Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Separated At Birth

If there is anything which distinguishes this General Election from the previous ones, it is the armchair activism. I call it 'armchair' because the hordes of concerned citizens taking to the polling booths is yet to happen.
Starting with the shrill (Tata Tea - Agar aap vote nahin kar rahe ho...) to the emotional (Times of India - Let's make this vote count) to the quirky (Radio Mirchi - Dot hain to Hot hain!), the Indian voter is certainly not unaware of the importance of his vote any longer.
He is not starved of information either. Be it the voter registration process, the affidavit details of candidates, parties's stands on issues - the data is available in a friendly format at a webiste or newspaper near him.
Having decided to vote and having the information, he faces the much more difficult question - Who?

Primarily because the information - like our candidates and parties - is indistinguishable.

LK Advani is projecting himself as the mazboot neta leading a nirnayak sarkar. One stunt of his - which got surprisingly low air time - was the challenge for a televised debate with Manmohan Singh. He was obviously angling to come across as a man of might in front of the mild-mannered Manmohan. And that would have convinced the nation that a 26/11 wouldn't have happened under his mazboot rule.
But surprisingly, two of India's most high-profile terror attacks - the Parliament Attack and the IC 814 Hijack - happened under his Home Ministership.
What mazbooti are we talking about?

Congress is talking about the hate-mongering of the BJP. It is frothing at the mouth in outrage over Varun Gandhi and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.
Interestingly, the official death toll in the 2002 Gujarat riots is only (sic) about 1000. While the corresponding figure for Sikhs killed in November 1984 is nearly 3000.
One would assume that political parties in a civilised nation would want to distance themselves from such skeletons from their past and sideline people who were involved. Actually, party officials accused - admittedly, not yet convicted - are being given Election tickets on both sides of the fence.
And maybe, there is a 'market' for these netas as well.

Mayawati rode to power in Uttar Pradesh on an anti-incumbency wave against Mulayam Singh Yadav. One of the worst things to hit Mr Yadav was not only his inability to tackle crime in the state but his cheek to get one Mr Amitabh Bachchan to endorse it for him! In fact, the biggest poll promise of Behenji was to end the Samajwadi goonda raj.
A couple of weeks back, the BSP candidates for the polls were announced and a whopping 20% of the BSP candidates in UP had criminal records - including ex-SP people who have changed sides as well as people sitting in jail, awaiting trial for murder.

For thirty years, people in West Bengal suffered a series of Left Front ministers and party bosses who tried everything in their capacity to cripple industries in the state. There were bandhs, gheraos, michhils and general mayhem as the government tacitly supported the 'masses'. As the votes piled on, the exodus of the companies stopped only because there was nobody left to move out.
Now, we are told that we have an alternative. And that alternative is riding on the same plank that the Left Front used to drive away companies all this while. Trinamool is the next big hope for Bengal, because they drove away India's most high-profile factory from the state.

Is it Congress who is giving 35 kilos of rice at Rs 2 to BPL families? Or is it BJP who is giving 25 kilos at Rs 3?
Should I vote for Mayawati because she is Mulayam with a handbag?
Or, should I vote for Mamata because she is Jyoti Basu in a saree?
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