deplore the term “developing country” as it relates to people in other regions who live their respective indigenous lifestyles. It goes back to that way of thinking that the western modes of life are universally applicable, undoubtedly correct and more advanced/intelligent. People were colonized under this justification that they were “underdeveloped” and thus, inferior and needed the assimilation of western lifestyles. Independent agriculture is no more or less developed than industrialized production of food. Traditional clothing are not backwards or degenerate compared to jeans and sneakers. I wish people would stop casually throwing this term around, its an insidious form exceptionalist thought and imperialism.
If you have never followed Indian politics before, now is the time. I’m going to try and keep this succinct while still trying to cover the essentials of India’s vast,enormously complex, political operating machine.
Excitement about the general election:
Here’s a brief summary of why this is an exciting time for the Indian polity and young voters:
1. We have an outstanding Election Commission which has taken upon itself, the task of bringing about an astounding voter turnout
2. People have exercised their right to adult franchise in record-breakingnumbers everywhere, just for India’s state elections. The national elections is going to see a more sensational turnout, going by every prediction made by every analyst, ever.
3. A newcomer to Indian polity, a party by the name of Aam Aadmi party has exploded on to the Indian political scene. Willing to fight tooth and nail to pass anti-graft, anti-corruption legislations (like the Lokpal bill), the party represents a completely new dimension in Indian politics
4. The ever restless, incessantly curious, Indian youth is galvanized in numbers almost never seen before, in support of their respective parties. A multitude of national issues gets discussed by the day
5. Never before has the social media been used to such unprecedented levels - to spread information, drive voter turnout, to organize conventions and for first person reports
Find out more about the National Elections, set to happen in 2014: [Indian general election, 2014]
A brief background of India’s political parties:
1. Although there is a list of national parties (India has a multi-party system), two of them are largest, and most prominent. The Bharatiya Janata Party [aka BJP - Bharatiya Janata Party ] and the Indian National Congress [aka INC -Indian National Congress].
2. Because of the multi-party system, India operates within contexts of coalitions. For the most part, a broad categorical division of the spectrum would classify the BJP as the right wing party, and the INC (Congress) as the center-left. More information about parties and coalitions: [Politics of India ]
3. Federal elections generally take place in context of this multi party system, every five years. In addition to the two parties above, we have a list of regional parties, with enough number of seats to be able to entertain the notion of having a Third Front. As mentioned above, the newcomer (Aam Aadmi party - AAP) is also a viable national contender
4. The Indian National Congress led coalition is currently the alliance in power at the center [See: United Progressive Alliance]. The BJP led NDA represents the contending coalition [See: National Democratic Alliance (India)], and India’s current opposition.
4. For most years since our independence, the federal government was headed by the Indian National Congress (also referred to at times as just “Congress”). A series of scams (and alleged involvements therein), disillusionment with a halting economic growth rate, disappointment with inaction, and pressing national issues like inflation have led to widespread discontent with this party. For years, this particular party has branded itself to be the more secular party of the two.
5. The contender, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has declared a Prime Ministerial candidate - He is at once a man of mass appeal, a man fraught by allegations and controversies, and a man with a history of established progressive governance. His name is Narendra Modi [See: Narendra Modi], and chances are, there hasn’t been another candidate in recent years, for whom opinion, debate and discussion run in such large volume, and in such polarizing fashion.
Modi has brought decisive development to the state he was a Chief Minister of, and is widely regarded as one of the best-performing Chief Ministers of recent times. Modi had also been alleged to have been involved in a massive rioting that broke out between Hindus and Muslims in his state in 2002, although the Supreme Court of India has handed him a clean chit regarding this involvement, after several special investigation reports.
Seen as a “strongman” (pro-development/honest) by his proponents and a “tyrant” (communal/fake) by his opponents, a lot of excitement has been generated amidst the Indian youth after the announcement of his candidacy, as has widespread criticism.
A brief search on the social media about this man will expose the amount of debate, both analytical and sometimes fanatical (on both sides), that this election season has promulgated within the electorate.
List of national issues:
1. Inflation: This remains one of the chief issues of this election, with the price of consumable commodities undergoing dramatic increase in recent years. The Reserve Bank of India has recently recommended that consumer price inflation be used as one of the targets to determine India’s monetary policies
2. Economic growth: While price inflation is an oft-discussed topic, the general slowdown of India’s economy (especially in the industrial sector) is also a very pressing issue in the minds of the public. A record high current account deficit and the continued fall of the Rupee, are chief among the list of concerns
3. Black money (and its retrieval): Referring in general to money that has been earned in India’s black market [Black market], and for which taxes have not been paid, India’s history of corrupt governance has prompted political contenders to bring this issue to national prominence.
An estimated USD 1.4 trillion, according to some reports, lie stashed in Swiss banks. A wide variety of proposals, some improbable and fantastic, while others worth investigating, have been laid out for both the prevention and international asset retrieval of black money by various political actors.
4. Corruption: An expository about India’s corruption, its history and howdeeply rooted within the system it is, is beyond the scope of this article. This is probably the most deterministic issue in the minds of the urban voters. A fiscally honest politician is seen as the need of the hour.
To the extent of a newcomer party winning an astounding amount of seats without a history of ever having contested elections, in Delhi (the Aam Aadmi party mentioned above), the public has come to grips with the need for zero tolerance regarding corruption.
My only caveat for this period is that I hope it won’t be polarizing enough for Indians to not recognize shades of gray where it does exist.
I hope the youth in India won’t fall victims to a dangerous school of thought (that of believing in social binaries). And hopefully, India won’t veer into the path of the Left-vs-Right, Congress-vs-BJP, Us-vs-Them, school of thought that plague modern democracies today. Or that lack of support for one idea is always directly empowering its opposite.
All said and done, this promises to be one of the most exciting elections of our times. There truly are very few things more exciting than the world’s largest democracy celebrating its right to universal suffrage.
RT: A four-year old was killed a week ago, and now this latest incident (seven children and one women killed in the US raid). Why are international troops still raiding residential areas when Karzai asked them not to?
Caleb Maupin: The troops are not in Afghanistan to protect the Afghans or to obey the Afghan government. They are to protect the interests of Western banks and corporations. The whole history of Afghanistan is a history of being plundered. Afghanistan once had vast timber resources, vast forested areas that were cut down by the British at one time. And even the most right-wing historians would admit that the best period in the history of Afghanistan was following the 1979 revolution when the people of Afghanistan rose up, they drove out the foreigners and began to develop independently, with independent economic development. And that was the glorious history. That was the US that funded forces like that now make up Al-Qaeda, to go and tear down the revolutionary democratic government.
Afghanistan belongs to the Afghans. It’s not a poor country, there are all kinds of mineral resources and all kinds of wealth, but the people are there poor because of the control of these resources is under the hands of Western bankers and corporations. And that is the crime that has happened. This kind of massacres are really built into foreign interventions, you can see them wherever it happens, in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, anywhere.
RT: If there is no deal and US troops leave, wouldn’t that make it easier for insurgents to carry out terror attacks, and potentially kill a lot more civilians?
CM: That’s always the argument that the foreign powers make. They always make it sound like they are invading the country just because they care so much about the people that are under attack. But all over the world you can see the fruits of US foreign intervention.
Everywhere the US goes, everywhere the foreign powers go and overthrow a government there is poverty, misery and suffering. They never improve the lives of the people, and the people have the right to run their own country. Afghanistan belongs to Afghans, and that’s how it should be, and that’s how every country is. Self-determination is a basic human right and the foreign troops should leave Afghanistan.