The Bold Voice of J&K

Democracy, at home and abroad

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Kushan Mitra 

The election that is on everybody’s mind, from editorial meetings to living rooms across the national capital and the rest of northern India, is the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election. From the strategies of Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah to the whims of Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, the election to the legislature of India’s largest State next year can upend the political equilibrium of this country or cement it in a position for a decade. Occasionally, and more due to the back and forth movement, with regards to a movie, election in Punjab and the associated drug and debt crisis in India’s agrarian powerhouse is also being discussed.
Politics consumes India and its people. Barely one set of election finishes that the next set starts coming to the fore even as they are a year away. But for a country and its people who are obsessed with the vagaries of democracy, we seem to barely notice that the people of other countries exercise their franchise. The landmark elections in Myanmar late last year barely merited a mention on most Indian media even though democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has stronger connections in Delhi than most Indian politicos. She is after all the first alumna of Delhi’s prestigious Lady Shri Ram college to effectively be the head of a state.
However, by the end of next week, India and the world will know whether our one-time colonial overlords have had enough of their European adventure and want to retreat back into their island. This can not only have major financial repercussions for India because London remains a huge centre of global finance, but trading with the single European market will now become complicated if Britain decides to divorce itself from Europe.
Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen. However, recent opinion polls have shown that the race is extremely tight. It might seem obvious to many people that Britain ought to remain in Europe, but those who are campaigning to leave, seem to have made some convincing arguments to leave the Union, of course, the biggest reason being the huge bureaucracy of the European state. Given the close ties India shares with Britain, with several Indian companies basing their European headquarters in London and thousands of Indians working in London, any separation will lead to headaches and heartaches in offices in Mumbai and New Delhi. That said, given that British opinion pollsters got the British general election so badly wrong, maybe the polls this time are also off
kilter. And then there is the US presidential election, which to be fair has been getting both – some prime-time coverage and a few column centimeters on Indian front pages, as it should. And it is making global news headlines as this election decides who controls the world’s largest arsenal of conventional and nuclear weapons, enough firepower to destroy this planet multiple times over. Yet, this election is not getting as much coverage as it should in India, and virtually no coverage in the language media.
This is odd because India is deeply intertwined with the US. This is not only because India sends thousands of its best and brightest halfway across the planet every year, but also because the US remains India’s largest trading partner. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his recent visit to the US spoke in the US Congress about the ‘special relationship’ that the world’s richest democracy shares with the world’s largest democracy shall only grow. The US sees India as a bulwark against the continued military sabre-rattling by the Chinese dragon across land and sea. India, particularly the Modi Government sees the US as a partner that will partner it to supercharge its economic development.
So, it does matter to all Indians at some level or another whether US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton becomes the first woman President of the US or whether Republican candidate Donald Trump can transform conventional politics in the US and the world for that matter and achieve a remarkable feat by coming from nowhere to enter the White House. Clinton’s husband Bill (William J) Clinton towards the fag end of his term began a rapprochement with India that has survived two further presidential terms. This is best highlighted by the immense success that the Indian Information Technology companies such as TCS, Wipro and Infosys have enjoyed in the US market.

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