Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thank God elections are over!

“I thank the people of my country to give us this opportunity to serve them for the coming five years. I humbly take the responsibility of becoming the Prime Minister and promise that after today (May 16), I and UPA chairperson Ms Sonia Gandhi will work in harmony to provide a stable government at the Centre,” BJP leader L K Advani said and together with Sonia Gandhi raised the sign of victory.

It was a historic day for India as after the election results both the BJP and the Congress have joined hands to form the government. The TV anchors were screaming at the top of their voice and surprised, stunned and shocked, I was nodding my head. ‘This can’t be happening? What kind of a decision is this? BJP and Congress are coming together? This can’t be happening,’ I was murmuring to myself.

Suddenly, the alarm clock buzzed and I was out of my dream. God knows how long it has been ringing for. When I saw the clock, it said 6:00 am. “O God! I’m late for the office!” I jumped out of the bed, recalling the marathon meeting we had at our office the previous day to discuss the preparations for May 16 -- the Counting Day. The dream was a result of that. I’ve been thinking about the elections too much. And today was May 16 and I was supposed to reach the office sharp at 6:00 am. But the month-long election coverage has left me exhausted and due to the tiredness, I woke up late.

When I reached the office, I was amazed to see the place. It was a Saturday and was supposed to be a quiet day as most of the office staff is at home. But May 16 was different. The place was abuzz with what would happen during the day. Hurriedly, I took my seat wondering I would be asked questions about getting late. But, to my surprise, nobody said a word. Everyone was busy. As soon as I sat in my chair, one of my colleagues came to me with some ‘very important work’, which later turned out to be keeping an eye on the TV just to see if there’s any update.

Well, the day began at a busy note. As soon as the counting began, there were lot of things that needed attention. Plus the boring speeches from our leaders about what they think of the result. Every politician had same words. I thought there’s no point in picking up every bit of information. But everything was just so ‘important’ that day. You can’t refuse because all your seniors are prepared to scream the moment they hear the word ‘No’. So, the work kept on piling up and the day just won’t end! Suddenly, I felt there are more than 24 hours in the day. I was present in the office since morning and now the Sun was about to set. I felt like the ever-present God of my office who saw everyone leave the office in the evening, but staying back himself.

Finally, the counting ended. The picture became clear that the Congress-led would be forming the next government, and the BJP and its allies were ready to sit in the Opposition. Its leaders have accepted defeat. Now began the tedious job of getting the statistics right. And the TV guys began their marathon rounds of telling the audience the various permutation and combinations ahead of the government formation. ‘Curse them!’ I murmured. I thought there was no going home today.

But then, I heard the magical words, “You can now go home”. The words sounded like ‘Open sesame’, which finally give you the hidden treasure. I heaved a sigh of relief and began packing for home. Though my dream of Congress and BJP making the government together was shattered by the bitter reality, I was happy that the counting got over without any hassles.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

General election 2009: The lighter side

The elections are over. And with this, the loudspeakers have fallen silent, the microphones have no more voices, and the frenzy is gone. No more rallies to be seen, no more door-to-door campaigns, and no more tall promises. Some politicians are taking rest –even applying ice to their soaring throats, which cried hoarse either for themselves or for their party candidates.
But what have begun, though, are interesting rounds of negotiations and sweet talks. As the deadline to the final result approaches, nervous parties are making last-ditch effort to place their pharaoh at the Mecca of country’s politicians – Parliament. And in this race to crown the primus inter pares, better known as the Prime Minister, leaders are exploring new frontiers or crossing over to new camps. This is being done because Left or Right, all of them want to be at the Centre.

Some of these efforts were taking place even in the campaign time or during the run up to the elections. Politics, they say, is a field where anything is possible. And to prove it, BJP’s saffron soldier Narendra Modi walked up to Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar and together held his hand high in the air -- a clear case of political maneuvering. But is it right for a leader like Nitish havinf secular credentials, to share the dais with a Right wing ideologue? The Bihar Chief Minister tried to douse the fire by saying Modi forced a handshake which he couldn’t refuse. Well, a not so secular statement.

Faced with the reality of their base waning away, a ‘dejected’ SP general secretary Amar Singh threw yet another spanner by saying that he would retire on May 13 due to ‘health concerns’. However, it was a safe bet on Amar Singh’s part to never reveal the year! Waiting for a Congress nod and facing tough challenge by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, it seemed an emotional outburst.

The elections got a yet another emotional touch by SP leader Jaya Prada who is locked in a battle with party colleague Azam Khan. As their fight turned bitter, the former Bollywood actor resorted to her acting skills and soon, the nation heard about Jaya Prada could commit suicide if she loses the polls due to the ongoing feud. Though the statement was issued by party general secretary Amar Singh and did not get approval from Jaya Prada herself, it provided a lot of food for the gossip-hungry nation and kept them glued to their TV sets.

The Left Front, too, joined the chorus though in different voices. While CPM leader Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hinted towards a possibility of coming close to Congress after polls, fellow comrade and party general secretary Prakash Karat made his stand clear of staying away from the Congress party even after the results are out. This was indeed a bold word from a party whose numbers have decreased considerably in the last few years. They have received jolt in even their home turf of West Bengal.

And not to forget, the rift between Pranab Mukherjee and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was also the highlight of these elections. Lalu had said in a rally in Bihar that the PM candidate of the UPA would be decided only after the elections. To which Pranab took umbrage and reportedly said in that case there would be a question mark on whether Lalu Prasad would be in the UPA government after the Lok Sabha polls. Pranab later sought to end the controversy citing his ‘poor Hindi’ for the confusion. It could have been a battle royale, but Pranab da’s clever balancing act extinguished the fire.

Election time is the period when our politicians are seen in their true colours. But in this era of uncertainty, all they are trying to do is to hold their pack together.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

No pappu factor for Delhi as 53% cast votes

Delhi went to polls on May 7. And it was the best occasion for a journalist like me to tread the length and breadth of the city so as to get the ground-level information. And to add to the excitement, it was time for me to cast my vote.

My day began as early as 7 am, when the polling was scheduled to begin. Standing outside a poll booth, I was thinking that there won’t be any crowd so early in the morning. But I was wrong. Many of the morning walkers started pouring in as the clock ticked the exact time. They were the responsible citizens of Delhi who exercised their franchise in the wee hours.

I was surprised to see the crowd. Despite so many issues and problems, why were the people coming out to vote?

“See, there is no country without problems. But voting is our fundamental right and we should exercise it. If we do not vote, our country is not going to progress,” said P C Mahapatra, 36-year-old businessman from IP Extension area.

And it was not just the middle class of the society that was showing its interest in voting. The positive mood was evident in other segments also. “We should exercise our franchise; there is no excuse for that. But it should not be based on hearsay. Do what you have to do,” said Vinod Kumar, an auto driver.

I was feeling a sense of pride after listening to these words. Even after so much our country has gone through, people are still hopeful of change. Even the first-time voters like Abhinav, 21-year-old college student, do not feel let down by what has happened till now and feels that 'everyone should vote so as to give the country a better future'.

And their strong will resulted in a rise in polling percentage with about 53 per cent of Delhi voters exercising their right to vote.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dhaba for a PhD scholar

What would you do if you had a doctorate degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University? Go abroad? Apply for lectureship? How about opening a dhaba? Well, it may sound weird, but an ex-student has done that...

This story was first published at NDTV.com. For full story, click here.

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