First-time jitters

Mar 29, 2014, 06:58 IST | Maithili Parikh

There is always something uncannily exciting about first times, whether it is something as unpleasant as your first drive alone (which found me, fraught with nerves, just about managing to start the car correctly) or something as pleasant as your first social, dressed up in an glamorous lace dress which two years later, looks similar to a costume out of Sound of Music with its misplaced ruffles. However none of these can compare to the feverishness of voting for the first time.

All set for a youth-centered election, it wouldn’t be outrageous if the obvious choice was Rahul Gandhi — the poster boy for youth in politics and scion of India’s oldest blue-blooded political party — the Congress. Unclear about his political ambitions, this Harvard bred royalty joined politics around ten years ago and is now set to be the prime ministerial candidate of the Congress. Unfortunately for him, the change that people wish to witness is often synonymous with voting the Congress out of power.

Over the last decade through which the Congress governed India, the country has been left in shambles, with sluggish development rates, increasing prices of essential commodities, the falling valuation of the rupee, besides the exorbitant and scandalous scams right from coal to telecommunications and beyond, looting our miserable treasury of amounts running into crores. Hence, Rahul has entered into an anti-Congress tinted election scenario at the most unfortunate time. However, his personal performance itself is also least impressive, with the absolute muddle with which he seems to deal with interviews, boring voters with his non-committal, standard replies on important issues and his condemnation of the system. At this point, I have a rather simple question and NO, I do not want your standard and rather rehearsed, though terribly out of context reply — who created the system, sir? I believe it was your party over the last two terms. Giving him the benefit of doubt, I am sure Rahul Gandhi has the ideas to build a brighter India and help empower women, RTI and the economy, but at this point he miserably fails to convince Indians that he has the capabilities and leadership skills that can steer this diverse and populous country.

Congress faces stiff competition from their favourite rivals this year — the Bhartiya Janata Party, which finds distinct leadership in Narendra Modi, the most scandalous character of 2002. If the new kid on the block hadn’t chosen these elections to make his debut, Modi would have had it effortless, taking the country by storm with his incredible oratory skills, staggering figures, unmatched determination and fantastic press play. With numbers and development in Gujarat to impress the voters, no one doubts for a second that this man will be the best for India’s economy. However the more pertinent question remains, at what cost will the progress come? Will him leading India threaten our unity, integrity, secularism and national peace? How do we expect this conservative man, heavily biased against non-Hindus, to deal with states like Uttar Pradesh, the Eastern sisters and Jammu and Kashmir? More so with the range of issues coming to challenge the post at the onset itself, such as the Telangana problem and the legal status of homosexuality, one begins to doubt his abilities as a leader of diverse India. With his scandalous comments, suspicious activities and travel ban, Modi is viewed as an extremist. Will he be able to do justice to this post? He maybe the alternative but is he the better alternative? A million dollar question.

Clamouring for a place in the arena of national politics and taking New Delhi by storm, is a year-old party, called the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), probably the only formidable opponent to the slack two. With an anti-corruption propaganda and support from not only the masses but also a base of intelligentsia forming their core leaders, this newbie party has been threatening both the major players of the game. Gaining momentous support in every nook and cranny of the country, Arvind Kejriwal, from being Anna Hazare’s right hand man, has emerged to be amongst the strongest candidates for the prime minister’s post. However, this party does not seem to have the experience and enterprise to run the country, the Delhi debacles being the most incriminating evidence. Indians are hesitant to place this mammoth responsibility in the hands of AAP, doubting if a country of 1.2 billion people can be run by a bunch of non-politicians without any well defined structure. Even more, is an anti-corruption crusade enough to govern a country?
With each party and each candidate encumbered by their own set of grievances and boons, and in all cases their grievances outweighing their boons, I’m baffled which way to vote on the judgment day. None of the candidates seem convincing enough to obtain a clear voice from me. It is sad that voting has become a matter of elimination and settlement, with voters trying to decide on the lesser of the evils. This election, the biggest democracy of the world is in for the ride of its life. Unless AAP grows into a forceful opposition soon, India is at the brink of a governmental disaster.

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