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.

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  • yet_another_hindu_infidel  On May 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    a very surprising result i must say. i rolled with the rest of the exit polls surveys and thought it would all end with a hung assembly but that won’t seem to be happening this time. a stable govt. can play a more liberal role and i find peace in that.

    the whole secular game made brutal digs into the public psyche. the self-proclaimed secular party managed to erect a university of the same and was seen passing diplomas of secularism on the scene.

    another reason for the surprise was the low voter turn out which was the lowest i think, maybe a record low. both the congress and the bjp had started speculating about it as a favourable point but i guess we all knew why that was so. minorities and the conscience alert public are more concerned about the world they live in than the majority who simply don’t care – the “kya fayeda, kuch nahi badalega” attitude. no push until the sh!t hit’s the ceiling.

    another reason was the exit polls results itself. was there a conspiracy? those surveys clouded the BJP’s strategies and filled them up with optimism funk. if that wasn’t deceiving then i don’t know what is. the BJP was groping in the dark all that while and had little clue what was happening.

    the left had begun digging a grave for themselves ever since they opposed the nookie deal. then came that stupid comment about sandeep unnikrishnan and that sealed there unfortunate fate.

    what emerged out of all this was a sense of monopoly. the BJP was made the outcast. the left thought the BJP would win and hence they started poaching on regional parties in an effort to end the verdict in a hung assembly and the left would play the king maker. but instead the left went down and took the regional parties with it. the verdict shifted and all the left votes went to the congress. BJP was left all alone biting dust. congress proved they were winners. others proved they were morons.

    the good thing about all this is that we have an almost stable govt. in place and they could face little resistance passing reforms. though, whatever optimism that had left has faded away. after each election, there’s that feeling of coming change but not this time. it’s like the elections never happened. back to square one.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On May 18, 2009 at 1:09 am

      I don’t buy this analysis or anything that the media is purveying. The only thing I am sure of is that Mamata won – and the Left in Bengal lost – because of Nandigram and Singur. Everything else has multiple causes/ reasons to it, mostly local in nature, and I can only speculate.

      Here’s what I think – Punjab, Delhi, Bihar, Bengal, MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala are not surprising in any way (except Bengal because of the magnitude of Mamata’s victory).

      That leaves UP, Orissa, Maharashtra, Andhra and Tamil Nadu-

      * UP – I have no idea why Mayawati lost; she polled the highest percentage of votes in the state (see UP here). The only reason I can think of is the one Yogendra Yadav gave yesterday – her vote is evenly distributed across the state while her opponents’ votes are concentrated in pockets. That leaves her vulnerable to different parties winning in different areas. She should have won 40 if not 45 seats. About the Congress’ resurgence, I don’t recall who said it, but some one did say a few days back on one of the channels that there is a “buzz” about the Congress in UP. I thought he was joking. Turns out he wasn’t.

      * Orissa – Much has been written about Patnaik. I think a weak opposition (Congress) and Kandhamal (BJP) did the trick for him. Did he offer cheap rice? That might be a factor if he did.

      * Maharashtra – MNS has cut into the SS-BJP vote. In Pune, even BSP (who fielded a Brahmin candidate) did it. One reason why they couldn’t take advantage of the pathetic Congress-NCP government’s record. I think things will change by the assembly elections later this year.

      * Andhra – No clue. Maybe YSR, Patnaik and Modi are sailing in the same boat.

      * Tamil Nadu – Free television sets and rice, everyone says – now. Maybe.

      What didn’t have any impact – the nuclear deal, terrorism, the recession (Swami, and Sainath of the Hindu, feel its the farmers who did the trick).

      Predicting the result of Indian elections is a crazy job. You can make sense of most states, but there will be some where you won’t know what the hell happened. Like this time round.

  • Raj  On May 22, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    In the nandigram and singur struggle, the core of the action group was another communist party, The Socialist Unity Centre of India (SUCI). The media did not give any credit to them. But Mamatha knows it. Trinamool’s electoral success owe much to this group. Having said that Mamata deserve full credit as a leader in the struggle. What was Congrees’ role during nandigram and Singur ? They were spectators and Pranab even supported CPM. Media ignores this but Mamata,Trinamool and people of WB understand this.The success formula is not Trinamool-Congress, but Trinamool-SUCI.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On May 22, 2009 at 9:52 pm

      I was aware of a couple of groups supporting M, but didn’t know one of them was this. As you say, the (national) media isn’t bothered about such details.

      # “What was Congrees’ role during nandigram and Singur ?”
      Nothing positive – after all, it was surviving on Left’s support. But during this election, the Trinamool-Congress alliance did offer people a “viable” non-Left alternative. That’s why it was useful.

      As for SUCI, or even Trinamool, if they continue with the Left’s economic policies, Bengal has no future. In that sense, communism is dead.

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