Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lack of exit polls this time

Because the EC has banned it till the 10th of May. Why?

The only reason I can think of the 10th May date is that other state elections – like the West Bengal one – end on 10th May. May be the EC thinks that exit poll results in Kerala may affect West Bengal elections, etc.

On the whole, publishing exit polls before original results, while giving some good fun to the politics junkies, are useless for democratic purposes. The only use of exit polls is for statistical and demographic analysis: caste, religion, issue, class basis in the voting pattern of a population. And in case of the Kerala-West Bengal situation like the current one, we do run the risk of manufactured exit polls to suit political purposes, and the use of this as a campaign device, disadvantaging sincere, non-rich political parties.

The right of the powerful to break the law

When someone famous broke the queue as though it was their right, the polling officer did not accept it as the way things should be. Instead he followed the due process, and asked the people in the queue: "Does anyone oppose this?". Instead of being afraid of authority, the famous actress' fame and power, the mob and the police who generally discourage lone dissenting voices , someone was brave enough to raise one. Instead of playing the killjoy with some lame rubbish, he justified his opposition by saying grand principles about democracy. Instead of mob justice : the mob labeling him with an epithet - 'jobless' is typical - and asking him to shut up - and then supporting the actress and the right of the powerful to break due process-, and on-the-spot-police-justice : the police asking the rebel voice to "shut up and not create any problem, otherwise you will be in lockup"-, the mob was silent, and the police enforced the due process. That is: because there's someone challenging it, the book says : the famous actress cannot break the queue. This, while not being violent or aggressive, but placating the actress, suggesting that she can come later when the queue is less, and not saying anything bad to the rebel guy, just accepting his dissent.

This perfect, Utopian narrative, about law being enforced, due process followed, is something we can be proud of. I am happy about this.

The pessimist in me wants to bring in the role of Asianet camera in this Utopian drama - in due process being followed, and the police not yelling at the rebel guy - then that would be a forced Utopia, a kitsch. My own experience says this is the correct version. But let's be optimists for now, perhaps we cannot generalize, perhaps things have changed...

Now, back to what happened:

A fan is allowed to do that gesture, of vacating your place in the queue for your favorite actress, yes.

An actress assuming that she deserves to vote ahead of all others: No.

If she wanted to not stand in the queue, she could have done what other famous people do: come and vote in the morning, or in the evening (which she eventually did), when the queue will be very less.

Whether or not the guy was sober, what he did was perfectly sober.

I am forced to write this clarification, because several people in facebook, youtube and even in media: Mathrubhumi etc - support the actress' right to break the law, and finds that the problem was with "only" one guy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Muslim kids in Modiland

"Pakistan SHALL pursue this policy and do all it can to create a sense of security and confidence in the Non-Muslim minorities of Pakistan. We do not prescribe any school boy tests for their loyalty. We shall not say to any Hindu citizen of Pakistan ‘if there was war would you shoot a Hindu?"

--Mohammad Ali Jinnah


Friday, April 8, 2011

The India Against Corruption Farce

Recently I decided that the momentary rant blogposts should give way to more thoughtful analysis, and hence I should not publish anything here without sitting on it for a few weeks, rethinking, editing and rewriting. But the anger makes me feel like breaking this decision. Something has to be said.

A bunch of social activists draft the conditions of a law that appears to be impossible, autocratic and even childish(1).

Some of these activists go on hunger strike, demanding that the law be enacted by the government.

The media goes to a frenzy, like they do everyday, saying that the activists are The Right fighting against the corrupt government, The Wrong. They show a 300 people crowd and say, the protests are at the scale never seen before. Pictures of Mahatma Gandhi - who is not allowed to be a bisexual - are shown. The main activist is a Gandhian. He's also a former army man, says the campaign website but of course they will not tell the whole truth - that he was a driver in the army - because that will make his credentials appear a lot inferior for the audience: the urban middle class.

The urban middle class of the country, fresh from an ego boost and sudden synchronization of nationalism from the country's recent "World cup" victory - in a game played only by around 10 countries, with its regulator's headquarters shifted from London to Dubai, whose largest source of money easily happens to be India itself - , and yet manages to be the mass pill / safety valve for frustration, hears some slogans like "India Against Corruption", and decides to join the "movement" - mostly in Facebook. They do not read the draft law, or its conditions, but they think that is the solution for the problems in the country, and should be enacted, but the government is playing the obvious villain, so à la Rang de Basanti, à la Youth for Equality, à la candlelight vigils after 26/11 Mumbai attack, voila, let's support the Gandhian against the biggest problem: Corruption.

The media runs a live coverage of a journalist, who, while gasping for air due to the excitement, tells us that the protests are spreading.

More people see the news, join the facebook group. Many people see their friends talking about this and they too join the facebook group. Some are even going to protest. There's even a protest planned in my town - a student city in France - and their event plan says: "We are organizing this in an open public space, inviting the local media and informing the Indian Consulate in France about our reasons and efforts". Several people says this is our Tahrir square revolution. Most of them still dont know much about the law, except that it is against corruption, and must be good. Bollywood actors starts announcing their support. Some call for the cricket team - the current national heroes - to support.

Media creates a "positive feedback loop". Something great is happening. More people join.

The opposition parties also supports the protest, and says the government should give in. Just like how they normally oppose government policies even though they dont really oppose the policy itself.

The media broadcasts this too. But no one really talks about the prospective law itself. Everyone is quite sure this law is The Solution. An austere Gandhian cannot be wrong.

Finally, forced into a corner by the images of protests and the shrill voices of news anchors in 24x7 media, the government yields, and decides to implement the law.

The last step hasn't happened yet, but is that how this farce going to end?

(1): The darn salient features ZIP file (If the site is down, try this)

Update: NDTV's coverage of the protests:

As the government tries to hold its ground, Mr Hazare is being urged by lakhs of Indians across the world not to cede. Mr Hazare has long used hunger strikes as his tool of protest. But a younger audience of Indians has made his acquaintance through his India Against Corruption campaign. In colleges across the country, students are fasting in solidarity with him. In cities across the country, housewives, executives and schoolchildren are taking the time to join rallies that have a singular agenda - zero-tolerance for corruption.