Time For Political Appraisal

Once again we are in the process of another election, which over the years, has come to pass as a ritual - a five year plan, that is if the Government in office lasts that long. Come to think of it, election time gives the electorate a chance to carry out a 360 degrees appraisal of the performance of the Government in power as well as the Opposition - whether they have carried out their duties properly in the true democratic spirit.
It is not that only the ruling party is put to test though they have a larger stake with much more to answer for.  More than the past, it is the future - programmes and policies that need to undergo scrutiny.  As usual, there is a surfeit of candidates in the fray this time - some 3536 for 288 Assembly seats.  We have our regular political parties - national and regional then we have some unheard of outfits followed by any number of independents some of whom are disappointed and crest fallen political bigwigs who have been denied the prospects of enjoying the loaves of office, if elected.  This lot having defied the respective high commands, has earned the title of 'rebels'.

As usual the high command first tries to cajole the defiant aspirant for a party ticket, followed by persuasion till he actually files his nomination as an independent.  Then comes the second stage of a veiled threat of disciplinary action if he does not withdraw his candidature by the last date. If the rebel is still defiant, a decision is made to suspend the member from the membership of the party and he becomes an untouchable. The so called rebel is hardly amused and he starts blaming the coterie around his beloved leader who has been misled etc.

Once the election is over and should the rebel win his seat [and the party facing shortage of numbers], suddenly our friend becomes important and 'valuable' as well.  Discreet contact is kept [ back door diplomacy as it is called in political parlance ] lest the opposition group taps him.  The rebel becomes a VIP and his stature [ not to speak of monetary value], shoots up. The bargaining starts with the rebel dishing out figures how much he had to spend [in the absence of party support ] which he hopes to be reimbursed - not necessarily in cash.

The rebel who may not even have stood the slightest chance of making it to the cabinet even as a deputy minister, suddenly demands a cabinet slot with the most lucrative portfolio [ remember he has to recover his investment with handsome returns ]. There is hard bargaining because the rebel threatens to cross over to the other side.  There is no option and his demand is invariably met.  So it pays to be a rebel if you are expecting a hung assembly which opens the flood gates for lucrative deals.

The loyal party worker is always the sufferer.  He neither gets the ticket and if elected he is not assured of being inducted in the Government.  Even rebels from other parties get a better deal. It has now become an elections of rebels.  The congress party is supposed to be facing as many as 100 rebels [ from their own ranks as well as NCP] in the 174 that they are contesting with the coalition partner - NCP.

Take the case of MOS Sunil Deshmukh who was sidelined for the sake of Rajendrra Sekhawat whose only credential is that he happens to be the President's son but the Congress party knows which side of the bread is buttered. You simply cannot antagonize some people who matter.

Other parties like the two Senas are facing worse situations.  Nobody knows what each of the two parties is standing for.  They seem to be more interested in putting the other one down more than to come to power to serve the people. With both sharing the same vote bank, it is difficult to see how one of them can win with substantial seats.

The Congress-NCP is facing the anti-incumbency factor but given the disarray in the opposition camp, it looks like they stand a better chance despite sugar [ a very sweet commodity generally],  not being so this time around.  One is reminded of the BJP losing an election over the price of onions which brought tears to their candidates.  But with the likes of Ranes around you never fall short of numbers.

This year, we are seeing at least two prominent [unattached] Catholic candidates.  Hansel D'souza as a people's candidate who has the support of a good many citizens across religions and  Dolphy D'souza has the advantage of the  Bombay Catholic Sabha  [hope Raj Thackeray does not demand apology and insist on calling it Mumbai Catholic Sabha] which he has been serving with a lot of dedication.  The Christians in these constituencies would do well to vote for these two candidates with good background.  They will surely be assets to the community. Other Christians too must be in the fray.

The belated realization by the Congressmen that they must spend a night at the homes of dalits in UP is good but the effect of this one night stand [stay] will hardly alter things. Besides, we thought, the dalits are in Maharashtra too among other states [where elections are being held]  and not confined to UP alone where Mayawati rules the roost.


The big neighbour on the eastern side is at it again.  They have now started issuing visas to Indian nationals residing in Kashmir on a separate sheet of paper instead of stamping the visa on the passport.  This was being done by them in the case of Arunachal Pradesh which they claim is part of China.

By equating Kashmir with Arunachal Pradesh, are they laying claims on the Kashmir territory as part of China.  In that case we have a triangular fight on hand. Or is it a move to please Pakistan with whom the Chinese are getting closer.  If this proximity is for economic reasons, there is no problem but given the clandestine military and atomic cooperation, it is a matter of grave concern. If it was a policy of that Government to issue paper visas to all disputed territories globally, why was Kashmir not included in that list all along.  There is something sinister in this move and the Government of India must remain alert. China is wary of India's rise in stature globally.

It is time to stand up to their machinations.  India has already taken a tough stand on the Dalai Lama visit to Arunachal Pradesh.  In fact, the PM and the President of India must pay more frequent visits to that State and show them that we brook no nonsense.

It may be worth paying them in the same coin.  India must be receiving requests from the Tibetan citizens for visas to enter India.  We too should issue visas to such people on separate sheets [if not being done as yet].  
As one of the panelists on a television show said, it is necessary for us to move closer to the known adversaries of the Chinese, at least covertly if not overtly.  This will send the right signals to them.  Friendship cannot be one sided.


-Marshall Sequeira