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World Affairs

 Indian elections: skulduggery and now horse deals

Priyanaka Gandhi and Manmohan Singh

The massive logistical operation of the elections to the Indian parliament held not only small countries like Sri Lanka in wonderment and bewilderment but had even much bigger, greater and older democracies nodding in appreciation. At the commencement of this election of 2009 we too called it ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’

 Voting is not all

But as veteran Indian journalist, former Editor of the Indian Express and former Indian High Commissioner to London, Kuldip Nayer points out in his syndicated column: ‘Elections are not just a question of queuing up before polling booths but also representing something deeper and more meaningful for the people.’

Sixty two years ago Indian democracy and politics stood on the highest of moral platforms. Freedom fighters such as Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru stood on very high moral ground that could not be scaled by ordinary mortals. They stood for the independence of the human spirit, ahimsa, secularism, lifting the downtrodden Indian masses from grovelling poverty, fair play to all nations in their philosophy of Non Alignment among a countless number of noble ideals.

India attempted to posture at that time as the conscience of the world despite an estimated one million people dying in the violence of the partition of the Indian sub-continent. How much of that morality has lasted or undergone transformation in the past six decades?

Tamil Nadu

This Indian election was watched by Sri Lankans as no other Indian election, particularly because of the developments in Tamil Nadu. Over 60 million Tamilians in  Tamil Nadu were expressing concern and anxiety about the fate of the Sri Lankan  Tamils and the LTTE.

And whether by accident or design, military operations by the Sri Lanka government climaxed with the end of the Indian elections. Vellupillai Pirpaharan made capital use of this coincidence to play his last card as his military misadventures were drawing to a close.

 Test of foreign policy

It was a test of Indian politics, particularly its foreign policy. The ruling Congress Party that led the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) sorely needed support from Tamil Nadu to collect 272 seats in the Lok Sabha to command a majority and form a government.

Velupillai Pirapaharan stirred up the communal sentiments in Tamil Nadu despite having assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the husband of UPA Leader Sonia Gandhi and the father of two leading lights of the Congress — Priyanka and Rahul. The Gandhis succumbed to their political needs over basic family obligations.

Priyanka Gandhi made a trip to visit  Nalini who had been convicted for the murder of Rajiv. This extremely attractive young woman clad in white in a TV interview recently  spoke ‘metaphysics’— such as  meditation on the Ana Pana Satiya and gave the impression that she entertained no grouses against her father’s murderer.

She spoke of her admiration of the Tamils —15 years after her father’s killings. All that cannot be faulted if it was just Priyanka Gandhi speaking as an individual. She had no interest in politics, she declared.


But this very same person was seen campaigning vigorously for her mother and the Congress in the northern states of India. Mother Sonia too visited Karunanidhi while the Sikh Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on Karunanidhi at his sick bed. All this was happening while the Indian electorate was wondering whether Congress would go along with Karunanidhi or his rival Jeyaram Jeyalalitha’s party!

Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi was making noises that Congress might join hands with Jeyalalitha in preference to Karunanidhi’s DMK. These political oscillations and vacillations demonstrated Indian political skulduggery at its best.

Not once was heard the standard New Delhi manthram on Lanka which had been sounded ad nauseam all these years: ‘We stand for the sovereignty, territorial integrity of a united Sri Lanka where the rights of the Tamils are protected.’

Manmohan Singh even mumbled in Chennai for the first time that Tamils in Sri Lanka were being treated as second class citizens. Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh did not speak on behalf of the LTTE but Rahul Gandhi declared his support for Jeyalalitha who at the last moment  sounded her support for Eelam! What was the message the ruling party was sending to the confused and emotional voters of Tamil Nadu?

What awaits Sri Lanka after election results are declared? Speculation among Indian  political analysts is that the two biggest parties which are likely to be the Congress and the BJP would team up with regional parties that can extend maximum support. If Jayalalitha’s AIADMK wins more seats than the DMK of Karunanidhi, will the Congress join hands with the plump Jeyalalitha who had pledged her support for the establishment of Eelam?

Art of the possible

Politics, it is said is the art of the possible. But does it extend to children joining hands with the supporters of their father’s murderers or the wife seeking support of the same ilk?

Kuldip Nayer  points to degradation of political values: ‘Leaders of political parties  are interested in power for power’s sake. They have made their parties as their personal fiefdoms and there is no internal democracy. A party moves from one alliance to another not on ideological or policy considerations but on the basis of gains. Criminals or money bags doing deals, do not have any vision which should be inculcating principles and a sense of humility.’

Nayer says that consumerism has become an integral part of Indian life. Indeed Indian TV which we receive on cable, particularly on advertising show the collapse of all Gandhian values and the beingings of the worship of the cult of the coin.

Now that the elections are over Indian political leaders are unabashedly engaged in political horse trading. Sri Lankans need not be snooty about what is happening to their neighbours. They are competing to do pretty badly just as much. The only difference is that we get about it all with an aura of religious piety. We will put a ‘full stop to drinking’ (Mathata Thitha) but are Sooduwata Hitha ( We like gambling), the last election being a near one horse race by a bookie.









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