10. 30 a.m Mumbai, India
The exit polls have predicted a clean sweep for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led alliance and the actual results so far seem to be in agreement. People are frustrated. Congress led alliance has been in charge of the Central (Federal) Government for the last ten years. The country is in a mood for change. People seem to be frustrated with the lack of accountability and the slow pace of change, not to speak of nepotism. The Congress has been dominated by the descendants of one family, the family of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. His great grandson, Rahul Gandhi and granddaughter-in-law head the party now. The electorate is pinning its hopes on Narendra Modi and BJP, the only other credible choice. Counting the votes has just begun and the results show who is leading right now.
Congress and its allies: 71
BJP and its allies: 306
BJP : 276
BJP and its allies are ahead in all the seats in Mumbai too. It looks like BJP may be able to win a simple majority on its own.
Update One: If the current results hold, for the first time in thirty years a single party will be able to form a government without the help of any allies.
2.30 p. m
Update Two: BJP ally Shiv Sena’s Arvind Savant has won the election for the Bombay South constituency, where I am right now. This seat was held by the Congress since 2004.
In his debut on HBO, John Oliver covered the Indian elections better than his real news cable TV counterparts. Speaking of Oliver’s segment, I too liked Rahul Gandhi’s vest; khadi or L. L. Bean? Nice subtle take-down of Narendra Modi. The hologram is ridiculous, as are the face mask wearing supporters he did not show. I had not seen Indian TV in years, yikes they seem to have devolved from the time when the boring and sedate Doordarshan was the only game in town for political coverage. The televised shouting match was worse than a school yard fight. Both the interviewer and the interviewee kept repeating, how dare you, umpteenth times, new word now, please, kthx. Also, loved the fact that Oliver completely ignored Arvind Kejriwal whose entire political persona and campaign reeks of performance art. A brief primer on the personalities and parties in this election here.
BTW, I had no idea that McLaughlin Group was still on. Have the changed their set and guests since the Cretaceous era? In all seriousness though, the Newshour and BBC World News on PBS have had fairly decent coverage of the Indian elections.
In his weekly Letter from India, Manu Joseph digests Indian politics into bite sized morsels and spits out fact-free gibberish for the readers of the international edition of the New York Times. Let me give you two recent examples. This is an excerpt is from a column published a couple of weeks ago:
The noise on social media, which is largely in favor of Mr. Modi, contains the low-stakes patriotism of
Indian residents of the United States who do not have to live through the
consequences of their long-distance affair with nationalism. They tend to be liberal
Democrats in the United States, but political conservatives in India.
Joseph lumps naturalized United States citizens of Indian origin, their citizen children; Indian citizens who are either Permanents Residents (Green Card holders) or long term but temporary (student and work) visa holders, all in one group. He then asserts that they are all supporters of Mr. Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party or the BJP, without providing any data to back his claim. Surely, it must’ve been due to the efforts of Mr. Modi’s alleged fans that he was denied a travel visa by the United States government, following Godhra.
His latest column is even better, where he writes about the new breed of the Indian politician, who is in it for public service,
But then circumstances forced the voters to evolve and from them have risen
the mutants — engineers, activists, corporate executives, journalists, former
government officers and at least one actress — who have become politicians out of
necessity. Naïve and upright, they view politics as a transformational public
How is this different from any standard-issue politician, anywhere in the world? I have to yet come across a politician who says that they are running for office to satisfy their own megalomania or to make a quick buck. Also, In what world is being naïve supposed to be a compliment either for a politician or any adult for that matter?
For a supposed expert on India, his lack of the knowledge about Indian political history is astounding. Brave citizen activists are nothing new in Indian politics, we don’t even have to go as far back as Mohandas Gandhi’s generation. Surely, Mr. Joseph has heard of the socialist leaders, like Madhu Dandavate, George Fernandes, Mrinal Gore etc., who risked jail time for their courageous stance against the then Congress leader Mrs. Indira Gandhi when she had suspended democratic rule in the mid-seventies. Also, Indian politics is replete with actors-turned politicians, unless Manu has been living under a rock I he should know of both N. T. Ramarao and M. G. Ramachandran. As for a journalist-turned politician, I can think of Arun Shourie. Either Mr. Joseph has not done his homework or he has nothing but contempt for his readership. Since he thinks he can shovel horse-shit their way and they wouldn’t know any better.
His examples of the brave new political breed are Meera Sanyal, the ex-CEO of the Indian operations of the multinational bank, Royal Bank of Scotland and Tom Friedman’s friend, Nandan Nilekani, who supposedly came up with the flat world metaphor. Mr. Nilekani was the CEO of one of India’s biggest body shops, the outsourcing giant Infosys, for about five years.
I fail to see what is so wonderfully brave about these two Indian versions of Mr. Bloomberg. Mr. Nilekani is political novice whereas Ms. Sanyal contested the Mumbai-South seat in 2009 as an Independent and got less than 2% of the total votes cast. I will have more about Ms. Sanyal and her chances, later.