The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly… of Loksabha Elections 2014

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It is celebration time in BJP camp. They have not only managed a phenomenal victory, beyond the estimates or apprehensions of people, they are now the biggest political party of India.

While the people who voted for BJP or its allies are jubilant, the rest sixty some percent are aghast at the turn of events. Many feel pissed at the state of our democracy where a party gets to govern the country with only 31% vote share. I find that line of thought somewhat irrational since we have always had a fractured polity right from the first election of free India. No party has ever managed to secure more than 50% votes in India. I guess we will have to live with this until we have a two-party system; which of course means forever.

Whatever the results, it sure was an eventful and energetic election. If we look back – for the sake of intellectual curiosity and some possible learning – we find a lot of things that one can categorize into the good, the bad and the ugly.

The good
o After thirty years, one party has got a clear majority, meaning India would have a stable government for next five years.
o The entire country witnessed higher voting percentage, which in itself is a great trend.
o Election Commission has done a tremendous job at holding clean and impartial elections. It spared none when disciplinary lines were broken.
o A conditional good – each failure is an opportunity to learn. I am sure if they care enough to pause and think, most political parties can find a lot to learn. I sincerely hope someday they will consider giving up religion and caste based politics.

The Bad
o It was disheartening to see the biggest political party (before the results), Indian National Congress, believes more in dynasty-based politics rather than merit based democracy. In this old and experienced party, they could not find a more able PM-candidate than an inexperienced young prince who is yet to prove his mettle.
o The religion and caste based politics is very much alive in India.
o The inequality and lack of meritocracy in the election results is disturbing. Among the winners:
– only 11% are women
– 63% are over the age of 50 years
– 23% are only moderately educated, with 12th pass and below

The Ugly
o Some of the hate speeches and derogatory statements were extremely embarrassing – Togadia, Ramdev, Imraan Masood, Ramdev, Giriraj Singh and Siddaramaiah are some of the culprits, to name a few.
o Arvind Kejriwal was attacked multiple times; his primary fault was he tried to be more accessible to people. Some BJP leaders argued he was beaten for his poor performance in Delhi. They probably do not know, there are thousands (if not lakhs) in India who would love to lay their hands on Mr Modi, if he just dares to be just as accessible.
o There were several instances of AAP volunteers being thrashed by other BJP and Congress volunteers. The uglier part was that the BJP and Congress leaders did not care to condemn the attacks.
o The crime statistics of MPs have worsened:
– The percentage of MPs with criminal cases has gone up from 30% in 2009 to 34% in 2014 Loksabha elections. Up from 15% in 2009, 21% of MPs have declared serious criminal cases that include cases related to murder, attempt to murder, communal disharmony, kidnapping, crimes against women etc.
– BJP, now our ruling party, is no cleaner than the rest – 35% of their MPs face criminal charges. Out of 28 winners who have declared cases related to murder or attempt to murder, 14 are from BJP.

These crime statistics will sure make Aamir Khan a very unhappy man, just like the staff of organizations like ADR (Association of Democratic Reforms) and SNS (Satark Nagrik Sangathan) who worked for years educating masses on the importance of voting for clean candidates. From now on, perhaps EC should make all voters go through a short episode of Satyamev Jayate right before they vote.

What lies ahead?
While the emphatic victory of BJP has caused ecstasy among many, many others are mum, and some are gripped in fear. They fear BJP’s unprecedented success might empower and embolden those fanatic elements (the likes of RSS, VHP, BD) who may feel they own this country now, and may consider this a perfect opportunity to suppress the minorities. While their fears are not ungrounded, I would like to stress that this country still belongs to all of us equally, the one hundred and twenty crore citizens of India. I am sure Modi and BJP understand that – isn’t that why they decided to tone down their Hindutva rhetoric in this election. Besides, I doubt if Modi would commit the same mistake twice, especially when the ghosts of 2002 have haunted him enough already. Plus, I am sure, somewhere deep in his heart he is nurturing the ambition to hold the PM post for multiple terms. A mistake like 2002 could wipe out their ambitions forever.

Back to optimism… it is the perfect opportunity for Mr Modi and BJP to prove their credentials. Let me emphasize, clear majority only means a perfect opportunity, not a perfect government. The quality of governance will unfold itself over the next few years.

That being said, it is time for all, the believers and the non-believers, to wait and watch. And, watch we must, so we are not fooled again by another bunch of inefficient and self-serving politicians.

Good luck India! I hope sanity prevails!

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The Beginning

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The birth of a baby, the first day of school, the first day of college, the first job, the first kiss, the marriage – all beginnings, best cherished in their truest form. They are perfect in their caged moment, and with time, the excitement only ebbs away, leaving an imperfect world with you.

I wondered if I was defying the law of nature as I lifted by bags and left the house. I did not have to tiptoe; Pooja had decided not to come back home after a late night party. Yet again!

She had found another life without me. So must I.

It was still dark, just like my life. The winter sun would not be out for another hour or so, making the cab ride short and quick, leaving enough time for me to sit on the platform and reminisce my failures some more. I had made some extremely wrong beginnings in my life – a career I did not enjoy and a marriage failed to find love. Was it the beginnings that had failed me, or did I fail those beginnings. I could not decide. Either way, my life would never be the same again. Some wrong beginnings compromise the quality of life forever. I concluded.

The first rays of amber-coloured sun interrupted my thoughts. A beautiful dawn had rocked the world into motion. I envied the sun for its resilience; no matter how dark or long the night is, it comes back the next morning, without losing its value or vigour. It provides a meaningful beginning that moves the entire world, day after day. I guess it can for it is an unlimited source of energy. I wished I could have some of that energy to make a fresh new beginning, without the pain of my past failures. What stopped me, I wondered.

I wrote all the painful memories from the past down on a piece of paper. When the train arrived, I boarded it clutching the crumbled paper in my hand.

A new city was waiting for me, with a career option I had always dreamed of. Standing at the door, I waited for the train to pick up speed. Then, I looked at my hand that held two symbols of my miserable life – my past failures written down on paper, and the wedding ring. My past must not compromise the quality of my future; I reminded myself. I took out the diamond ring, put it inside the paper and squeezed the paper into a ball, as small as I could. With all the energy I had, I threw that miserable ball away from my life, burying the painful memories back into the city where they belonged.

I looked at the sun, and thanked it… for showing me the path to a new dawn!

Can we all get along?

With the parliament elections on, a political mayhem is rocking our nation once again. I don’t recall being so involved in politics ever before in my life. I wonder if it is just a side effect of age; or being in Delhi is to blame for it, because this city seems to be stuck in a never ending cycle of elections.

The good thing is we are seeing a much higher participation from educated folks. And, their involvement is not just limited to discussion; they did help improve the voting percentage in recently concluded Delhi elections. I think I can safely attribute this to two important factors – Modi and AAP. Without commenting much, I just hope this phenomenon is here to stay.

Citizens actively involved in making a responsible choice sounds absolutely perfect, but what worries me is the “political extremism” I witness on a daily basis. Supporters of one party wish for complete annihilation of other political parties. Some go on to the extent of bad-mouthing not just the leaders, but also the supporters of other parties. The heated exchange between friends over their differing political affiliations is a common sight on facebook.

I wonder why? Why do we feel so strongly attached to our political disposition that we are ready to sacrifice our friends? Why can’t we just speak your mind politely and cast our vote to whosoever we want, and allow others the liberty to do the same? After all, isn’t democracy about multi-party system?
Is it ego? Someone challenging our strongly held beliefs (religion or politics) makes our heart bleed. After all, how could we be wrong?

Or, is it insecurity or embarrassment of our candidate losing that makes us react in somewhat passive aggressive way?

Or, do we really fear the other options are so evil that our world will become far worse that what it is today?

Or, is it our helplessness of five years that makes us desperate when we get the only chance to give a better direction to our democracy, our vote?

No matter what the reason for our strong attachment to our political dispositions, one thing is sure – voting in India is a gamble after all. A roulette table to be precise – where you must put your belongings on the table and pick a number (or name). Then, the dealer decides your fate. The worst part is the stakes of losing are extremely high, because you may lose even if your number strikes; the candidate you vote for may turn out to be just another rogue chameleon. [So, we may be losing our friends for nothing.]

Am I saying there is no point in voting? Or, NOTA is the best choice?

Not exactly. All I am saying is – though it is important to rely upon our best judgment – let’s not put so much emotional energy into it, because elections are just a means to an end, an extremely important one though, the democracy. But, democracy only begins with elections. The real democracy must play out over the course of next five years.

Let us say I vote for AAP, another friend votes for BJP, and yet another friend for Congress. No matter which candidate wins, we three are still equal citizens of this country, and that MP or MLA must care for us just the same. Now, given the high ratio of politicians who default on their promises, it makes it important that no matter who we vote for, we must stick together. We must stick together, for if our leaders dare turn their back on us, we can drag them off their throne and rip them apart.

I know we are not there yet. But then, we will never be unless we step beyond our religious, political and regional boundaries.

So, while we ask ourselves ‘Who is the best candidate in my area?’ or ‘Who is the best candidate for PM?’ during elections, the important question we must ask ourselves for next five years is ‘Can we all get along?’.

If we can’t, we will continue to lose every five years.

All that matters is… a purpose that defines you

We are all wanderers in our own little worlds, embracing pleasure, avoiding pain, seeking happiness, and accumulating more assets – more than the person next door, or the person sitting in next cubicle. We crave for things that seem to matter the most, but soon they are replaced by new cravings. We fancy a new object of desire every other day, but irrespective of whether our cravings are satisfied or not, life generally moves on, more or less the same way. And then, we stumble upon an almost impossible purpose that stands right in front of us, blocking our way. It stares at us, rattling our core and questioning conventional wisdom. The odds may be stacked heavily against us, but the purpose cannot be ignored, avoided, or compromised – for going around it would mean a diminished self-worth, and regret that would last us a lifetime.

It is a purpose that defines the meaning of life for us; a purpose that defines our existence.

A farmer struggles under the weight of successive droughts. He toils his field relentlessly, year after year, while the government and the rain gods continue to make a mockery of his existence. He has a purpose that is much bigger than his own life – the life of his wife and children are at stake.

A young couple is madly in love. Their passion for each other extends beyond the harsh boundaries of their orthodox families and communities. Their love is too pure to understand the differences in their caste or religion. Their purpose to spend the rest of their lives in each other’s arms is far too precious to be compromised. They elope in search for a more humane world, while the death threat looms over their head.

A scientist tries to make the first light bulb. He has a vision to illuminate the world, beyond anyone’s comprehension. His purpose is far too important to be shadowed by repeated failures. He sees each failure merely as a life incident, a learning opportunity, a useful step that will improve the quality of his subsequent efforts.

Hoards of people follow the lead of a fearless saint, in search of freedom. Centuries of slavery has reduced human life to redundancy and humiliation – the status quo must be challenged with full vigor. Freedom becomes a purpose that cannot be denied, not anymore. The common man dons the courage of a fearless warrior, ready to lay their life without second thoughts.

The stories are endless, and they are all around us. People leave their stable careers and venture out behind their dreams – they fight for a cause, open a school, start a business, take up writing, join politics, move back to their village or country, among others. It could be your story or it could be mine – if not today, then tomorrow. At least once in our life, we are all challenged by circumstances to rise above the level of our mundane existence. We find a compelling purpose that we believe defines us better than our status quo. It takes us beyond our materialistic world and beyond our comforts. Of course, the path is extremely challenging – we must step over our insecurity and self-doubt. Then, we must find the courage and perseverance to go on and on, no matter how discouraging or testing the circumstances. What is right or wrong does not matter anymore, for the journey is more important than the destination.

All that matter is… we step forward and pursue the purpose that defines us.

This post is written as a part of ‘All that Matters‘ contest at BlogAdda.com in association with INK Live 2013.

Lootera… stole my heart!

A touching story… with flawless execution. The soft and subtle picturization of relationships is beautiful. The transitions from one scene to another are fluidic. The songs are rhythmic and so perfectly embedded in the story that you hardly notice them. Everyone did justice to their part. Sonakshi is the show stealer… I wonder why she ever took up films like Dabang or Son of Sardar… they are so demeaning to any actress who knows how to act.

A much-needed breather for anyone who has been disappointed by the patchy Ashiqui, Jawaani or Ranjhana!

Who Cares about Honesty?

Some disruption in the Metro service had me waiting on the platform unusually long. Per the timing board, the train should have been there twenty minutes back. And, we didn’t hear any announcements either. When I saw a Metro staff come out of his office and stare down the tracks while talking to someone on phone, I sensed something was wrong.

When I inquired, he informed me there was some public agitation few stations back that was blocking the Metro service. He assured it should be resolved soon.

I requested more details, “How soon? Will it be five minutes or thirty?”

He had no idea.

That gave me enough reason to walk down the station and take the less reliable road transport. Since I was not acquainted with bus routes, I had to hunt down an auto.

Some five minutes later I found an empty auto. “Will you go to Dwarka?” I asked.

“Sure, it will be eighty rupees.”

“Eighty? Why don’t we go by the meter?”

“Okay, meter plus twenty.” He demanded.

It pinched me, like many times before. I took out my smartphone and clicked a photo of his number plate. “Go ahead. You guys will never change, and then you complain if someone files a complaint against you. But, I guess you need that.” I looked away, down the road for another one.

The trick worked. His voice softened, “Okay sir, come on in.”

As I stepped in, he felt obliged to defend himself, “Actually sir, the new meters are out… and I was only charging you the new rates.”

“If they are out, you should have got one already.” I gave a curt reply.

Then, he started complaining about how the auto drivers can’t make enough to survive. A big portion goes for the rent or loan instalment, auto maintenance etc.

“Well, if you guys stop bargaining with each customer, you may actually do more trips. Your per-trip profit might go down, but your daily earning will surely go up.” I offered a rational thought.

But, he did not seem open for ideas.

I persisted with my questions, “Won’t it be less stress free life if people just focus on hard work and try to live with what they make? Desperation to make a little extra every single minute may give you more money, but isn’t that such a big hassle? Whatever happened to honesty?”

“Who cares about honesty, sir?” It was a matter-of-fact statement than a question.

“Well, I think I know at least one guy who seems honest and hard-working. Have you heard about this new party, Aam Aadmi Party?” I asked.

“I know. He sounds honest, but how long will he stay that way? Power corrupts people.” Pessimism ruled his thoughts.

“At least he deserves a chance.” Then I asked a personal question, perhaps breaking the rules of democracy, “If you think he is honest, will you vote for him?”

“I don’t want to waste my vote. He is just going to split some votes and probably favour the opposition.”

So, in the land of Gita, results matter more than the right path. I wondered.

“So, honesty does not count?” I asked.

“Who is honest, Sir?” He asked, and then answered himself, “I will tell you who is honest… jiska daav nahin lagta, sirf wohi imaandar hai (one who hasn’t found a shortcut to make quick money, only that guy is honest).”

I continued to wonder if that has become a prevalent belief among the common men.

After a few minutes of silence, we reached the destination. I rounded up the meter reading and paid him.

Two days later, I learned the new auto meters would be effective the next day.