Overcaste

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The results are now in from India’s general election. It was widely believed that the outcome would be a hung parliament. Instead, Sonia Gandhi’s Congress Party has obtained a virtual majority.

Several good things happened.

Communists lost a lot of seats. In the last government, they created many problems, sabotaging reforms; and people seem to have punished them. Now that Indians have voted against communism, liberalization will be much easier politically. The coalition of Hindu fanatics has lost a lot of seats, meaning that Indians have voted against fundamentalism.

The party of Mayawati, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, who was starting to be seen as a possible candidate for the prime ministerial post, is down to 20 seats from the earlier 35. Her sole competency is to win votes from the lower caste by creating caste conflicts; so with respect to her, the election means that those from the lower caste have decided not to be tribal in their voting patterns.

A large section of Indian parliamentarians are known criminals. In the last parliament, one out of four members faced serious criminal charges. Some are serving prison sentences (hence, in this election, they fielded their wives). Yet even in dirt-poor Bihar, whose GDP per capita compares with that of North Korea and Zimbabwe, the electorate ousted many dons and their dummies. Even there, the people may be awakening.

Yet not all the signs are favorable.

I see the current prime minister, Manmohan Singh of the Congress Party, as spineless. Given that he has no personality of his own – a descendant, as it were, of Ellsworth Toohey – he was seen as malleable by Sonia Gandhi, who herself could not become the PM because of her Italian origin. Singh was made PM to keep a place for another Gandhi, Rahul. He will likely be made the PM at an opportune time within a couple of years. He is naive, inexperienced, and badly lacking in any comprehension of the realities of Indian life.

In the end, the reasons cited above for why Congress won and the communists, fundamentalists, and “casteists” failed could all be wrong. The people may just have voted for the continuation of the Gandhis’ dynastic rule. After all, as La Rochefoucauld said, “It is not always from valor that men are valiant, or from chastity that women are chaste.”

But whatever the real reasons may be for the Congress Party victory, people have certainly voted for stability. Will Congress, with its virtual majority, bring reforms? Like the outcome of an Indian election, this is too risky to predict. But would Congress really want to take politically risky reforms when they are grooming Rahul for the PM’s post?

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