The Times of India had this self-congratulatory piece today-
The Times of India’s Lead India campaign seems to have deeply impacted one of the world’s biggest-selling authors, Jeffrey Archer. Commenting on the front page editorial (“Before They Count The Votes, Make Your Vote Count”) this paper carried on the morning of voting in different cities across the country, Archer said, “I thought it was a very, very powerful piece at two levels. First, it was a very important message to the Indian middle class, one whose sentiment I agreed with 100%: No vote, no opinion. If they do not vote, they should shut up, they have no right to an opinion.”
“Second, it struck me that this was the kind of leader (editorial) required in Nazi Germany in 1935. Hitler won by a handful of votes because the intelligent middle class allowed him to. If they had stood up and been counted, things might have been different. India, too, has a highly intelligent middle class. It may be well worth revisiting this piece in 10 years to see how the middle class has participated in the political process,” he said.
Archer may be an excellent storyteller, but he hardly understands politics, or voting. Democracies around the world use voting as a means to decide ideologies, policies and laws, not their implementations. And that is the process’ biggest flaw. I quote Rand yet again-
A majority vote is not an epistemological validation of an idea. Voting is merely a proper political device—within a strictly, constitutionally delimited sphere of action—for choosing the practical means of implementing a society’s basic principles. But those principles are not determined by vote.
There are some cases where voting is useful however, as a cry for help, or as an indicator of mass anger. Like the result in West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee didn’t have a positive agenda. But she, in combination with the Congress, did manage to offer a viable political alternative to the blood thirsty communists. And the people grabbed their chance. The signs were there, as John Elliott pointed out in a post/ FT article that I linked to some time back-
I’ve just been in a rural part of West Bengal’s Barrackpur constituency hearing devastating criticism of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), whose Left Front government has run the state for 32 years and is now being challenged in the general election by a local alliance of the local Trinamool Congress, led by Mamata Banerjee, and the Congress Party.
I have heard many allegations in the past about how the CPI(M) uses rough undemocratic tactics to fix elections, but have not before had a chance to learn first hand about the way that local people say its cadres control the state.
As word of our approach spread, women and men came out of their houses to the roadside to tell us they have been scared to vote in elections – echoing what we had earlier heard in a local town.
“Will I be able to vote?” asked Kiran Ghosh. “For the last many years we have not gone because when we go and put one foot inside the voting booth, the officials says your vote is cast, go away, so we come back home”.
“My [grown up] children don’t go to vote because they will be beaten up,” said Rekhi Ghosh, an elderly scheduled caste woman.
“They usually come at night a few days before voting and threaten us if we go to vote,” said Abdul Razzak. “They say they will cut you in two if you vote – and they poison the water”.
According to these and other stories, the CPI(M) has used such tactics to scare the poor into submission for many years…
The communists have received their comeuppance; they have been decimated in Bengal. The same thing should have happened to the Congress and the BJP in ’84 and ’02 respectively, but it didn’t, because it was not the Hindus who were slaughtered in their thousands, but Sikhs and Muslims. People only fight against terror when they are its victims. Otherwise, they “rationalize.”
But then voting “is” the root cause of the problem which voting is supposed to “solve.” When a huge “mandate” is used by politicians to do what they please, a West Bengal, and a Delhi, and a Gujarat is one of its side effects. As for Archer and Nazi Germany, an editorial would have done nothing. The Germans were fully aware of Hitler’s “plans.” They chose to close their eyes.
As far as I am concerned, West Bengal is “the” story of the election. As one commentator said on one of the news channels (I paraphrase) – before the elections, communism existed in three places in the world: Kerala, Kolkata and Cuba. Now it exists only in Cuba.
PS: While CNN-IBN got its projections “reasonably” right (I am being charitable), Yogendra Yadav did pull a rabbit out of his hat yesterday night – he correctly predicted that Jayalalitha will not “take” Tamil Nadu.