Indian Elections, 2009: Vote for Moderation and Maturity?
Elections in India present outcomes which require an analysis encompassing divergent rationales that co-exist in our bouquet society.
Each state, each constituency decides in its own way. The reasons are emotional, historical, economic, caste-based, and rooted in aspirations as well as fascinations of voters. Hence cricketers, movie and TV-stars get elected, sons and granddaughters of erstwhile Rajahs win, political dynasties win and lose, and occasionally you find a maverick rookie like writer/diplomat Shashi Tharoor win.
I was not in India to vote this time, but I waited for the outcome. Here are my thoughts, random thoughts of a chaotic being, which show that I love and hate all the political parties. Yet, I am Indian, optimism never deserts me, and this election gives me hope.
I have enormous respect for these leaders and yet I cannot understand what logic tells them that leading a nation like India must be trusted to an eighty-one year old. Age brings wisdom, but grand old age brings senility, or at least health problems, spiritual crisis and so on. In any case, India has far too few voters above the age of fifty, and I cannot see the justification for keeping middle-aged, mature and sensible leaders away from ministerial berth to accommodate people who used to be cult figures, much before many the voters were even born. If you had only read my satire on age based reservation, you'd know how skewed the age distribution in India is right now. The age of the leaders is a significant problem, it is only one of many problems that plagues BJP's pursuit for power.The most promising outcome of this election was the defeat of parties and leaders with a caste-based agenda. The so called saviors of a certain caste or religion put every effort of Indian democracy towards harmony and progress in danger. I really envision a moral code, enforced strictly, that prevents leaders from making pro- or anti- caste remarks.
If inciting people in name of religion violates the code of conduct, I see no reason why a castist remark be left out of the purview of this code of conduct. While the reservation of certain seats itself identifies the candidates as belonging to a certain community, everywhere else, the mention of caste must be made crime punishable by law. There must be no room for candidatures that rely on caste, color, creed, birth, and yet, it is easier said than done.
My liberal view tells me that we need not make any new rules, for in time, the farces, the fallacies, the fascists, will self-destruct. Yet, the danger posed by these forces is real and too imminent to be ignored.
The erection of statues and memorials of living leaders at the expense of state treasury must be dealt with strict penalties on the responsible party, no matter how ludicrous the leader looks in this enterprise, the joke must not be staged on public money. There are a few questions on which I do not agree with many of my friends and so called liberals. I think religion has a role in politics, and religion itself is not a demon. A personalized belief system protects the leader from various corrupting influences. A personalized belief system, like that of Mahatma Gandhi, when practiced properly, also serves as the lighthouse for the others.
Do we need to build temples at particular sites? I don't know, but we need to ask those interested to at least look after and care for the temples that already exist. I will trust their devotion more, if it is used in providing help where the need exists. Also, I want my Ram back, I want my Lord back. I want him clean of every stain the politicians have inflicted in his name. I also want to see Mathura cleaner, Nashik, Haridvar and Varanasi made into properly managed, maintained, cities of pilgrimage. The filth there shows that the corruption of our within has spread into every street and public place, even the places where Gods once lived.
Also, I believe that if in certain ways, Hindus or certain castes, exploit others, democracy allows minorities to exploit the rifts in the majority to their advantage as well. The Hindutva issue is not misplaced; some anger is justified, and need to be addressed. It is about time that equality of religion and caste in eyes of law provide neither discrimination nor reverse-discrimination to any sect, faith, group, community. Voters must see to it; in my ideal world, they will. If any party believes that locals are not able to find jobs, I want those parties to help in education and employment efforts. If any community thinks their language is being ignored, I want to see great literature emerge from the mouths or pens of those who know only to burn others and not the hate within.
If any leader makes his life's aim to get justice for his people, let him start by empowering his people with opportunities for education and enlightenment. If any party wants to distribute free televisions, sell rice that exceptionally low price, distribute funds to families of terrorists while not caring for the lives of army men or jawans, let the politicians of these parties sit out of elections. If a man has murdered, raped and killed, has a criminal background, let us not judge him too harshly, and allow him to stand in elections only after he has done twelve years of community work, and shown to himself, and society, that 'every sinner has a future, every saint has a past.' No shortcuts to redemption exist, and even if the voter faults once or twice, over democratic system has to be mature enough to keep the criminals and the corrupt at bay.
Did India or Bharat vote for moderation? Yes, but not everywhere. Did we vote for harmony and maturity in places where religious and caste agendas were defeated by progress bandwagon? Yes, not everywhere. Has Indian democracy matured? Not yet, not quite, but the journey, it seems has taught it a few lessons, and will teach it many more. We have a lot of issues to resolve, economic hardships, coupled with terrorism and Naxal movement, religious and regional rifts, compounded by the pervasive hydra of caste system.
Let us gather all forces together, hope next five years take us to a better socio-politico-economic situation. Let us applaud the peaceful completion of another election. Even though it is hard to know what everyone among the seven hundred million voters thought, let's assume that we saw the victory of moderation, maturity, progress, erudition and harmony.