Dance of democracy

Elections 2009 are becoming rather messy and increasingly perplexing. The RJD supreme,Lalu Prasad,swears by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.....

Written by Soli J. Sorabjee | Published:March 29, 2009 11:55 pm

Elections 2009 are becoming rather messy and increasingly perplexing. The RJD supreme,Lalu Prasad,swears by Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and yet is all set to fight the Congress in Bihar in collaboration with Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti party. Both Lalu Prasad and Paswan are current cabinet ministers in the UPA government. Incredible India indeed.

The camaraderie between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress is over as is apparent from statements by Amar Singh who ruefully reminds the Congress about his role in rescuing it during the trust vote in Parliament. The PMK has broken away from the Congress; Ramadoss has resigned and joined AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa who has been maintaining an enigmatic silence about her aims and aspirations. Differences between BJP president Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley are simmering and have not been resolved. And,lo and behold,there is the Third Front comprising of parties that have nothing positive in common in terms of ideology or programmes except a blind hatred of the BJP and a deep aversion to the Congress. Some of the Third Front parties are not averse to the prospect of having Mayawati as PM—she has not disguised her Prime Ministerial ambitions. Naveen Patnaik whose party,the BJD,broke away from the BJP in Orissa,has so far not disclosed his options. The latest is the spectacle of the Yadav chieftains,Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan coming together to forge a front. Is this a Fourth Front? And how long will it last? Several developments can happen in this volatile scenario before elections are completed. The bookies must be having a hard time offering odds. The voter is perplexed and thoroughly disgusted with this bizarre dance of our vibrant democracy.

One disquieting feature has been the war of words,of the kind indulged in between PM Manmohan Singh and BJP prime ministerial candidate L K Advani. This was rather unbecoming of these two stalwarts and respected political personalities. The proposal for a national debate between them on television is welcome,in which they will hopefully enlighten the voters about the positive aspects of their manifesto,the concrete steps they realistically hope to undertake for the future progress of our country. A frank debate on national issues will enable the voter to make an informed decision about casting his vote. Recriminations about Advani’s role in the Babri Masjid demolition and the frequent chorus that Manmohan Singh has been the weakest PM are passé. The average intelligent voter deserves better. And ultimately it is this voter who can turn the tables in elections as happened in the 1977 general elections.

Hounding Dalai Lama

The spiritual leader of the Tibetans,a highly respected figure and a Nobel Prize winner,the Dalai Lama,is surprisingly not welcome in some countries. It is regrettable that the South African government has denied visa to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in South Africa planned to promote peace through football in the run up to the 2010 World Cup there next year. The Dalai Lama is a man of peace. He has announced on several occasions that he is not advocating a separate state of independent Tibet but is really concerned about the cultural and religious rights of the Tibetans. The excuse given by the South African government is that “his presence would not be in the best interests of the country and would detract attention from the World Cup”. This is unconvincing and unworthy of South Africa,a liberal democracy based on the rule of law unlike many of its neighbours. The real reason it seems is the pressure China has been mounting on foreign governments to block the Dalai Lama’s visit to their countries. Apparently Beijing is most worried about the tremendous respect commanded by the Dalai Lama in western countries and his prestigious image. Such moves by China will be counter productive and will not be conducive to the dialogue with the Dalai Lama in which China professedly is willing to engage.

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