For whom the bell tolls by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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20 May 2014

No one died, no one widowed, no one orphaned. As far as electoral mandates go in India, bereavement - by parent, sibling, or spouse : the perfect trifecta - is virtually unbeatable at the ballot. Why, by any stretch of liberal imagination or sound logic, a surviving member would make a perfect replacement for the just deceased politician is something only an Asian electorate can explain, as this phenomenon is seldom found in the Western politics. It doesn't take great brains to answer that question. The reason is simple. The voting bloc is a sentimental goat herd, sans any thinking of its own. Father died - son would do, husband died - roll the red carpet for, even if completely politically illiterate, the wife, sibling passed on - well, pass on the other one with the same last name. In movies, it is called stereotyping, in politics, it is called legacy. If the deceased held one set of political beliefs, the surviving member has no other option but to tread the same path. Since Nehru (well, to go back further in time, this persisted even in monarchy), Indians have been queasy at rocking the boat, lest the comfort zone of continuance (not betterment, merely continuance) melts away forcing them to start all over again. There can be no other explanation for the Gandhis occupying the top most rung of the power ladder, regardless of their track records and performances. The Gandhis cannot be blamed for this at all. After all, they never seized power by force (if one can discount the 1977 anomaly). Here was a licensed pilot who had no track record in politics or governance and his only claim to fame was his surname. But following his mother's assassination, what could have compelled the vox populi to chant so loudly for Rajiv to determine and dictate their fates, collectively signing away their futures to the whims of a political novice? Was it respect for the deceased or sympathy for the bereaved? The closest similarity for this kind of behavior is found in letting someone go scot-free for his peccadilloes only because it is his birthday. Looking at the latest electoral results, THANK GOD, NO ONE DIED!!!

Pundits might point at 1984 or post emergency results, when similar one sided mandate has been given to one political party. But the comparison ends only at the end results. This wave is not built on sympathy, the lone reason for electoral upheavals in Indian context. This is a call of conscience, a vote of frustration, this electoral pink slip has been handed down in exasperation towards the past 5 years of unabated corruption and the associated inaction. The continuous and unchecked looting of the natural resources coupled with carte blanche cashing of public exchequer, all with impunity are the prime reasons why there were unprecedented beelines at the polling stations. One only watched in horror as the Prime Minister could at best mumble marching orders to the tainted minsters and not even reprimand them, in order to not upset the coalition common balance already dangerously teetering on a thin pin. Often, in campaigns, there is little difference between the main candidates in the fray. Castes and religions are matched, political and social considerations are carefully weighed and bank balances are almost matched down the last penny. But never has been so radically opposite candidates, one standing for status quo and the other, chest thumping about his track record of decisiveness and swift action in his home state, standing on the opposite ends of political spectrum were juxtaposed on the ballot paper to make it real easy on the voting mind. This result is not ridden on anti-incumbency. Dislike against the long ruling class would only carry the opposition by only so much. This is a categorical rejection of a certain brand of politics and policies. For probably the first time in Indian history, an opposition party has been given the absolute power to show the difference it promised, without any coalition or compulsion strings attached. A win comes with all tall claims of credit from all and sundry - style of campaign, platforms of campaign, rhetoric - incendiary and imploring, management - men, media and resources and hordes others (in just the same way as a failure gets attributed to a myriad of tangible and intangible reasons). But this win is as much about the candidate as it speaks about the public, who were just as decisive in handing over the crown to one who promised nothing but action - swift, transparent and long reaching. One could only hope that the saying about absolute power finds an exception this time around.

State is even more interesting. On the coastal side, again, in what is the first time in electoral history of the country, two opposition parties duked out for the public's favor with the ruling party buried long before the bugle call, one, betting on welfare and the other on development (with a dash of welfare), but both woefully short of recent track records. While one boasted of his dad's dole outs, the other harped on his yesteryears shining moments. And that's what made this election a nail biter, as none - from seasoned psephologists down to the common public - could predict on what basis would the victory be handed down, as both the promises looked equally enticing. In the end, it boiled down to personalities. Jagan's aggression ultimately proved his to be his undoing. Allegations of disbursements of unprecedented amounts, commissioning the religious organizations to polarize the vote not on the usual caste lines but, for the first time in Andhra politics, on communal lines, antagonizing the majority by consciously playing the religion card are ultimately what doomed his campaign. It is very hard to win elections rallying around only the lower social strata at the cost of the miffed majority (while the converse isn't necessarily true, like, one can easily win on the backs of the majority even completely alienating the minority. Case in point, Gujarat). In the end, it was not as much as Naidu's doing as it was Jagan's own undoing. On the other side of about to created geographical divide, history is made again, with two parties entering the fray claiming sole credit for the creation of the state. If, on the Andhra side, both parties were on the defensive (as neither had enough credits to tout about), on the Telangana side, both the main parties marched on the offensive. Despite the venom and vitriol spewed by the TRS leader during the agitation and campaign, the party deserves to lead the state for the decade long agitation it kept alive and burning in spite of the several setbacks. To recall the historical agitations - independence, linguistic and many - none of them were conducted in a civil tone, with measured language and general inclusiveness. Down from independence to language separations, the modus operandi had always been 'us vs them', and KCR was neither the first to polarize peoples nor would be the last. And Congress' contention that it be rewarded commensurately for its political risk of signing the dotted line in the literal last minute was just wishful thinking. In the realm of bagging the end credits, agitations are never a Relay sport, where every baton carrying member is rewarding equally; it is a long, individual marathon, and the one making it to the finish line in one piece deserves the lone credit.

Now that the country has bestowed upon its new leaders all that they have asked for, without any riders or attachments, it is time they return the favor in kind. If there is one thing that this election has shown, it is that the hope for the future always trumps the trinkets in the a wide margin.

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Other cricket related articles by Srinivasa Kanchibhotla
A Boy - Sachin Tendulkar

Bend around the circle

All in the game

Play it again Sam
Wizard of Willow - VVS Laxman
A beautiful mind - Rahul Dravid
Business as usual
Vote of Thanx
Bittersweet story
The I's and The T's
Means and extremes
Fair Play
Game Changing Game
What's in a win?
The shining silver lining
Winds of change
Battle of the Bamboozler
Less is more
Hit and run
Tales from down under
The three sides of a coin
Blast from the past
The other side of a win
Finding Neverland
Hail The Weaklings
Bringing down the house
Every (under)dog had it's day!
Lord of the ring: Return of the King
Lord of the ring - the departed part - 2
Lord of the ring - the departed part - 1
Lord of the ring - twin towers

Game is on
What's in a number?
Roll out the carpet... the green variety that is
Garland the ground staff
How the west was won
A time for Reversal
The sands that blotted sweat and blood
Let the good times roll
The curse of success
It's Official....
Win some, some more
All is well
Expect the unexpected
From the Ashes, it rose!
It is progress ... DAMN IT!!!
Ghosts of Chinnaswamy
Congratulation Message to Indian Cricket Team
Resumption of ties
Rock, rock, rock it again!
Tour full of negatives
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