Archive for the ‘Election Watch’ Category
The morning of May 16, 2009 marks the high point of the Great Indian Tamasha; counting for the 15th Lok Sabha Elections gets underway. The pre-results phase is not only marked by subtle alliance making in the political circles but also by speculations among analysts and the intelligentsia. Election results in India, the largest and most diverse democracy, could even send Sherlock Holmes’s insights into a spin. But being an Indian how could I resist the temptation of putting forth my own analysis of the possible political combinations and permutations likely to gain shape by Saturday afternoon. So here is my take on 2009 General Election results. Click to continue…
“It will be my endeavour to seek on a regular basis the guidance of spiritual leaders of all denominations on major challenges and issues facing the nation. For this, we shall evolve a suitable consultative mechanism.”
Any guesses on whose words are these? Click to continue…
Elections in India go hi-tech. Did you think I was referring to on-line Party manifestos or websites of candidates? That’s a thing of the past; the blessing of technology has come to empower the common Indian voter.
Google has partnered with Hindustan Times and several NGOs provide a comprehensive on-line info center for the Indian voter. From issues of one’s voter registration, location of polling booths to the candidate’s political records and the constituency’s socio-economic development figures, the site provides it all. The site, available in Hindi and English will cater to 700 million voters across the country. And Google is not the only one; even Yahoo has launched a less refined version of the Google site.
The development is a momentous one given the fact that India’s internet population has grown 700% since 2000. Despite this impressive figure internet is still not accessed by a huge majority of India – only 3.5% of the population is on-line. Though the costs of the internet connection are affordable, non-availability of broadband services or poor reception even in many areas of the urban centers could limit the outreach of this new experiment.
Given these facts do you think the Google powered election center will work in India?
[Photo Courtesy: flicker user Marco Braun]
The Maharashtra Navnirma Sena (MNS) has planned a strategic move for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to score over the Shiv Sena. The MNS is attempting to rectify its image as a Maharashtra based party which is opposed to North Indians. Shalini Thackeray, the first daughter-in-law from the Thackeray family to contest elections, is a Punjabi girl born in Uttar Pradesh. Shalini Thackeray is the wife of Jitendra Thackeray, MNS founder Raj Thackeray. MNS was founded in 2006 when Raj Thackeray abandoned Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena.
Shalini Thacheray is contesting from Mumbai North West seat and faces opposition from Shiv Sena’s Gajanan Kirtakar.
In the words of Shalini, “(There is this) wrong image that my party is against north Indians living or working in the state…” According to her, the MNS is simply opposed to the unchecked influx of people in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The issue of opposition to entry of non-Marathis is presented as a matter of socio-economics rather than regional divisions. In an attempt to enlighten Shalini Thackeray here are a few facts:
1. In February 2008 following the violent clashes between the workers of MNS and Samajvadi Party (SP) widespread attacks were launched against North Indians by the MNS cadres.
2. A Petition was filed against Party leader Raj Thackeray in the Patna High court for referring to the Chhath (a festival celebrated by Biharis) as ‘drama’.
3. In October 2008 members of the MNS beat up the North Indian candidates appearing for all India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam for the Western region of Mumbai.
4. More recently, while launching the MNS poll campaign in Nasik in March this year, Raj Thackeray once again targeted the North Indians living in Maharashtra. He was later booked for this hate speech on charges of violating the model code of conduct and promoting enmity among groups.
Shalini Thackeray may possess a MBA from Massachusetts and claim that she is no Rabri Devi, but her political sagacity is undoubtedly questionable. She will most likely be used as a ‘poster politician’ for communicating the non-existent national agenda of the MNS in the upcoming polls. For Shalini her ability to prepare puran poli (a Marathi dish) and pakora curry (a Punjabi dish) with equal ease would influence the electorate and ensure her victory in the polls.
The most interesting point remains that Raj Thackeray, the self-professed guardian of Marathi culture, has announced the candidacy of an UPite from Mumbai.
Evaluating P.M. Manmohan Singh
According to Swapan DasGupta, P.M. Singh was “in office but never in power”; Tarun Tejpal calls him the ‘Shadow Warrior” and Meghnad Desai compares him to India’s Deng Xiao Ping. He has been criticized as being an ‘unelected P.M.’ since he is a member of the Rajya Sabha rather than the popularly elected Lok Sabha. In the words of L.K. Advani, Manmohan Singh has been the weakest Prime Minister. Whether it was the Indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal or the reopening of the Nathula Pass, P.M. Singh undertook bold initiatives in redefining India’s foreign relations. P.M. displayed his political skills at managing coalition pressures when he refused to be cornered by the CPI-M. Few would realize that this architect of India’s economic reform programme also managed to avert a near war situation with Pakistan after the Mumbai terror strikes. India had come forward with its first Climate Change Plan under P.M. Singh in 2008 and also enacted the much debated Right to Information Act in 2005.
After five years in power his promise of ‘reforms with a human face’ is open to criticism, especially when child malnutrition rates are the highest in the Country. Reports of slowing down of economic activity have challenged P.M. Singh’s economic insights. His failure to break the Congress-PDP deadlock in Jammu and Kashmir was widely criticized as was his inability to deal with the issue of Tamil civilian deaths during the recent phase of the Sri Lankan ethnic crisis. The menace of terrorism continues to threaten the country with the LeT warning of more strikes in near future.
The Prime Ministership of Manmohan Singh has been marked by highs and lows; flattered and condemned, praised and criticized. What according to you is the best and worst decisions of P.M. Manmohan Singh? How do you rate Manmohan Singh as India’s P.M.? And most importantly, do you consider P.M. Singh as worthy of a second term in office?
In the midst of allegation and counter-allegation season of Indian politics, the run-up to 2009 Lok Sabha polls has some heart-warming developments as well. The list of candidates dominated by dynastic and criminal credentials includes some successful non-political personalities this time.
Captain GR Gopinath, CMD, Deccan Express Logistics is contesting as an independent candidate from Bangalore for the April-May Lok Sabha elections. GR Gopinath is identified with revolutionizing air travel in India through the low cost Air Deccan Airline service. Victory for him is defined as getting 20% people involved in civic activities.
Meera Sanyal, Country Head of ABN Amro Bank will be contesting as an independent candidate from South Mumbai. Her five point agenda and master plan for Mumbai is hosted on her website www.meerahsanyal.in
Meera’s video message on her site is impressive and unlike the hosts of election messages we are used to listening. She has a huge support base at face book and aspires to revive the qualities of intellect and ideals in Indian politics.
Dr. Mallika Sarabhai is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from Gandhinagar against veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani. She again is an independent candidate and is making extensive use of the web (She has a website at http://mallikasarabhai.in/) to spread her message and attract voters.
According to N.R. Narayanan Murthy, independent candidates have the potential of strengthening Indian Democracy. But in the murky waters of Indian politics there is little hope that these candidates will emerge victorious. Nevertheless, it is commendable that intellectuals in India are aspiring to make a distinct impact on the voters rather than merely contesting to win a seat. The socio-political contribution of such candidates cannot be measured through electoral victories. But the fact that such well-deserving candidates do not manage to secure electoral success raises serious questions about the intelligence of the Indian voter. Will we continue to evade responsibility by taking refuge in the traditional excuse that illiterate majorities decide election results in India?
I have a couple of queries with regard to this revelation. Firstly, why did P.M. Singh have to unveil this ‘humble’ aspect of Rahul Gandhi’s personality so close to the General Elections? Secondly, Is Rahul Gandhi, who did not hold any political office till 2006 politically equipped to become a Cabinet Minister or even the P.M. Thirdly, though Rahul Gandhi was the star campaigner for the Congress during the 2007 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the Party managed to secure merely 8.53 % of the votes. So does Rahul Gandhi really have the charisma that the Congress Party ascribes to him? Finally, after claiming that the 1971 breakup of Pakistan as one of the achievements of his family, why is Rahul Gandhi criticizing Varun Gandhi for his anti-Muslim comments?
Rahul Baba needs to get down to some serious thinking rather than making random comments to attract attention!
In a welcome move four politicians in West Bengal have been booked for defacing walls of public building with Election slogans. Trinamool Congress leader Mamta Banerjee and CPI-M MP Mohammad Salim are among those charged by the Kolkata Police for violating the model code of conduct promulgated by the Election Commission (EC). For once the EC seems serious about implementing its regulations. The EC helpline for registering complaints about objectionable graffiti anonymously is a positive development. Moreover, the fact that members of both the Majority and Opposition Parties have come under the scanner highlights the impartiality of applying the model code of conduct. The Kolkata Police has done something commendable after all!
My most important concern in all this is: How did the Parties manage to find clean walls for etching the graffiti? To the best of my knowledge most the walls are already covered with notifications of protest march or declarations of Bangala Bandh artistically crafted during the past five years. Kudos to the ingenuity of TC and CPI-M.
[Photo: Graffiti in Bengali; Photo Courtesy: The Hindu, March 10, 2006]