Thursday, April 23, 2009

What are we paying them for?

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has got to be the most useless body functioning this election. It does not verify candidates' affidavits, sits pretty doing nothing when lapses in affidavits are pointed out, gives idiotic responses like "the EC is not empowered to take legal action" (against said wrong affidavits) and is not legally entrusted with a single tool to take action against erring politicians.

In short, all it is empowered to do, is issue notices, thereby adding to the pile of junk paperwork that is churned out in this country daily. Much like a mother 'admonishing' her child with, "Please don't do that again," when said child has murdered a classmate and set fire to his house, thereby slaying the entire family.

What's more, the EC is shameless enough to admit that it has no statutory powers to do anything. What a bunch of self-important jokers these guys must be.

I spoke with R Ramakrishna, the BJP's media contact for their election cell; he has written to the EC asking for action against Lalu Prasad. Even he knows the EC will sit on its ass and do no more than - what else? - pass a stricture. "Any time you write to the EC, it amounts to a mere registering of protest over a matter. You are certain that the EC will do nothing about it and the case will die there. If you want anything to happen, you have to go through your own PR channels and tap the media to highlight the issue.

Useless, that's what the EC is. Oh, but it does remember to take suo moto cognisance of certain people like Varun Gandhi. That is fair, but what after issuing a notice? How shameful that the EC has no right to 'suggest' that a candidate like Varun Gandhi should not be a candidate in the first place. Since it cannot offer suggestions to parties, parties can pretty much do what they want and tell the EC to go to hell. Which they do.

This is why the BJP went to the EC against Lalu. Not that it matters. Because the EC is useless, anyway.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cease. Desist. We're Indians.

Look, I don't care what anyone thinks but logic and past experience (as also some touch with ground realities) tells me that we're not about to have a tech-elected government by a wide stretch. Not this year, or in 2014 or whenever.

The basic contention backing the use of internet and a bevy of social networking sites was to rope the youth in, right? Okay, that's good thinking, but then what? I can bet you my last 50-paise coin (that I am saving for a year now, don't ask why) that despite getting the youth's attention and all that jazz, your internet blitzkreig STILL will not guarantee youth presence at the polls. Oh, if these elections were conducted online, yeah, you'd have the kind of unprecedented voting percentage that would stagger the economy. A lot of the youth that do go and vote, are the ones whose families have been voting for a long time now.

See, that's where the connect actually lies. If I had the kind of dumbass family (and there are many of those) that never discussed politics and kept any dinner table conversations restricted to who did what in the family and neighbourhood and only spoke to each other when either fighting or asking for money, I wouldn't vote either. If my parents hadn't been voting for ages and drilled it into my stupid head that voting was really an obligation, not a favour you were doing to the country, I wouldn't vote.

A lot of people don't vote. They're watching the Jay Ho vs Bhay Ho charades on TV while they watch their daily soaps, but those ads don't influence them to get our and cast their vote. They're reading the coverage every day, noting what their MP hopeful is promising them. While some of them still have some fundamental queries ("Who is my MP? Which party?"), there are others who seemingly know it all and STILL don't vote.

It's no use drawing parallels between the US Presidential Elections and our general elections. Next thing we'll be comparing Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh. Hoping for an internet revolution for our polls is not just unrealistic, it's stupid. The power of the internet to spur people on to action is either grossly overestimated or largely untapped yet.

And pray, why do you want the internet to make a difference for you? Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the heat and dust of election rallies, the getting your head blasted apart by blaring loudspeakers, the crowds that gather every time there's a rally, the cheers that a bold statement draws. That is where the real flavour of Indian elections lies - and what are we, if not a colourful, emotional, in-your-face race of people?

Despite unleashing a relentless media campaign on us, the BJP is still doing its rallies and sabhas. What's more, watching a Narendra Modi rally or an L K Advani one on TV is sure to make a bigger difference to your thinking that reading what they said the next day. As humans, we need the visual element for a connection. Sure, the internet is a visual medium. But can we really call it an engaging one in the context of elections?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Revenge of the Surds

You have to have a deep hatred for a person to wish the most painful death on him. Karamjit Singh tried to kill then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 because, like other Sikhs in the country, he too considered Indira Gandhi, and later her older son, to be responsible for the sectarian violence that tore many Sikh families apart.

When I spoke to him last week, Singh was in the process of filing his nomination papers from Patiala. The man is contesting the seat as an independent and has just one aim in life - to defeat the Congress and the "conniving" Shiromani Akali Dal. He is now a lawyer practising in the district court; he is making every effort to wipe out the 'criminal' tag attached to his name.

When I asked him how he felt when he heard about Rajiv's assassination in 1991 (Singh was still in jail at the time), he promptly replied, "I just felt sorry that I had not been able to kill him." He didn't sound bitter about it, but his matter-of-fact tone chilled me. "Aisa hota hai na, aap jaisa karte ho, waisa bharte ho. These people have the blood of so many of my Sikh brothers and sisters on their hands. Inka anth aisa hi hona tha."

He went on to add that his biggest regret in life was not that he attempted the assassination at Rajghat all those years ago, but that he botched it up. "Never mind that now. What is past is past. But we have not forgotten the atrocities the Congress inflicted on us. We will never forget it, we will never allow our children to forget it. But now bullets will not work. We have to use our democracy in the best way we can," Singh said.

Many constraints prevented us from printing the interview, especially the bits about Rajiv, verbatim. What we did print is here.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chalo Orissa

The BJP is focussing on Orissa at the moment, and Narendra Modi's life isn't getting any easier with all the air-dashing here, there and all over the place. I mean, five rallies in Orissa in ONE day and the man has to fly back to Hyderabad. From there, he makes a trip to Delhi. From there, to Orissa again. And all the while, talking about how grand the BJP really is and crossing his fingers behind his back.

Sometimes, being a star campaigner for your party has got to suck.

In other news, Arun Gawli has finally dropped out of the race and will now support Milind Deora's candidature. Wonder how much somebody paid him to get out of the way? :-O

Also, the BSP's Vilas Garud says that his party denied Gawli a seat because all other major parties in Maharashtra had done so, and why should the BSP give tickets to criminals? Why, indeed.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Worst birthday so far

Nothing, nothing so far has been good about turning 30.

I mean, come on you lunkheads, I'm 30! It's a great milestone for me, because I have got so far purely on the basis of a bad temper and some smatterings of talent (for not falling down and breaking my neck or getting stuck in a building on fire).

Golu is out of town. Dad and Mum didn't drop by to wish me; they would have but I forbade it on grounds of good manners, then felt that I should have told them to come because this is my first birthday away from them. Sriram chatted with me only to tell me two pathetic sardar jokes.

Precisely 10 people have wished me since this morning. Which is great, because "Hi, Happy Birthday! So,what plans today? What, working even on your birthday?" conversations are okay till like, the second caller is done. The last straw was when Prash invited me out for lunch and the two of us waded through pizzas and garlic bread and spoke about all kinds of junk, but not once did he wish me because HE FORGOT MY BIRTHDAY.

Okay, I didn't ask for a custom-made happy birthday-singing committee because you know I hate having attention drawn to me. But come on, people, blatantly forgetting my birthday is rotten manners. Prash and everyone else who forgot, no birthday present for you this year, whenever your birthdays are. (When is Prash's birthday, I wonder...)

Am now pinning my hopes on the hubby (who did wish me) to come home a bit early so that we can at least make an effort to go out and eat.

Never thought I would have to hope for THIS much when I turned 30.