Sunday, May 17, 2009

India votes decisively - Elections 2009

Update: It might seem pretty astonishing, but when Yadu told me about the National Public radio's coverage on the Indian elections, I really could not believe it until I heard this (Click on the listen now link at the top of the page). It is totally hilarious, and I hope Rajdeep Sardesai listens to this and calms down!!!

In what may be the most clear cut verdict since 1977 in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, India emerged out of the shadow of coalition governance, with sulking high profile trouble makers, to offer a unanimous verdict in favor of a stable government at the center. There was a definite paradigm shift in the voting pattern in most of the states in the country. The Indian National Congress was in a revival mode, and after the country had been battered and bruised, everybody was in a mood to vote for a nationalist party, be it the Congress or the BJP. Even during the lead up to the elections, I offered my not-required view to my friends, "I have a feeling Rahul Gandhi will play a major role in influencing the voter's mind during these elections. Personally, I think we should vote for a set of dynamic young leaders to transform our country's affairs. Congress, with youth politicians like Jyothiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Rahul Gandhi and others should be given a chance." Some of my friends were obviously dismissive of my suggestion, "Come on, Rahul Gandhi still needs time." But, I was certainly thinking, and I think, so were a billion people back home. At least, people were not dismissive of Rahul Gandhi anymore. I was following his campaign schedule in Uttar Pradesh, and was actually surprised to see him interact with the rural masses. It may be a gimmick, but at least, there is a start somewhere.

Unlike in 2004, when Congress staked claim to form the government at the center without a resounding majority, now, they have clearly obtained the people's mandate. India has been absolutely clear in delivering what was required. As the last phase of the polls was entering Tamil Nadu, I asked my family members, and as each of them was choosing the lesser of the two evils, it was clear that the Dravidian movement was difficult to subside there. It was always the AIADMK or the DMK that held the key as far as the Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu were concerned. As they reeled out, "I am going to vote for AIADMK/ DMK", my cousin who has just graduated from Engineering made it a point to travel all the way from Madras to Coimbatore to cast his vote on a weekday. He was very clear in what he wanted. "I am going to vote for Rahul Gandhi. I am tired of the others. Let us go for a dynamic young leader." I was actually surprised by the clarity of his thought. It also reflected what the youngsters were thinking. Clearly, the Congress did not have anything to lose. On hindsight, if you look at the Congress manifesto, and a whole lot of other factors, it is easy to notice why they won.

1.) The current Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate well before the polls. Going by Dr. Singh's track record, there is no disputing his integrity or honesty. Even during the Indo-US nuclear alliance, I was pretty convinced that if Dr. Singh is backing the deal, we should go for the deal. He is a kind of person who would not compromise our national interests at any cost. His detractors may say that he is a puppet of the Congress chief, but there is no denying the fact that he is one among the handful of most honest and trustworthy politicians we have in the country at the moment. The Congress had to make its PM candidate clear. Had it been Sonia Gandhi who was projected as the PM, the congress would have lost a lot of votes due to the foreign origin factor.

2.) Congress has projected a lot of young candidates in its ranks. India is looking for a definite transformation, and we need as many youngsters as possible to bring a vibrant change in the country.

3.) India does not want a patch up of lower rung parties to have a say in the government at the center. Actually, people were fed up with the way Left had let down the government after the nuclear deal. There was no point dilly-dallying with parties who had a handful of seats and wanted to play a big role in the government formation. People did not want the government at the center to be negotiating with parties left, right and center, and the only solution was to give the single largest party the free hand to run the country.

4.) Imagine if Congress/ BJP had not got a clear mandate. Who would have been the PM of the country? It is even dreadful to think what would have happened if a clear majority was not obtained. I have no hesitation in saying that our country would have been in wrong hands. It is very clear that this was one of the major factors why the Congress led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) romped home with an absolute majority.

5.) We need a constructive opposition. We do not want people to be arguing over every decision the government takes. In the past four years, we have noticed that there have been outright rejections to whatever steps the government has taken. It is high time our opposition plays the role of a responsible unit and tries to win the confidence of the people.

6.) The NDA has to go for a leadership change. LK Advani is already old to be at the helm of affairs, and there should be a clear visionary to take over the reins. We need people like Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Shourie and Narendra Modi taking over bigger responsibilities. India is already fed up of communal issues, and political parties definitely have to come out of temple issues, the religious divide and concentrate on progressing forward. At least, after the 26/11 Mumbai blasts, India is not ready to trust its politicians anymore. Basically, BJP needs to identify a young dynamic leader within its ranks, and release a strong manifesto with immediate effect.

In the end, all these and other factors favored a decisive Congress victory. The Congress now is well within its ability to move forward from here. It is a massive verdict. The Congress should definitely rejoice at this resounding victory, but the actual work has to start now. This is the best time for the party to repay back to the Indian voter in terms of good work and strong economic reforms. I, along with a billion people, wish the best of luck to the new government at the center, and I sincerely hope that elections 2009 will herald a new chapter in our country giving us absolute all round development and a strong progressive economy.

PS: All Images have been obtained from Google Image search and are used for information purpose only. In case of any copyright violation, the images will be pulled out with immediate effect.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The bearded conundrum

I stepped out of my room, stood in front of the mirror near the wash basin and observed my face diligently. I could see a strand of hair jutting out on my chin, and wondered, "I really should have my share of brush with the razor". As a teenager, one of the most exciting things to do is to get hold of the razor, and whether you have facial hair or not, you just want to feel the blade going up and down your cheek. My father would look upon me quizzically and wonder, "What are you doing standing in front of that mirror? Your concentration must be on studies only." I still rue that I did not have any answer to that question.

Anyway, as the strand began to grow at the rate of a few nanometers per day, my urge to get hold of the conventional razor only increased. I used to be in awe looking at people who could transform their looks from bearded to clean shaven. By the way, those days, you hardly had the Gillete Presto or those flashy razors to clear the hair, but it was the old-fashioned one, where you insert a blade on to a small platform, and screw the holder tightly on to the blade. So, one had to be extra careful, as the sharp blade could easily make a dent on your cheek, and you could be caught sporting a blood stained wound, and the pimples would just compound the problem. But, that hardly deterred me from laying my hands on the razor. It would fascinate me everyday as I observed my father pick all the parts of the razor, fix them up carefully and sway the razor as though it was as easy as using a computer today. So, one day my father decided that I was ready to hold the razor (yes, yes, nothing was decided by me; there was always a wrapper class around me to take care of such things). It was an exhilarating feeling, and I was proud of the fact that this was the step that marked my transformation from an immature boy to manhood. It felt like, as though, I was earmarked for selection to play for the Indian cricket team.

Yesterday, I was absolutely bored by the fact that I had a stubble, yet again. I was kicking myself that the hair was growing at a rapid rate. I thought I shaved yesterday, I wondered. I wish there is a mechanism to bypass this everyday routine, I thought, hopefully. It is pretty hard, when you get up in the morning, stare in front of the mirror, and observe the thick layer of hair enveloping your face, leaving you with no choice but to take up the razor. At least, now, you do not have to worry about the conventional blade and the cuts and gashes. So, it is a quick shave, maybe lasting less than two minutes, with my father's tone ringing in my ears, "Don't shave in a hurry. Get up early, and shave at least a couple of times, and don't do a patch work." All that I used to do was nod my head vigorously, get back to my lethargic ways and wait for two or three days, before the feeling of "I really have to shave" hit me. As life goes on, and as my beard grows on, I just have to look back on those days, when l used to run around not with a shaving cream and a razor, but all the other insignificant things that appear so significant now.