Sunday, July 01, 2007

Clinton , Obama, and Shekhawat(2)

Electronic Voting Machine and the election officers being transported on an elephant?!!!..( A desert border so remote that polling booths arrive by camel/elephant caravan. One jungle district so inaccessible that only three voters are registered....... )

One returns from a short visit to the US, with news about Hilary Clinton and Barrack Obama coming out of one's ears. Will she be nominated, wont she be nominated ? Is America ready for a Woman President ? Why does this question need to be asked ? Is it time for the US to set an example and nominate Obama , who has so many interesting qualifications, but is noticed, clearly, predominantly for his non-whiteness?

Politics is strange.

The reasons that people do not like Hilary Clinton, are probably the same reasons that are ignored in, say, Cheney; an ability to partcipate in business deals, and an even better ability to emerge from them, battering others , self unscathed.

In any other country, a woman lawyer, who has actually seriously worked as one, been on the right side of the White House fence for several years, travelled around a world that doesnt constantly contain Europe, been elected a Senator from New York, produced a book about her observations about travels across continents. also understands things like microfinance, and finally, an additional qualification , been and continues to be , a mother - she would be considered a great candidate to run for the highest office.

Politics is even stranger in other countries .

India, no novice at having strong women heads of state, real and /or virtual, is in the throes of decsion making, about nominating and getting the electoral college to elect its next President, Pratibha Patil Shekhawat, a woman. To confuse matters further, her main opponent is also named Shekhawat.

Actually, her being a woman is not an issue at all.

Pratibha Patil Shekhawat (she is married to a Mr Shekhawat), also studied to be a lawyer. It is not known if she ever practised s one. Active in the sort of typical rural politics practised in India, that majorly has to do with starting co-operative sugar factories and banks, with government subsidies and blessings, she was a minsiter in the state government, years ago. In the tradition of those who swear blind allegiance to the first family of politics, she was appointed Governer of a northern state, ruled by the opposition. Recently nominated by the ruling party as their candidate for President, her being a woman is a non-issue.

The rank and file of the party is busy applauding her choice since the choice is basically dictated by another woman, who no one dares contradict. (Vive la femme ?)

The fun part , is that her main opponent is also a Shekhawat; except he is currently the vice-president, he is 84, supremely marinated in politics as practised on the subcontinent. He has been chief minister of the state where his opponent recently resigned as Governor.

The incumbent President, who will not get another chance , thanks to his habit of being an independent thinker, is probably the popular choice of the common man. (The common man doesnt vote for President. The electoral college, consisting of folks voted in by John Public , votes for the President). A scientist, a scholar, a man with a deep appreciation of things, both nuclear, horticultural, and in between ; a man who excelled at communication with the younger generation, replied himself to emails from school children, and was well versed in the scriptures of the major religions that are important to India, and a man who was not afraid to ask questions , was probably what we needed .

What a contrast.

The US clobbers its citizenry with an information-overload regarding the possible presidential candiddates. Candidates visit the biggest industries, address the employees, answer questions. There are debates; the debates are analyzed; people get secretly depressed over a drop of so many percentage points in public approval. At the end of the day, if Hilary loses, it will be because she is a woman. If Obama loses it will be because he is partially nonwhite.

In India, the information is all secret. There are no debates, no analyses. There are only newspaper exposures and reports, presumably prompted by interested parties releasing what they consider bombshell new items. An ability to start an engineering college and treat it as a business opportunity for great profit makes you an education czar. An ability to extract government approval for starting a cooperative bank, grant loans (preferably to your relatives posing as you) and then write them off, is standard qualification today for aspiring to a political post. When all else fails (or doesnt have that much impact), the regional aspect is emphasized. An entire state is supposed to shake itself out of the monsoon stupor and be thrilled to bits about its "daughter" being nominated to the highest post in the land.

But look at the similarities.

Just like every American President has had a brother involved in things he shouldnt be involved in, the current leading Indian contender has a brother who is being sued by someone for murder.

Just like some US Presidents have invoked their special communication chanel to God, in an effort to justify their destructive actions somewhere in the world, we in India, hear about :

(1) a candidate's planets aligning themselves just so, starting a certain date, so that she has no option but to win the selection trials, so to speak; so speaks the family's loyal astrolger, and,

(2) A hitherto dead sage speaking to the presidential candidate through another living sage's body, and the possible future president lady commentating favourably and respectfully on it.

May be what we need is presidential debates here. Not shouting matches, as is the custom developed in Parliament, with microphones and furniture being flung around and others ducking the missiles, with a proficeincy which would amaze the best cricketers facing a bouncer. But some kind of impartial media person, highly trusted and respected by the citizenry , conducting an illuminating debate on issues.

And maybe we can make the US elections more fun, by exporting astrolgers, wise men, sages, flingable furniture, and before we forget, voting machines.

We in India, have successfully used them in several elections now, with a watch dog election commission monitoring its use, and if required, ordering revoting. (And whats more, doing that).

Is Florida listening ? (Or is that the next thing to be outsourced .....:-) ?

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