The Ma-Behen of Indian democracy

Last Updated: Mon, May 16, 2011 09:18 hrs

'A churning of power', 'A display of democracy', 'The victory of the Indian voter': The epithets are still flowing in.

Even as the dust settles on the Friday the 13th election results that "heralded the return of the Indian voter all over again", the political cliche is making a robust comeback. The interwebs are buzzing with the 'Yeah this is how it's done, baby; India rocks' refrain.

Not that the results aren't significant. They are. Some more than others. Particularly, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu!


In Bengal, Mamata Di has spectacularly dismantled the Left front Government. A customary Left joke would be that there‘s nothing more Left of it anymore. And in Tamil Nadu, Jayalalitha now gets a chance to up Karunanidhi and company’s corruption benchmark - the 2G scam.

Having said that, the process of watching elections unfold, new promising leaders unpack and old non-performing or corrupt ones pack is exciting. The thrill of a fresh set of voters acquiring mixies and colour TVs!

In that context, Mamata Banerjee's victory is perhaps the most significant. Her victory is proof that Indian power structures are not impregnable and that an outsider can potentially not only establish herself politically but also destabilise a strong, existing player while doing so.

The takeaway is that hard work, political doggedness and above all, a bottom-up party building strategy can yield results. Her sweeping victory also marks a rebirth for the hope that an honest human being and a politician can be the same person.

Her 'more Left than Left' strategy is a matter of debate and will obviously be an impediment if she doesn’t adopt a more poribortan - friendly edition.

Much as her record as the Railway Minister of Bengal nee India doesn't evoke much confidence, let's reserve judgement on her government till after she gets on with work at the freshly green-painted Writers Building.

Turning around West Bengal's finances, creating job opportunities for its young citizens and finding the middle path between industry and agriculture will be her major  challenges.

And given her ideological tilt, a key pressure point to watch will be the direction that her administration will give the anti-Maoist operations. Mamata's biggest challenge will be to bridge the gap between promise and delivery, a chasm many a star politician has failed to bridge.

Even as one is relieved to see the back of a fiefdom that was sucking Tamil Nadu dry, the return of Amma is not as exciting. This realigned political equation is the medical equivalent of getting Hepatitis B after you've just gotten a cancerous growth removed.

Credit should be given where it is due. The Karunanidhi family needs to be congratulated for resetting the bar of a corruption scam at Rs 1.76 Lakh Crore. Such is this family's impact on the wheeling-dealing stratosphere of India that Jayalalithaa's corruption cases look like the chicken droppings that wormlings feed off. Telgi, Sukhram and company suddenly come across as losers out to collect loose change from the traffic signals of scam city.  

A lot has been written about the wisdom of the Indian voter and the functionality of the election process. Much is being made of the fact that every five years the powerful and the mighty stand accountable to the aam aadmi.

To the corrupt and inept neta who has let him down, the beep of the EVM could just as well be the voters' unparliamentarily cuss word delivered through a electoral process.

Elections, however, also serve as a reminder that the system fully empowers the voter only once in five years (unless there’s a mid term election). The gestation period for accountability is far too long.

Unless the gross imbalance of power between the electors and the elected reduces from the current twice-in-a-decade process to accountability on a daily basis, elections and what they achieve will only remain a momentary flash in the democratic pan of India.

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Raheel Khursheed is an independent journalist based in Kashmir. He consults on communication skills, development and youth leadership. He writes on international, national, local and even trivial matters. You can contact him on Follow Raheel on Twitter:

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