodiment of truth and non-violence. Thousands of his followers stood by these principles before and after independence. But things began to change and truth became the first causalty. Now it is the turn of non-violence to quit the scene. The politicians make provocative speeches and their followers do the rest.

 

Now, on the eve of the general elections the air is thick with hate speeches. One says, “I will cut their hands”; another says, “I will crush him under the roller”; yet another talks about blood bath in……These are a few samples. The election commissioner’s hands are full with complaints, but the ones who make such speeches would come out with their ready made answer, “My speeches were doctored”. These are the ill effects of vote bank politics.

There may not be much in common between USA and India but there is one big thing in common which eclipses umpteen dissimilarities that separate the two. The big thing I have in mind is democracy and all the good things that go with it. Not long ago, in India too there were two party systems as they have in America (that is, the ‘Indian National Congress’ and the rest that existed here and there under various names).

 

In the US it continues to be so, but in India it has given way to a multi-party system, which will result in a coalition government in the center with the common minimum program. Whatever it may be, elections in both the countries are exciting and similar to some extent—similar in the sense that the rivals deviate from the main issue quite often and tarnish the image of the opponent.

 

Close on the heels of the US presidential election in November 2008, comes the Indian general election. As far as the people of the US are concerned their attention remain focused on the presidential candidates who emerge after a prolonged and agonizing see-saw games in the primaries. The importance of November 2008 election in the US lay in the possibility of a non-white or a female candidate making it to the top for the first time in the country’s long history. And as we all know, Mr. Obama made history. This was inspiration enough for some less known Indian leaders hailing from less privileged communities to set their eye on the Prime minister’s chair prompting them to be part of the third front.

 

As of now, things are getting murkier and murkier though every front claims it is in a position to capture power.