Posts Tagged ‘INDIAN ELECTIONS’

Doubts on EVM? – ‘ Democracy’s beep or blip? Evgeny Morozov – The Indian Express’

May 26, 2009

Doubts over EVM? – ‘ Democracy’s beep or blip? Evgeny Morozov – The Indian Express’


While Congress electoral sweep appeared to the entire Indian nation as incredible as well as welcome, doubts seems to be rising in some quarters about electronic voting. This morning Indian Express has very pointedly borrowed and published an article from Newsweek, to give a hint of the need to probe, if there was some hanky panky behind this sweeping electoral victory that has stunned friends and foes of Congress alike.  


Other factors that rake up doubts are US envoy’s personal visits to L.K. Advani (NDA) and Chandra Babu Naidu ( ref:Third Front), two days before the election results were to be announced, and the presence of Navin Chawla, a widely believed Congress sympathiser, at the helm of the affair. 

If such doubts get substantiated by a neutral agency, Indian democracy and 700 million Indian voters have reason to be appearing as being defrauded on a colossal scale.
 


Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
————————————————————————————–
 

 

Democracy’s beep or blip?

EVGENY MOROZOV
 


While India basks in the success of another e-election, electronic voting machines haven’t found much favour in other countries WHEN Ireland embarked on an ambitious e-voting scheme in 2006 that would dispense with “stupid old pencils”, as thenprime minister Bertie Ahern put it, in favour of fancy touchscreen voting machines, it seemed that the nation was embracing its technological future. Three years and euro 51 million later, in April, the government scrapped the initiative.High costs were one concern—finishing the project would take another euro 28 million. But what doomed the effort was a lack of trust: the electorate just didn’t like that the machines would record their votes as mere electronic blips, with no tangible record. 

A backlash against e-voting is brewing all over the continent.

After almost two years of deliberations, Germany’s Supreme Court ruled in March that e-voting was unconstitutional because the average citizen could not be expected to understand the exact steps involved in the recording and tallying of votes. Political scientist Joachim Wiesner and his son Ulrich, a physicist, filed the initial lawsuit and have been instrumental in raising public awareness of the insecurity of electronic voting. In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, the younger Wiesner said that the Dutch Nedap machines used in Germany are even less secure than mobile phones. The Dutch public-interest group Wij Vertrouwen Stemcomputers Niet (We Do Not Trust Voting Machines) produced a video showing how quickly the Nedap machines could be hacked without voters or election officials being aware (the answer: five minutes). After the clip was broadcast on national television in October 2006, the Netherlands banned all electronic voting machines.

Other such electronic-voting inconsistencies have only added to the controversy. After Hugo Chavez won the 2004 election in Venezuela, it came out that the government owned 28 per cent of Bizta, the company that manufactured the voting machines.

Why are the machines so vulnerable? Each step in the life cycle of a voting machine involves different people gaining access to the machines, often installing new software. It wouldn’t be hard for, say, an election official to plant a “Trojan” programme on one or many voting machines that would ensure one outcome or another, even before voters arrived at the stations.

One way to reduce the risk of fraud is to have machines print a paper record of each vote. While this procedure would ensure that each vote can be verified, using paper ballots defeats the purpose of electronic voting in the first place.

Using two machines produced by different manufacturers would decrease the risk of a security compromise, but wouldn’t eliminate it.

A better way is to expose the software behind electronic voting machines to public scrutiny. The root problem of popular electronic machines is that the computer programmes that run them are usually closely held trade secrets. The electronic-voting industry argues that openness would hurt the competitive position of the current market leaders. A report released by the Election Technology Council, a US trade association, in April says that disclosing information on known vulnerabilities might help would-be attackers more than those who would defend against such attacks. But making such disclosure mandatory for all electronic voting machines would be a good first step for the Obama administration, consistent with his talk about openness in government.

He’d better hurry, though, before a wave of populism kills electronic voting. State and local governments across the US, much like European governments, are getting increasingly impatient with e-voting. Riverside County in California is considering asking voters to choose between e-voting and paper ballots in a referendum. Voters would be justified in dispensing with e-voting altogether. Atthe moment, there’s very little to like about it.

 

 

 

 

US interference in Indian elections amounts to gross insult to 700 million Indian voters – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 14, 2009

Thursday, May 14, 2009

 

US interference in Indian elections amounts to gross insult to 700 million Indian voters

 

Imagine 700 million Indian voters, standing in queue under blazing sun, throughout the summer month in Parliamentary elections, finding a foreign state trying to rob their votes by throwing sticks and carrots to see that the government that forms out of the aspirations of the masses, should better be what the US wants it to be.

 

The recent visit of US chargé d’affaires A. Peter Burleigh to L. K. Advani, Chandra Babu Naidu and Chiranjeevi is a blatant and gross attempt by the US to trivialize the democratic aspirations of Indian people and interfere in the elections at the most crucial stage, when the votes have gone from the hands of the millions of voters and is now passed into the hands of the wheelers and dealers and horse-traders that are least trusted by the people at large.

 

A widespread belief is favourite with the cynics that now the candidates will be bought in hard cash and it is that group that has deeper cash resources, will finally form the government.

 

Role of corporate sector and foreign powers like the visits of Mukesh Ambani and US charge d’affaires is being seen as timely to provide the wherewithal to clinch the deals with all and sundry.

 

In the case of the US envoy, a further sinister element is visualised of possible threats to one side or other, in conjunction with the promises of goodies to follow. D. Raja has openly declared on TIMES NOW that the questionable visit of the US envoy is on behalf of the CIA.

 

People of India have legitimate interest to see that all such moves are exposed and brought into public domain. This is the only way; trust can be restored in our government and in our democratic system of change of government.

 

It would have been in the fitness of the things, the Election Commission code of conduct should have been extended till the final stages of formation of the government and all such attempt to sabotage people’s mandate should have been nipped in the bud, as soon as any such moves are detected.

 

After all, conduct of free and fair elections is meant eventually to ensure that a government is formed that abides by the wishes and mandate of the people and that the process is not hijacked by notorious ‘regime change’ experts that have scant regard for the teaming people of India 

 

 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

ghulammuhammed3@gmail.com

www.ghulammuhammed.wordpress.com

Sunny side of Mumbai’s low voter turnout – By Ghulam Muhammed

May 1, 2009

Friday, May 01, 2009

 

Sunny side of Mumbai’s low voter turnout

 

In the just concluded parliamentary elections in Mumbai city’s six constituencies, the voter turnout is reported to be an abysmal 44 percent.

 

It was a glaring anticlimax for all the media, publicity, PR blitz that had mesmerized the city of Mumbai for over a month. The low turnout had dampened many a soul, but it has its sunny side. The low turnout has proved that without a negative wave of polarisation, the old adage proves right: no news is good news.

 

The old order when Congress is widely believed to be organising communal riots, through proxies and would follow up with big show of massive state relief and security assurances to minorities, had seen its golden days wither away.

 

With BJP stealing Congress thunder by its post-Godhra riots and its subsequent exploitation of the violence to win solid majority in the state of Gujarat, Congress had widely believed to have early realised that the old game of garnering votes through organised violence is up. It cannot be the tool of trade to communalize the polity, as now new factors have made the whole strategy more dangerous and non-productive.

 

Supreme Court for reasons of its own, has come out of its 60 year old lethargy on communal riots when not a single person was hauled in for accountability over thousands of riots across the country, and has been proactive in digging into the murky affairs of Gujarat Riots; thanks to the dogged persistence of activists like Teesta Setalvad and her supporters.

 

The hate crime has been swiftly nabbed in the bud, when Mayawati applied National Security act to send Varun Gandhi behind bars, for Varun’s open harangues against Muslims. It is notable that through the spectacle, the silence of the Muslim lambs remained exemplary and total.

 

On the other side, Maharashtra’s new rabble rouser, Raj Thackeray, tasting the heat of the cooler, had realised the limits that he cannot cross in the new changed civil society distaste against violence on the streets.

 

But the big change was brought about by the single-minded devotion to duty by the late Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief, Hemant Karkare who exposed the saffron conspiracies and laid bare the alleged active participation of Sangh Parivar elements in a series of bombings that media had conveniently blamed on the victims themselves. Enraged Advani and Bal Thackeray thundered against Karkare for daring to step into their fiefdom.  The whole series of televised drama of 26/11 had the mysterious overhang of the widely believed murder of ATS chief Karkare. Only days earlier, Karkare had had been threatened with murder, apparently for exposing the hand of Sangh Parivar in various bombing incidents in Maharashtra and the plans they had for future subversion of the entire political system.

 

All such happenings, widely reported by electronic media and flashed around the world by international news agencies, had convinced the political operators that India is no longer the closed ghetto, that escaped the world scrutiny through out Nehru-Gandhi Parivar’s long stretch at the helm of a cordoned country. It is the world beyond India’s borders that made important moves to bring a new image of India to the world. Imagine, BJP’s next to next prime ministerial candidate being barred from visiting the US over his alleged role in 2002 Gujarat riots. He is afraid of even visiting the UK, under threat of being hauled up in British courts over his role in the communal riots.

 

The old order of garnering of votes by polarizing the society and instigating public disorder to drive voters to the polling booth, has to be given up, possibly temporarily. Now that Kamandal (a widely used word denoting Hindu communalism) has been eclipsed, the danger of Mandal (Casteism) has surfaced. However, neither Congress nor BJP has the nerve to fight a Mandal war, to the extant of garnering their majorities anywhere in the country.

 

The low turnout in Mumbai has been attributed by the media to a number of factors, except the mutation of communal polarisation. Media in corporate hands, is still hopeful that it can resurrect the demon, at a moment’s notice. But the international spotlight is too harsh for trouble-mongers to escape scrutiny and reprisals. Media is not above the law. Even though 3 editorial staff of the Times on India, were arrested by Azad Maidan Police and later released on bail, for publishing objectionable material; in a solidarity of the journalist brotherhood, entire news was blacked out by the media all over the country. But that shows that government is willing and prepared to haul up journalists behind prison bars if they cross red lines.

 

The role of media in nourishing hate and communal division is yet to come under greater scrutiny, but it would seem that people are already getting immune to media instigations.

 

All this does not solve the problem of Indian democracy, as how to move 700 million voters to polling booths, every now and then, and expect them to choose the same lot that has made a mess of the country, at least for the majority of have-notes. The anger is too deep to be channelised merely through civil means of tame elections. For all practical purposes, this should be interpreted as silence before the storm.

 

Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai

ghulammuhammed3@gmail.com

www.ghulammuhammed.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Indian Muslims and the 2009 Elections – Challenges and Prospects of Political Success – By Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, Editor-in-Chief, Milli Gazette, New Delhi

April 20, 2009

 

Analysis

Indian Muslims and the 2009 Elections

Challenges and Prospects of Political Success

By  Zafarul Islam Khan

 
 
Indians vote in 2009 general elections

voters stand in a queue outside a booth at polling station in Varanasi, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, April 16, 2009. (Reuters photo)

India, the world’s largest democracy with a total of 714 million voters, is undergoing these days a marathon election exercise over five phases which will conclude on 13 May. Results will start coming in from 16 May and the new parliament will be in place on  June 2.As usual, India’s 160 million Muslims, making up about 14 percent of the population, are taking part in these elections both as voters and as contestants.

Indian Muslims are the biggest minority group whose vote is critical in key swing states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the north, Assam in the northeast, West Bengal in the east and Kerala in the south.

 

See Muslims Percentage in Indian States.

All parties, including the BJP which is perceived as anti-Muslim, have fielded Muslim candidates from places where Muslims may win as a result of large concentration of Muslims in at least 80 out of the current parliament’s 543 constituencies or in order to show that the concerned party cares about the community’s political empowerment.

Indian Muslims have been traditionally complaining that they are always under-represented in the national parliament as well as in provincial legislative assemblies. In the outgoing parliament there are 37 Muslim members out of their proportional entitlement of 76 seats. The highest number of seats Muslim could ever win was in 1980 when they secured 46 seats.  [See the chart here, page 15]

Indian Muslims are found in sizeable numbers in over 80 constituencies, especially in north India.  

Under-representationThe Muslim under-representation is due to a number of reasons, such as disunity in Muslim ranks, major parties’ disinclination in nominating enough number of Muslims in winnable constituencies and reservation of Muslim-dominated constituencies as reserved seats for Dalits, the so-called untouchables, in addition to the age-old trick of gerrymandering aimed at dividing Muslim-dominated pockets over a number of constituencies in order to break Muslims’ strength.

Among glaring examples is the nomination of actress Jayaprada from the traditionally Muslim seat of Rampur by an alleged Muslim-friendly party. In Delhi, where Muslims deserve at least one seat, no major party has nominated any Muslim in these polls.

Indian Muslims are found in sizeable numbers in over 80 constituencies, especially in north India, where they can help any candidate win or lose by voting for or against them. Muslims are concentrated in about 16 states where 97% Indian Muslims reside, with 1% or more in each state.

They have sizable concentration in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra, Assam and Kerala. In another nine states, namely Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, MP, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Haryana they have a lower proportion.

Constituency-wise, there are only 14 Muslim majority constituencies, in addition to another 28 with high Muslim-concentration of above 30% and 60 other constituencies where they constitute more than 20% of the electorate. All these 100 constituencies or so are targeted by secular parties to secure maximum Muslim votes for their candidates.

 

The Congress failed to act decisively on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee which found out that Muslims were at the bottom of the Indian society by any yardstick of backwardness.  

Background  Traditionally, Indian Muslims voted for the Congress Party, but this started to change in mid-1970 as a result of the excesses during the Emergency period.

As a result, the Congress for the first time was voted out of power in 1977. The demolition of the Babri Mosque in 1992 was the final proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and resulted in almost total boycott of the Congress party by Muslims. Many other parties and coalitions ruled, as a result, and the Congress could come back to power only in 2004, as the leader of a coalition called UPA.

The half-hearted implementation of the Congress-led government’s various pro-Muslim schemes have failed to win back the trust of the Muslim voters. The Congress-led government for the first time in India established a “Minority Affairs Ministry” which has literally done nothing apart from disbursing a few thousand scholarships to Muslim students. Even its meager budget for the last year was not fully utilized.

The Congress failed to act decisively on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee which found out that Muslims were at the bottom of the Indian society by any yardstick of backwardness. Sachar report disclosed that Muslim representation has plummeted to as low as three and five percent in the government and public sector companies.

The Congress has also consigned to the cold storage the report of the Mishra Commission which recommended 10 percent reservation for Muslims in government jobs, schemes and bank credits. The Congress has consistently followed an anti-Muslim policy in Assam which has a 30% Muslim population.

The Congress failed to stop the anti-Muslim campaign in the name of fighting terrorism which was unleashed by the previous BJP-led government which ruled during 1999-2004. In fact, the campaign only intensified especially in states ruled by the Congress like the Mahrashtra and Andhra Pradesh which have witnessed some of the worst excesses, including extra-judicial killings, against Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism.

The Congress government at the Centre has also failed to take any action against the tainted Gujarat government of Narendra Modi who presided over the pogroms of 2002 and still rules the state. The Congress government has steadfastly refused a judicial enquiry into the cold-blooded murder last September by the police of two Muslim alleged “terrorist” youths in what is known as “Batla House Encounter”. As a result, Muslims are voting for all kinds of “secular” parties in the current elections.

 

A new phenomenon this time is the emergence of a number of small Muslim parties.  

New PhenomenonThe new phenomenon of small regional parties has offered new choices to the Muslim voter as an alternative to national political parties. Small Muslim parties are concluding alliances with small regional parties for their mutual benefit.

A new phenomenon this time is the emergence of a number of small Muslim parties. Muslims already have the Indian Union Muslim League in the southern state of Kerala (with 2-3 members of Parliament and a sizeable presence in the provincial legislative assembly) and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin in the southern city of Hyderabad (one member of Parliament and about a dozen in the provincial assembly).

A new Muslim entrant from the last year is the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in the northeastern state of Assam which won nine seats in the provincial assembly elections last year and expects to win 4-5 seat in the current national elections. The AUDF has now stretched its wings to other states too and is fighting elections in a number of northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. [See the map of  Muslims distribution here, page 13]

Another new entrant is the Ulama Council (UC) of Uttar Pradesh which emerged as a protest movement against the “Batla House Encounter”. UC’s popularity in the Azamgarh area of Uttar Pradesh led it to enter the elections in a number of constituencies in that state.
 
This is a new Muslim experiment which will stabilize by the time the next general elections are held in five years times. For the first time since independence in 1947, Indian Muslims are seeking to stand on their own two feet to ensure their political empowerment. Earlier they used to be part of various parties and thereby bound by the agendas and policies of those parties.

Ilyas Azmi, a seasoned member of Parliament, candidly portrayed the position of Muslims in various parties when he said recently that the position of Muslim members of Parliament in their respective parties is “worse than that of slaves”. These members are not allowed to have their own independent views or air them in public without prior clearance with their leadership which is Hindu even in the case of communist and socialist parties.

 

Major Muslim organizations like the All India Muslim Majli-se Mushawarat (AIMMM), Jamaat-e Islami Hind (JIH) and Jamiat Ulama-e Hind are trying to empower Muslim voters.

Empowering Muslim Voters  There are said to be no less than 22 small Muslim-led parties contesting elections mainly in the north though their chances are slim. These parties include Peace Party in Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Muslim Munettra Khazhagam in Tamil Nadu and People’s Democratic Council in West Bengal. They all claim to be “secular” parties working for the weak and marginalized sections of society.

These parties, including the UC, will at best only split Muslim votes and thereby indirectly helping the Hindu extremist BJP to win elections as the Hindu vote will be cast solidly for a single candidate while secular and Muslim votes will be split among a number of candidates.

Major Indian Muslim organizations like the All India Muslim Majli-se Mushawarat (AIMMM), Jamaat-e Islami Hind (JIH) and Jamiat Ulama-e Hind are trying to influence Muslim voters by advising them to vote for a Muslim candidate in Muslim-majority seats and for strong and winnable secular candidates in other seats.
While AIMMM has concentrated this time round on a single demand, i.e., reservation for Muslims in government jobs and facilities, others like JIH have issued elaborate charter of demands.

Muslim organizations this time have refrained from supporting any single party. Instead, they are supporting specific candidates belonging to various secular parties based on the record of the party and the winnablity of its candidate. The only exception is the Hindu communal parties, like BJP and Shiv Sena which have a clear anti-Muslim agenda.

Even these anti-Msulim parties have tried hard to show that they are not anti-Muslim and have included in their agendas some promises for Muslim uplift. Muslim organizations are also supporting Muslim candidates who are fighting elections as independents.

 

The change in the Indian part of Kashmir was observed last year when people overwhelmingly took part in the provincial assembly elections.  

Important DevelopmentAnother important development in these elections is that one of the two wings of the separatist Hurriyat Conference is not asking people this time round to boycott elections while Sajad Lone, a leading Kashmiri separatist who is the leader of People’s Conference, has for the first time since 1988 decided to take part in the polls.

The change in the Indian part of Kashmir was observed last year when people overwhelmingly took part in the provincial assembly elections. Hitherto the separatist groups had held that Kashmiris should not take part in elections before the solution of the problem of Kashmir.

Presently, there are no truly national parties which may be in a position to secure an overall majority in the next parliament and form a government on their own. Moreover, there is no political unity even among the secular parties as they operate more or less as regional or local parties.

For Election 2009, three political formations have emerged, headed by the INC, the BJP and the Left. This leaves out a few unattached parties which are now talking of a fourth front. 

A new alignment will emerge after the elections in which many of the parties now in the third and fourth fronts will go back to the Congress-led coalition.

Muslims will still be out of the political equation due to their disunity.


‘People want leaders from among them’ : Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, BSP candidate to Lok Sabha constituency of Mumbai North Central

April 13, 2009
we have been asking the Congress and the NCP to nominate a minority candidate in this seat. Muslims and Dalits form a majority here. They refused and continued with the dynasty.’
Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, BSP candidate to Lok Sabha constituency of Mumbai North Central


http://www.indianexpress.com/news/people-want-leaders-from-among-them/446205/

‘People want leaders from among them’

Swatee KherPosted: Monday , Apr 13, 2009 at 0009 hrs IST

This BSP candidate is looking to slums and Muslim-dominated pockets of Mumbai North Central constituency to take him into Parliament.Haji Ibrahim Shaikh, a 55-year-old Santacruz businessman, is out to give Priya Dutt a tough fight. The first-time candidate, popularly known as Bhaijan, in an interview withSwatee Kher


 

For several years, you had been active with the Nationalist Congress Party, even acting as the city unit chief until recently. Why did you suddenly switch to the BSP?
Over the past few years, after delimitation, we have been asking the Congress and the NCP to nominate a minority candidate in this seat. Muslims and Dalits form a majority here. They refused and continued with the dynasty. That is why I have joined the BSP and entered the fray. I will work for all sections of the society.

 

You are up against sitting MP Priya Dutt and BJP candidate Mahesh Jethmalani. Both these parties have their established strongholds in the region, so what will be your pull among the voters?
People want a leader from among them. They don’t want occasional visitors. I have been working with the poor and in the slum areas for several years. The slumdwellers are fed up as they have not seen development for years despite promises.

 

What are your main planks for this election?
People are living for decades on land reserved for railways, airport authority and the government. I will ensure that these reservations are removed.

 

Water is a big issue here and I will work for it in my constituency, and ensure implementation of the Sachar Committee report.

 

Will your entering the field and taking away the Congress-NCP votes help opponents?
Those secular-minded in my constituency will vote for me and ensure my win. People will not vote for a party that has a leader like Varun Gandhi who uses foul language against Muslims. Despite living in Hindustan, we are being attacked. It is a good thing that Mayawati applied NSA on Varun.

 

There are parts of your constituency that are cosmopolitan, with an educated and well-to-do population. Are you not going to represent them?
In my constituency, there are six lakh minority voters, one lakh Uttar Pradesh natives and about two lakh Dalits. They make almost 76 per cent of the electorate. They are spread across the constituency and they can bring people to power. Apart from the concerns of Muslims and Dalits, there has been trouble for UP natives in Mumbai. I will also be speaking for them.

ITS CELEBRATION TIME IN INDIA. THE OLD ORDER GIVETH.

April 12, 2009
IT IS CELEBRATION TIME IN INDIA. THE OLD ORDER GIVETH. THE PRIME MINISTERIAL STAKE HAS COMPLETELY WRECKED THE OLD LOYALTIES, OLD FEARS, OLD LIMITS ON AMBITIONS OF THE PEOPLE THAT WERE LONG CHAINED TO THE BRAHMANICAL SOCIAL ORDER. THE REVOLUTION IN THE MAKING IS STILL BLOODLESS AND THE EARLIER THE HAVES STEP AWAY, THE SOONER AND SMOOTHER THE TRANSITION WILL TAKE HOLD. CONGRESS AND BJP SHOULD READ THE WRITINGS ON THE WALLS OF HISTORY IN THE MAKING.
 
GHULAM MUHAMMED, MUMBAI
 
——————————————————————————————————
http://www.indianexpress.com/news/mera-joota-jadugar/446030/
 
 
Mera joota jadugar
 
Meghnad DesaiPosted: Sunday , Apr 12, 2009 at 0115 hrs IST
 

As E-Day approaches, Indian politics appears to be having a nervous breakdown. As it is there is a highly charged atmosphere once an election is announced. Parties have no ideology and no discipline. Each is a collection of individual holders of large vote banks. So candidates denied tickets by one party migrate elsewhere or are poached by a rival party. The Samajwadi Party adopts Kalyan Singh as if Babri Masjid never happened.

Speeches have overstepped the normal limits. First Varun Gandhi and then Lalu Prasad Yadav in retaliation deserve reining in. Now Vaiko has obviously adopted the slogan: My terrorist is a hero, yours is a jihadi.

But the shoe-throwing has cheered things up. When Bush received the first shoe, I thought it was the sort of futile gesture a weak and powerless people resort to. It may have thrilled Arabs but it did not change the reality on ground. But Jarnail Singh has now proved me wrong. If you have a vibrant democracy and 24×7 media, then you can leverage a shoe into a political whirlwind. It is a mark of how overstretched the Congress leadership has become that no one saw the dangers of parading Jagdish Tytler’s innocence so close to election day. The CBI has lost whatever reputation it had for impartiality once it flip-flopped on the Mulayam Singh case. No one for a moment is convinced by its ‘clean chits’. Indeed the restoration of the CBI’s reputation will be the first challenge to any incoming government.

Indian politics dwells too much on communalism/secularism. The issue is of the rule of law. Can India treat all its citizens on an equal footing or does one only have to flash one’s identity or family to escape punishment with impunity? Three times in the last 25 years—Delhi 1984, Mumbai 1993 and Gujarat 2002—the executive has connived in systematic pogroms of minorities. The usual excuse is made of overburdened courts, interminable inquiry commissions, inordinate delay in acting on their recommendations. Anyone in politics has immunity from punishment and can act with impunity. Even a case like Satyam is not allowed to come to court until Andhra Pradesh is safely in election mode. How convenient for all concerned.

People are not fooled by these tergiversations any more. This time around the electorate is younger, better educated, more tech-savvy, and media focussed. So the anger is now palpable. The shoe throwers are articulate and middle-class. They bring to the surface the seething outrage that those in power, even as they pretend to be humble and prattle on about serving the public, have insulated themselves from the law. They move in a cocoon of high security and expect undeserved deference from their voters.

Thus the elections are carried on at two separate levels. Among the leaders, there is a panic that for those of a certain age, this is the last chance of ever becoming Prime Minister. In this group are Sharad Pawar, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Yadav. They have seen how time passed Arjun Singh by. They are praying for the Congress to be humbled enough to come begging for their support. If the Congress wins big this time, then the dynasty is back in business and Rahul at 38 is good for another 25 years at least.

It is this fear that has made the BJP fall apart. They may attack Manmohan Singh as weak but they know what will follow if he wins. So they are keeping an eye on the Third and the Fourth Fronts. There are several ambitious party leaders who see Advani’s age and fancy their chances if only they can get a seat at the top table.

This is where the best chance for BSP chief Mayawati comes. The Congress may need her but cannot offer her a possible Prime Ministerial slot. The BJP has co-habited with the BSP before. The BJP has Narendra Modi but he has enough problems getting a visa for foreign travel. Hence Behenji. It will be an uneasy marriage but the irony of the Parivar bringing a Dalit to the top job is delicious. Who said tilak, taraju aur talwar, inko maro joote char?