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Indian elections 2014

The 2014 elections of India are over, the verdict is out, the process of getting the mandate from 500+ million people across 930,000+ polling booths have been completed, the happiness of the victors and the despair of the losers are out in the open. Yet, as a common man, I find this particular election fascinating – specially with the verdict that has come up. Not going into the technicalities (the percentage vote swings, the conversion of these vote swings into actual seats, etc), my personal point of view of this election is based on some trends that I tried to think through from the results.

Let me start with the overall verdict – the BJP and NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi has got a thumping majority of 333+ seats and the main other party, Congress party, that has ruled for maximum number of years in Indian history have been reduced to shambles with 44 seats only. So, the verdict has been strong and clear – a change after so many elections that has happened in last 15 years. To me, this verdict has established or challenged many things that we have been used to for last so many years:

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This has challenged the very concept of “dynasty politics” – a modern era “quota” system followed by Congress party. I find it strange that such a big and historic party still believes in the principle that the leader of the party has to come from a family with a surname of Gandhi, irrespective of the fact whether the person is capable enough to lead or not. The general perception of the leader was “weak” (which was apparent in his many speeches and “deadly” few interviews) – but still a majority of more capable leaders of the same party still believes that the name “Gandhi” will mesmerise the voters even in today’s world. Only time will tell whether this thought is eliminated or whether we see another member of that family trying to steer the ship in the future.

People are always sick and tired of corruption and scams – this has been true in the past, in the present and will be true in the future. But the frustration increases when scam after scam are exposed and millions of taxpayer’s money are siphoned off, the government, the ruling party leadership either remains mute spectators, or tries to “defend” the same as the first reaction, or tries to do some “lip service”. Add to the event of the head of the country remains silent or looks for inspiration to the party high command before uttering a word. In effect, corruption with “proxy governance” was something that happened in last few years and people have had enough of this, I believe.

The personal charisma of a leader counts heavily – sometimes much more than the party he/she represents. That happened with Narendra Modi. In spite of having some controversial past, the branding, the dreams spelt out by that person appealed to most of the people, including the 100+ million of new voters. Of course, there has to be a vision, a concrete plan to transform the nation – but at the end, you often tend to go with the perception of a person when you feel “Yes, I do think this person probably can transform the nation better than the others”.

It is also time to move on from the past that is more than 5-7 years old. New generation, today’s youth hardly believe in drooling on history (does not matter whether it is perceived as “good” or “bad”). Lives have changed, tha pace of life has changed – hence, we do want things to change fast and very often, the time period allocated for the change is in 1-2 years, if not in months. Yes, history is important – but more important is the vision for tomorrow, vision for our own lives – rather than the rich or not-so-rich history of the parties. So who cares what has happened 7-10 years ago – let’s discuss what will happen in next 1-2 years ! This probably scored heavily in the decision-making process as “development” took more priority than “RTI”, “women empowerment”, etc – rightfully so. Because with “inclusive growth”, other parameters like empowerment will come automatically.

The delivery contrast between two main persons help differentiate the difference much strongly. Hence, the more one leader failed to articulate the vision and instead kept on harping on non-priority things, the more strong the other leader was becoming in the minds of the people. So, a poor performance of a main player helps the others – now add to the fact that the other person by himself had more charisma and vision — then it becomes a double whammy to the poorer performer. So, field the best candidate who is best suitable for the role –> basic stuff, but often forgotten by some.

Finally, my belief that “development is more important than caste, creed & religion” got  more strengthened in this election. In a country like India, where the culture, the dialect of the same language, food habits, etc change probably every 50 km across the length and breadth; harping on religion, appealing for votes from a particular religion or caste do have an impact on votes. And probably this happened this time as well – but overall, I have a hunch that people disregarded this caste/religion play much more as compared to last few elections. I find it sickening when this divisive play, this polarisation of people is even attempted by so many parties.

Probably, this is the time when all of us should introduce ourselves to the external world as an “Indian” instead of a “Bengali, Marathi, etc” or a “North Indian, South Indian, etc” or any such classifications. That way, we will not allow anyone trying to “divide” us going forward.

Let’s make our country proud by taking this first step together !

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One incident …..

Thirty years ago…..

It was a normal school day. All the kids were playing during the lunch break. The entire place was filled up with the pleasant cacophony of the innocent. There was this 9 year old boy playing with his friends. His structure of only skin and bones with no flesh did not match with his vigor and enthusiasm. Then all of a sudden the incident happened. The boy fell down with the entire weight of his body on his left elbow, which could not sustain the momentary pressure. It became clear later on that his left elbow was broken.

However, elders have told that when a boy becomes a man, he never cries. The urge to become a man was too strong, yet the pain was unbearable. With the help of his friends he wobbled to the sports teachers office, who gave a cursory look, seemed totally disinterested, told the boy to lie down on the sick-bed, got the telephone number of the boy’s father and called him to come and pick up his son…. and finally disappeared from the room.

The struggle between becoming a man and the pain was immense….. the boy bit his lip and tried hard to resist the tears, yet they came one by one until it became a steady flow while the boy writhed in pain on the sick-bed. Then came the white-robed person by accident….

He saw the boy on the bed and enquired what was the issue and when he realised the seriousness of the same, he left his work and sat beside the boy for the next one hour till the boy’s father came. Continuously he was stroking the head of the boy hoping that this will bring relief to the pain. He was also trying to sing, make some jokes through out, again hoping that the pain will subside soon.

Yet, the tears rolled off the young face of the boy who could hardly move because of the jolt he received from his broken elbow. But the elderly gentleman was wiping off the tears, singing, telling stories, caressing the boy’s head… doing all these things for ‘another’ student of the school, for a boy whose name also he did not know till that point of time. And because of the continuous pain, because of the great care and fatherly love, the boy slowly went to a slumber…  and yet the robed person stayed besides him in case the boy wakes up….

Finally the boy’s father came to pick up his son and take him to a hospital. And he also saw the tenderness of this robed person, who lifted the boy on his own hands and took him to the car.

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Thirty years later….

The boy has grown up and had become a man, and yet he still remembers this incident which brings in tears in respect to that great human being, that elderly robed person working in the school.

The great person’s name was Father Joseph Sassel, who came from Belgium at a young age and spent his lifetime at St. Xavier’s School, Calcutta totally dedicated to help young kids grow up in the ‘Small School’ not with just knowledge, but lots of values in life.

And the boy was me…

I write this as a tribute to the respected “Father”s in our school, who in spite of our pranks and naughty incidents, believed from their core of their heart that each one of us have great potential…..  and dedicated their lives to develop us to be a better HUMAN BEING. Their contribution to make us “independent” is immense and as a selfish individual, I can think of this incident on my country’s independence day more than anything else.

The balancing act

The recent but year-long (more than a year ?) crisis at Greece has the potential impact across the world – probably we are already looking at the early symptoms. The stock market in India is hovering around 16000 mark against a 19000 value not so long ago – and this is in a country which is still projected for a 7% growth where many of the other countries are under negative or zero growth. And what we are witnessing in Greece will probably be repeated across various countries if things just cascade down and across.

That brings out the question of the balancing act each government has to think and plan for – the balance between ‘profit’ and ‘work for society’. In blunt terms, whether a country needs to work like a CEO of a corporation where profit and growth are the only key words and where profit means excess funds for further investment; or whether the country needs to look to ‘serve’ the people, even if a majority of the people are not that much ‘productive’ (read as ‘poor’, ‘jobless’, etc) or do not earn a healthy value of revenue per person. Probably, that’s the dilemma each of the governments face – does not matter whether they follow capitalism or socialism. Even the so-called capitalist states like US, UK have so much socialism built within their social security system, that the so-called socialist or semi-socialist states like China or India will find hard to believe !

Even within an extended family, we will find family members having different levels of cash-flows – and unless the family shares the ‘burden’ amongst themselves, some of the members might be under debt and some might be using a 100 buck note to light a cigarette ! Again, here is the balancing act ….

If we extend this concept from a 15-20 member family to a nation of say 100 million, the problem becomes really complex – isn’t it ? And what happens if we extend this to a group of nations trying to follow a common philosophy and currency like that of the European Union ? The resolution to the problem becomes so much difficult, even when all the members say “we will all help each other to play the balancing act”. In case any member says “I am doing well myself and hence I am not in a position to help another one”, what happens ? You can guess !

So, basically we are playing the balancing act within our own spheres and so are the nations. This balancing act will never go – but hypothetically, if all the members are of “equal” prosperity and having no ‘inequality’, then there is no need of any balancing act – as balance needs to happen only when there is an inequality. But, I added the word ‘hypothetical’ as inequality will be always there in a practical world and equality is an utopian concept ….

Hence, let’s try learn the balancing act as much as possible – because we will all need that at some point of time (if not experienced already) …

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