Friday, November 7, 2008

"Uncle Sam" ki Jai

One of the things that should be appreciated about the American system of democracy is the manner in which they are able to things to a closure. During the election campaign, they campaigned viciously and arguably as shabbily as one could with no holds barred. But within hours of the results being announced, McCain had made a very graceful speech conceding defeat and pledging full support to the man who would now be “ my president”. No further bitching or griping or whining but a simple acceptance that he and his campaign had done their best to win but that best wasn’t good enough; and now it was time to put all that behind and get back to normal living. The victorious candidate was just as magnanimous in victory – no gloating and abuse and no vindictiveness ; once in office. Of course all of this is as much a matter of the nature of the personalities involved as much of the electoral system and conventions that have evolved over two centuries of democratic evolution.

It can be argued that if the United States took that long to evolve its conventions, that much of time should surely be allowed to India too to get where the American system has got and there may be some logic in that argument too. But it would be nicer if countries did not to choose to reinvent the wheel and crystallized some conventions on the fast track. After every election in India, there is so much of bickering, grumbling and vendetta that could be avoided. Reviews reversals of the previous regime’s policies, usually for petty reasons , some times after crores of Rupees have been spent are hardly a good use of the tax payer’s money !

Political parties in India seem to have so much of venom reserved for each other ; that one wonders at the depravity of it all….. There is Mamata Banerjee throwing a spanner at West Bengal’s industrialization ; not because she cares a damn for farmers or agriculture( if the Trinamool Congress has got any policy document on agriculture or land use, it has still to be seen !) but because if industrialization had picked up , it would have meant that that Left Front government would have notched up some successes. Or look at the politics of the Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena, trying to occupy the space vacated by Bal Thackeray, who has now more or less fully retired and trying to ensure that cousin Uddhav doesn’t get to succeed. Or the abominable incident that happened the other day – if you don’t like your opponent or ideological opposite - , just spit on his face and humiliate him as strongly and as badly as you can.

The one thing to learn from the American election campaigns perhaps is the whole idea of “closure”. There may be a time in the heat and the dust of the campaign trail, when on the odd occasion, there is a hit below the belt. But the bulk of the campaign is fought around the articulation of issues – the well conducted debates, the knowledge and the erudition of the candidates, the background and the credibility of their aides and advisors. Witness the outrage for instance at the fact of Sarah Palin’s ignorance of the fact that Africa is a continent and not a country ! Who cares what politicians here know or don’t know !

But coming back to closure, when the last ballot has been cast and the results are out , the once bitter rivals were able to put rivalry behind themselves, agree that differences still remain and will remain, but come to remember that the nation is bigger than all of them and pledge to work together, putting minimal hurdles in governance. We fall a bit short there. For even as we revv up our lungs to yell full throated “ Bharat Mata ki Jai”, we are busy gathering up our bricks… for the next round of bickering and brick batting. There is a time to break down .. and we know that well, but there is also a time to build up… and we haven’t quite got there yet…..


Andi and Sheba Eicher said...

Couldn't agree with you more. How valuable civility is - and how much we confuse basic decency with weakness in our beloved country.

PK said...

Please remember that USA has Presidential elections every 4 yrs and Congressional one every 2 years. In India we are in Perpetual elections season. How do our Political Parties bring in Closure when they have to fight another election in month's time? If we have fixed tenure for Loksabha in Centre & Vidhansabha in states and if Elections are held at fixed interval than this is possible.---PK