The Common Man Bowls every Political Party

 

The Common Man Bowls all Political Parties in India

The Common Man Bowls all Political Parties in India

Found this brilliant piece of work by Neelabh on the the Times of India masthead today, and deservedly so. It shows the way elections in India are a completely unpredictable affair — no amount of opinion polls and exit interviews can help. Every constituency is unique, every booth different, every election machine throws up surprises. Every seat is hotly contested, my booth had around 8 candidates. There is a mad scramble for votes, hook and crook both have their own role to play.

And the election results are always a suprise especially in national politics. Voters in India are confused about what is good at the national level, whats good at the state level — and many times your choice vary quite a bit based on the scale of the elections, and the candidate in your constituency. Besides, I am not sure if many people actually know the difference between the parties apart from the symbols. It’s a game of partnerships, with powerful sects, groups, communities with mass appeal, and if you pull the right leader, you pull all the followers with them. 

At the end, it really is like the big fat bowling ball that is quite unpredictable, try as you might to place it. The pins, kings and men, can roll with equal probability, and the pins that stay behind become the kingmakers the next time. Horses are traded, donkeys get promoted to ministers, blatant foxes smile behind the curtains of power, a new set of people make money in the next 5 years, policies be damned!

Yes, elections in India are quite an entertainment, quite like the game of bowling!

Indian Politics ki “Jai Ho”

Can Indian Politicians ever stay away from capitalizing on anything that remotely smells of success? From India Shining (and subsequently whining) to Chak De Congress, Indian Politicians have always been lapping anything popular and successful in order to boost their political fortunes, in the hope that ordinary citizens will vote in elections the same way as they buy soaps (by watching commercials) and unfortunately many do!

This time around, Congress has bought the exclusive electoral publicity rights to the inspiring and lively Jai Ho song from Slumdog Millionaire for a whopping Rs. 1 crore from T-Series, and to prevent their arch rival BJP from using the song to their advantage. It’s a bitter rivalry brewing out there – Congress firmly believing that people will get duped into believing 5 years of hodge-podge rule has had a similar effect on India – a slumdog turning into a millionaire, and sing Jai Ho on railway platforms after Congress’ deafening victory in the political circus. Of course, the effect on India can not be predicted, but all the slumdog politicians will surely turn into millionaires overnight. Narendra Modi, BJP’s own bête noire, has pitched in with a new gem:

The credit for Slumdog getting Oscar awards should go to India’s ruling Congress party because without years of the Congress rule there would not have been slums in India

Not that the BJP is far behind in the circus. From going back to the Ayodhya Ram Temple chant to woo voters, to advertizements all over the internet for the only “stalwart in Indian Politics” – LK Advani, the BJP has been trying to do an Obama in India. According to “some” (mine) estimates, LK Advani has single-handedly managed to help the Indian online advertizing industry to survive in these tough times, since wherever I go on the net, his pic follows me like a pug.

It’s only going to be an interesting elections to watch – my personal prediction is a hung parliament (which I can bet my money on) and re-elections very soon. Last time around, the hand used the sickle to weed out the lotus, until it really seemed to falter midway, and the cycle had to carry it to the finishing line. This time, however, the elephant is marching to other states, trampling hands and lotuses, flowers, and sickles. It will be an interesting and worrysome experience to watch this elections. (link)

Jai Ho!

[Found a blog with lots of elections09 coverage]

Why Politicians make for bad Policy Makers?

I was reading this piece in Businessworld, and found a very succinct reason why politicians, who are so successful at stirring up local emotions, falter when they win the elections and enter the bigger stage (near the end of the article): [link]

Politicians grow up in stagnant little wells of local politics, where they learn to play with parochial prejudices. The prejudices are shackles in the larger roles politicians end up in.

Made a lot of sense to me!

Sometimes, some politicians are smart enough to figure out that in order to build up grassroots base they need to stir up emotions — and they do it just to win the elections, even though they know full well that its just a means to an end. What’s happening in Mumbai (marathi maanoos) and what happened in Gujarat (post Godhra) earlier, and often keeps happening in Bangalore (Kannada Rajyabhasha) are obvious examples of these.

I am also so thankful that our prime minister is a non-political person. At least he doesn’t do things for a political win — however, I wish he had some more politicial dexterity to handle his party, his coalition-partners, and the opposition better.

How does the Elephant March without Trampling Others?

The quality of good cinema is that its leaves you thinking. If that is the yardstick, documentaries would almost always be classified as good cinema, because the very reason they are made is to leave the viewer pensive. Sometimes, films like An Inconvenient Truth, or Michael Moore’s many movies, become popular, are seen by the multitude, and manage to affect society. However, sadly, in the vast majority of cases, documentaries hardly get to be seen by enough people that they will shape public opinion.

Thanks to Pedestrian Pictures, I saw two such documentaries — In Search of Gandhi and Freedom…!, and I have been pondering over them since I got back.

In Search of Gandhi (2007) is a film not about history, its about the contemporary India which lives on the trail of the Dandi March. The filmmaker visited various cities and villages en route to see how much people think about and remember Gandhi — and he finds that it is awfully little. Ellis Bridge in Ahmedabad, which was where Gandhi gave a famous speech about equity, is home to a slum, and the government threatens to use its muscle to clean up their homes and build a garden. In most places, people have no qualms in saying that Gandhi’s principles will not work in today’s India, because you have to resort to the unscrupulous and the immoral to get your job done. Perhaps the most shocking was the xenophobic diatribe which a 80 year old Gandhi follower unleashes — his opinions of the Muslim community is that they are like a dog’s tail which can not be straightened. Unfortunately, he is a well respected person of the society there. The tale is the same with youngsters and the emotions in both communities run high post-Godhra and Modi’s ascent to power. Statues of Gandhi lie dismembered, disrespected as Modi’s huge hoardings proclaim a period of wealth and development. In fact, in Surat, Gandhi keeps watch with grave determination over a bunch of people who have congregated in the name of ‘Mahatma Gandhi Laughing Club’. Elsewhere, people have shown little respect while cutting trees to clear off forests, livelihoods, societies, in their hurry to build castlesque shopping malls. The economy is booming, and the booming noise threatens to forever dampen the few noises that remain. (I had written an earlier piece about Mahadevbhai, a play I saw on Gandhi’s assistant, and some posts on India)

Freedom…! was a slightly older film (2002) concentrating on how our 9% Y-O-Y growth is affecting people we don’t think about, sometimes even consciously ignore. Floods in the Kosi river, cutting of Mangrove trees in Gujarat, destruction of forests in Orissa, are shown as case studies of how in some cases people rise up, complain, and ask for their rights. In many cases, the leaders were brutally tortured by the police (Colonel Salve in Kutch — I could not find a link, if somebody can, please let me know and I will put it up), in some cases murdered by perhaps the big-pocketed businesses they were fighting against (Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha’s Niyogi murdered in 1991). However their legacies have lived on, and the remaining unheard voices of fishermen and farmers are trying to make themselves heard, justifying the martyrdom of their leaders.

All this after having seen Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi last night. The story of Siddharth, Vikram and Geeta is a must watch. An extremely strong hat-ke story, incredible performances, and an ending that leaves you pinching your conscience. In fact, the ending is available at Youtube:

And where does all this leaves us? The reason for making these documentaries is to make people think. What is the right model for development? Rampant capitalism which most people are now purporting, can do irreparable harm to our country, its natural surroundings, culture, and even unity. At the same time, the juggernaut of growth and development will roll on, it is not something that can be stopped. The people who have tasted success will not stop at anything, and I am not even sure if they should, because this growth and development is giving India its rightful place in the world — with world leaders knocking at our doorstep ever so often. However, how can we channelize this hunger, and ambition, so that the growth does not come at the expense of the many that have not had the good fortune of being able to get the same level of training, education and opportunities. How does the elephant march forward without trampling his own soldiers?

I wonder.

India and Development

P. Sainath, the Magsasay award winning journalist and writer of Everybody Loves a Good Drought wrote an excellent article in the Hindu today (link) about India’s standing in the Human Development Index of UNDP. India apparently stands among the bottom 50% lower than countries like Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cuba and El Salvador, countries that have been devastated by civil strife and war. In fact, if you just consider India’s adivasis and dalits as a separate nation, they are in the lowest 25. He says,

Note that some of these nations rank up to 30 slots above us. Others fall within 30 nations below us. Not one of them has had our nine per cent growth. Few of them have been touted an emerging economic superpower. Nor even as a software superpower. Not even as a blossoming nuclear power. Together, they probably do not have as many billionaires as India does. In short, even nations much poorer than us in Asia, Africa and Latin America have done a lot better than we have.

India rose in the dollar billionaire rankings, though. From rank 8 in 2006 to number 4 in the Forbes list this year, but we slipped from 126 to 128 in human development. In the billionaire stakes, we are ahead of most of the planet and might even close in on two of the three nations ahead of us (Germany and Russia). It will, of course, be some time before we erase the national humiliation of lagging behind the top dog in that race, the United States. (Which, by the way, dropped from 8 to 12 in the HDI rankings this year.)

In fact, he points out that most statisticians had been using stale data for measuring Purchasing Power Parity (PPP). If you re-calculate based on the new 2006 data, India’s GDP (in PPP terms) reduces from $3.8 trillion to $2.34 trilliion (and the GDP at nominal exchange rate is $800 million billion, still less than a trillion), and the per-capita GDP falls from $3 779 to $ 2 341. He warns that we might soon be in for a surprise when agencies start using the new figures:

It is not clear yet how agencies other than the Bank, like the UNDP for instance, were working with PPP. Were they using updated measures or the old data? If the latter (which seems the case), and given India’s entry in the Bank survey is recent, even our awful HDI performance could get worse. The captain has switched on the seat belt sign. Buckle up: we could be landing soon on the updated numbers.

Aside: There is a new innovative way to crack CAT. This bloke added me on Windows Live Spaces (have you heard of it?) with the following message:

dear
friend
add me

i m perporsition on cat 08
so plzzzzzzzzzz.
help me
friend

so add me

I still am at my wits end how my friendship will help somebody crack CAT. I think I should start enriching tuitions for CAT :P

[BTW, is he preparing for CAT, or is he proposing to a CAT?]

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