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A joyless election

The editorial in the latest issue of Organiser,titled “To reclaim the fun and frolic of electioneering”...

Written by Suman K Jha |
May 21, 2009 2:12:14 am

The editorial in the latest issue of Organiser,titled “To reclaim the fun and frolic of electioneering” says: “For many years national election used to be an utsav in India. Times have changed. It is no more playful. It has even ceased to be a time to debate issues. Election Commission has imposed many restrictions on free speech. We have suddenly become too serious,very businesslike¿ The dull and listless electioneering provoked many intrepid but interesting thoughts on the manner in which polls are held in India. It is a pride possession of Indian democracy that the largest number of people participate in Indian elections. One billion voters are the highest for any democracy in the world”.

The editorial adds: “Polls have now become highly professionalised. Party workers are fast adapting to the new style. It is a hi-tech job handled essentially by computer-savvy whiz-kids. Nothing wrong there. But political parties have also outsourced their brain trust making poll campaign less of a party affair and more of a corporate-style management. With most routine campaign-related duties outsourced to event-management-agencies,party workers are not in great demand. So the activists immediately end up as aspirants for tickets and tickets go to the highest bidder. Only the national parties and the Left parties still retain some level of genuine selection process. In most regional and personality-oriented parties,money and winnability are the only criteria for ticket distribution. In this caste arithmetic also plays a major role. For instance,in Uttar Pradesh a large number of BSP and SP candidates were deserters from other parties”.

The editorial concludes: “As part of the poll reform at one time there was a suggestion to make political donations transparent. The BJP at one time even announced to accept donations only through cheques. With globalisation,electioneering profile has undergone a sea change. Is there some way to reclaim the fun and frolic of Indian election? The model code of conduct should not become a killjoy or an impediment to governance. There is no need for such an artificially staggered poll schedule. Even if the country is taken as four convenient zones for transport of security forces,the schedule can be reworked. There is already a widespread demand for a single-day election for the entire country. Another consensus is on holding polls during the winter months”.

 

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Left and right-on

In an article titled “Left economic thinking seems closer to BJP than Congress” Bharat Jhunjhunwala writes: “The Congress has basically continued to fulfill the objective for which it was established. Congress has kept India firmly entrenched in the western orbit except for a brief spell under Indira Gandhi. It has displayed no love for hard nationalists like Bhagat Singh and Subhash Bose. It has pushed the interests of western powers in the last five years of its rule. It has undone the victory of developing countries secured by the BJP at Cancun; it has invested in US government securities to keep the dominance of that country on the world economy intact; it has made the nuclear agreement with the United States to provide entry to their multinationals in this field instead of developing home grown technologies; it has opened the country for clinical trials by western multinationals,and so on”.

 He adds: “This character of the Congress is contra the thinking of both the BJP and the Left parties. The BJP is nationalist in its orientation as seen in the Pokhran explosions and the challenge made to the developed countries in the WTO. Similarly,opposing the might of western imperialist powers is high on the agenda of the Left parties. They withdrew support to the Congress government on the nuclear deal. Thus the two have a natural affinity and a solid basis for mutual cooperation. But the two do not see eye to eye on domestic economy. The BJP is often called party of the businessmen. It wants to create amicable relations between workers and industrialists. In sharp contrast,the Left parties espouse ‘class war’. They want to organise the workers against the industrialists. This matter has to be resolved if BJP has to work with the Left against western powers”.

He concludes: “The question is whether the class war espoused by the Left is consistent with or opposed to the Hindu view. I think there is no fundamental conflict between the Left and Hindu views. Sri Ram led an army of vanaras (monkeys) against imperialist Ravana. Similarly Left parties are leading the workers and peasants against western imperialism and its junior partners among Indian big businesses. The Hindu view accepts that the businessman is short-sighted. He is focussed single-mindedly on making profits. The consequences of his business activities on the society are of no concern to him. For example a businessman brought back Gandhiji’s articles with money earned from selling liquor. It is necessary for the government to put reins on the businessman and ensure that he does not undertake anti-social direction”.

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