US Presidential Elections and India

Dr. Anjan K Das

So, what seemed inevitable over the past few weeks has happened, Barack Obama has won the elections and will be USA’s first (half) Black President. The newspapers and the websites are full of the historical significance of the victory. It is significant, no doubt, in many ways. He had to defeat the Democratic Party machine which was all for Hillary Clinton, and then the Republicans. What with the popularity (or otherwise) of George Bush and the economic crisis, this was the easier battle.
If we read today’s newspapers, it would appear that we are at the dawn of a new era where Aslan will rule and all will be well in the Kingdom of Narnia. However before being carried away by the euphoria, let us draw some lessons from history. The last time that a US Presidential election caused such a hullabaloo was when a peanut farmer from Georgia won the elections. No matter what sort of person he may have been, Jimmy Carter was a lousy president. He also presided over a decline of the liberals that lasted until the Clinton era which started in 1992. Barak Obama, let me point out, has no experience in government. He is unlikely to be able to put together a policy team that will provide a coherent strategy for the problems of the USA and of the world that it controls. It is far more likely that he will put together a coalition of prima donnas all of whom will pursue their own agenda in exclusion of everybody else’s leading to a resounding crash sooner rather than later. I hope that I am proved wrong (as I was when I predicted India’s chances in the Olympics), but the future will tell.
Similar enthusiasm was seen in our polity twice in living memory. Once was when at the end of the Emergency, the Janata Party took over. There was talk of the New Dawn, the beginning of an Era and so on, but all that we actually got was a collection of warring geriatricians and a Prime Minister who drank urine. Rajiv Gandhi’s election was also accompanied by the same fanfare but it ended with a whimper. Only he did have some good ideas, and I believe that the present Computer Revolution in India with the burgeoning Cyber industry is solely his credit. (Incidentally, then too, the Comrades fought tooth and nail to resist the entry of computers; “They would throw everybody out of work.”) God if somebody could throw our Writers’ Buildings clerks out of work!!
There are some lessons that the politicians in India can profitably learn. One is the essential civility with which the election is fought. There is no reason to believe that the Republicans do not hate the Democrats as much as the BJPites do the Congressmen, but their behaviour is always decent. The speeches both by McCain and Obama after the election showed respect for the decencies of debate and a recognition of the fact that the country is more important than either of them or their parties.
Also, I am sure nothing was more galling to Hillary Clinton than to lose the nomination to a political greenhorn. This loss completely shattered her dream of being the first woman President and the dream is now unlikely to be realized. However this did not prevent her and her husband, who dislikes Obama even more than her from campaigning for him in the crunch states. In India, she would have joined the nearest opposition party and competed for the sole purpose of having him defeated in the elections. The only examples that I can think of in Indian (post independence) politics are the sacrifices made by Sardar Patel, who stuck to Pandit Nehru’s Government even as he felt that he had been short changed, and to give the devil his due, Lal Krishna Advani who loyally supported Atal the Muddle throughout his 6 year bumble in power.
Maybe, we will see something like this in the next elections. Imagine Mayawati coming to power, with Sonia graciously giving her the support to bring up the numbers! She has a record of doing the unexpected! Imagine!!!

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"US Presidential Elections and India" by @bongbuzz

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