Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Musings on an election Wednesday

I haven’t done a Musings post since July this year, so here goes…

© Prashant C. Trikannad
See the purplish ink mark on my left forefinger? It is proof I voted in today’s election in the West Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai (Bombay) is the capital. It is one of four states where elections are being held to elect a new party-government that will rule, or mis-rule, my state for the next five years.

Elections to India’s twenty-eight states and half-a-dozen union territories are held every five years depending on when their terms end. Thus, we see electoral jamboree in one or two or more states every year.

We already have a new central (federal) government run by a new prime minister in New Delhi, where the rejuvenated Hindu Nationalist Party, the BJP, toppled the Congress after ten years.

The BJP and the Congress are India’s two major political parties and are the ideological equivalent of America’s Republican and Democratic parties. They are in power in a majority of the twenty-eight states, which are governed by chief ministers who are equivalent of US governors.


Today’s state assembly election in Maharashtra (Great State) saw a keen contest between disparate, and desperate, candidates belonging to the BJP and the Congress, a slew of regional parties, and some well-meaning independents. The BJP is confident of wresting power from the Congress in the state, too. That, however, remains to be seen. A hung verdict is expected which means no absolute majority for any party.

Illustrative picture of an EVM
Over the years, I have become a political cynic. I have faith in the Indian political system, not in Indian politicians. The ‘protest vote’ or ‘none of the above,’ or NOTA as it is popularly known, was conceived for disgruntled voters like me. It ranks at the bottom of the list of aspiring candidates on the electronic voting machine. If I'd my way I would have placed it right at the top and called it 'None of the Below.' Either way I have had no hesitation in using this potent electoral weapon and leaving the polling booth with a triumphant look on my face.

People tell me I’m wasting my vote and that I ought to cast it in favour of a party, at least for the sake of a majority government and political stability. I don’t see it that way. My vote is too precious to be wasted on politicians I no longer trust to govern justly and fairly. Come to my city and you’ll know what I mean.

Let’s talk about something pleasant—books! 

I got carried away by my own recent post about popular fiction by bestselling authors and decided to read one of them—The Way to Dusty Death (1973) by Scottish writer Alistair MacLean. I’m almost halfway through the novel and I can say with conviction that it’s not his best work. I have read better MacLean.

The story is about Johnny Harlow, a legendary Formula 1 racer who crashes his car in the French Grand Prix leading to the death of one of his fellow drivers and seriously injuring his girlfriend. This is the latest in a series of mishaps on the GP circuit. Harlow is no longer a hero. He loses his nerve and sense of balance and takes to alcohol, or it would seem he has. Actually, Harlow is secretly investigating the cause of the accidents including the one that killed his younger brother. I’m racing to the finish line to see how it ends.

While I’m on the popular fiction wagon, I recently purchased a secondhand copy of The Tangent Objective (1976) by Lawrence Sanders. It is the first of two books in the Peter Tangent series that I haven’t read.

The back of the book aroused my interest: “As the corrupt and strife-torn African nation of Asante teeters on the brink of savage revolt, the lives of two men—one white, one black—are caught up in an explosive maelstrom of money, politics, intrigue and violent action.”

The white man is Peter Tangent, a sophisticated and unscrupulous executive of an American oil company who wages war in Asante—and wins.

One of the things I like about bestselling fiction is the opening line. It is usually banal but effective, like this one from the Sanders novel—“Brindleys was a private club. Small enough so that one knew everyone. Large enough so that one didn’t have to speak to them.”

As I conclude this post, a piffling 45 per cent of the electorate in Maharashtra has cast its vote. Looks like I’m not the only political cynic around.

18 comments:

  1. Yep, politics would be a necessary evil, but politicians make it so hard to deal with. My kingdom for a decent politician.

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    1. Charles, decent politicians are an uncommon sight in India. They are opportunistic and a law unto themselves.

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  2. It appears that politicians are the same all over the world. Once they get into power, it's every man for himself. Best to seek refuge in books, Prashant. Smart move. :) Have you ever read the work of Lee Child? I think you'd love his Jack Reacher books. Lawrence Sanders sounds so familiar to me - I think I may have read some of his books a while back. And enjoyed them.

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    1. Yvette, I thought I was past reading bestseller fiction but I read one or two every year and they still hold up. I have been contemplating reading the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.

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  3. Books or politicians? I'll take books any day of the week. I don't believe I have read either of these two authors. I will try Sanders at some point as I have his first Edward Delaney book - The Anderson Tapes.

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    1. Col, I remember THE ANDERSON TAPES to be a good book. I think Sanders is more your type of author. Both writers provide plenty of action.

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  4. I use to be such a fan of Sanders. Been a long time since I've read one of his fine novels.

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    1. David, I enjoyed his DEADLY SIN novels most of which are racy and entertaining.

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  5. I like that term, Prashant. A political cynic. I am cynical about politics too. I don't even trust the politicians that I like.

    I hope you read that Lawrence Sanders book and tell us what you think of it. I enjoyed the Edward Delaney books that I read a lot.

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    1. Tracy, thank you. Indian politicians don't exactly endear themselves to people, not even to those who vote them to power. I keep my distance from their kind.

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  6. I like the idea of casting a NOTA vote. There have only been a few times I've been really enthusiastic about a candidate.

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    1. Kelly,, we had a couple of clean candidates in my constituency and I voted for them on a few occasions, which is the exception rather than the rule.

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  7. There is an irony I see here in the States, where voters are outspokenly loyal to one or another of the two main parties, but in the entertainment media, politicians are routinely portrayed as contemptible.

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    1. Ron, same with Bollywood cinema. The way politicians are portrayed in Hindi films, you don't need a villain. As you noted, the films reflect the contempt that people have for their politicians.

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  8. Interesting about the politics and voting. But give me books any time. I have never heard of that Alastair Maclean book - I read a lot of his when I was younger.

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    1. Moira, thank you. The results were out to do and they were as I thought they would be—no absolute majority for any party. So we are looking at another five years of coalition rule. The voter knows how to teach the politician a lesson.

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  9. Hope the vote goes your way chum!

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    1. Sergio, since I didn't vote for any party, it didn't make a difference who came to power. The protest vote had more impact in the tribal and village areas than in towns and cities.

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