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'Desi' shades to U.S. elections

By K.K. Katyal

NEW DELHI, NOV. 9. Why do we in India feel a strong sense of familiarity with the current bizarre development in the U.S.? Simple, there are quite a few elements of the `desi' style in it. In the past, there had been no dearth of derisive comments in the U.S. and elsewhere on the delays in vote-counting in India. ``Days? In this age? Look at us, we provide the final tally minutes after the polling is over'' - this used to be the boast. Now, the announcement of the result for the highest post in the U.S. has already been delayed by two days, with some hinting it may drag on longer, much longer. Re-count was unheard of there, it being the lot of the lesser democratic souls of the third world. The Americans have now resorted to it - as a way out of the clashing claims by the camps of the two contestants, Mr. Al Gore and Mr. George Bush in Florida State, now holding the key to the poll outcome. There had been talk even of a re-poll, the peculiarity of the developing countries which were often blamed for allowing the exercise of franchise to be vitiated by irregularities.

In the last 48 hours, campaigners in the Al Gore camp used words such as fraud and tampering of ballot papers, though there had been no elaboration. For years, in India, this had been the staple of the accusatory rhetoric, emanating from the camps of the losers. The question of legal remedies for alleged distortions in the Florida poll may well be considered seriously. There has been dissonance between the popular votes and the ``electoral votes'', though the second was supposed to be the product of the first. The why of it has been the subject of speculation. Was it because of defections at some level in the peculiar American system which provide for election of the President by electoral colleges? Defection is essentially the feature of politics in India - it had been developed into a fine art since the early fifties when the country's first defector, Nihal Singh Takshak, got into action and brought down the Government in the erstwhile Pepsu (And, sure enough, he was accommodated in the new Cabinet, formed by the rival grouping).

We could temporarily loan the services of our Chief Election Commissioner, Mr. Manohar Singh Gill, who had vainly suggested, more than once, a pro-active role by the Commission to deal with phenomenon of defections. Or Washington could invite Mr. Narendra Vohra, who, as Home Secretary, had produced a pithy report on the nexus between criminals and politicians, to look into clandestine techniques used by politicians for personal ends. That the report had been gathering dust in the archives of the North Block should not disqualify him. Both of them hail from the land of five rivers - of which the erstwhile Pepsu and the present Haryana are parts at one stage or the other and which were pioneers in the matter of defections - Aya Rams and Gaya Rams - and the use of money for changes of political loyalties - and could well use in Florida the insight acquired while dealing with the wide range of situations here. It is a different matter that Maharashtra has now surpassed other parts of the country - what with smooth coordination between politicians and the underworld mafias.

The U.S. media, both electronic and print, strike brave postures to cover up the embarrassment, resulting from the announcement of the winner, each one of the two alternatively, when the final outcome was not known. Hopefully journalists of the developing world would not attract sneering references, as was done in the past, for jumping the gun. U.S. mediapersons cut jokes at their expense. Here is one - about a night editor whose wife was disgusted with his late hours. Once he entered the house when she was preparing breakfast for the children. Seeing through the kitchen window and reading a stern message in her eyes, he said: ``Actually, I returned at night but since it was too late I chose not to disturb you. I slept on the old sofa we had discarded and kept in the garage.'' ``But we disposed of that sofa two months ago,'' retorted the wife. ``That is my story and I stand by it,'' he replied, without the slightest trace of apology.

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