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elections In India & the not so interested america

By Sonal Kulshrestha

(Photo Credits: Individual pictures taken from elections.in) 

India is in the midst of it's 16th General Elections, the outcome of which will determine the ruling party that comes to power and hence the leader of the world's largest democrazy- the Prime Minister of India. The election, that is taking place in nine phases across the country, from Apr 7th to May 12th, has already been declared as the longest and the most expensive elections in the history of the country. India, whose population is over 1 billion, also holds the distinction of having the world's largest electoral population of 814.5 million, according to the Election Commission of India.

As the US media largely ignores the polls in India, those of us living here can certainly feel the passion at the other end of the world over face-time and telephone, as we communicate with friends and families in India. As we talk to our loved ones we can sense the passion with which they are opposing another Gandhi coming to power or the interest in bringing Modi to power or perhaps vice verse. As the people of India, and those outside who care, keenly await the election results, to be announced on May 16th, lets' recap the key players in the game-

1. Narendra Modi (Top, 1st from left)- At 63, currently serving his forth consecutive term as the current Chief Minister of Gujarat, representing Bhartiya Janta Party, Modi is is contesting the current elections from Varanasi Parliamentary Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He is considered to be the force behind Gujarat's position as a global brand and a great industrial destination. In 2006, India Today conducted a nationwide survey that declared him as the Best Chief Minister in India. In March 2012, the Time magazine featured him on the cover page of its Asian edition. He is one of the very few politicians of India to be featured on the cover of Time.

I say, he does seem to be the popular choice of the people of India. He's an educated- self- made man who rose from poverty and made it big. To be truly honest however, what comes to mind is the fact that he was the man at the helm when Gujarat riots occurred- when hundreds of men, women and children were killed. Saying his party instigated the riots might be far fetched, but looking the other way while it's happening is hardly a trait of those who claim to rule. Yes, it was just as bad when it happened under other administrations. No, excuses can not be made for human killings.

2.Arvind Kejriwal (Top, 2nd from left)- At 45, hailing from Harayana, a product of IIT Kharagpur and an ex-Joint Commissioner in the Income Tax Department, Arvind Kejriwal is contesting the current elections from Varanasi Parliamentary Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. He came to limelight with formation of the 'Aam Aadmi Party' (AAP) in 2012, a party that projects itself to be of common people poised to fight corruption.

In 1999 Kejriwal founded Parivartan, an NGO aiming to assist the citizens in electricity, income tax and food ration-related matters. His contributions and role to empower the poorest at the grassroots level and implement the Right to Information Act (RTI) won Kejriwal the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2006 for Emergent Leadership. He created a corpus fund with the award money and founded the NGO called Public Cause Research Foundation in 2012. He also published a book called Swaraj in 2012. He was awarded the"Indian of the Year" award in 2006 from CNN-IBN. The Economic Times Awards for Corporate Excellence awarded Kejriwal, along with Aruna Roy, the Policy Change Agent of the Year award in 2010. In 2011 he, along with Anna Hazare, received the Indian of the Year award from NDTV.

I say, it is easy to see why Kejriwal strikes the right chord among 'aam aadmi' (common man) who are frustrated with years of deep rooted corruption and bureaucracy in the system. However, again, to be very honest, what comes to mind is his 49 days long chief minister-ship of Delhi recently. When he won the Delhi elections on the promise of implementing changes, doesn't giving up in 49 days amount to giving up too soon? Whatever happened to perseverance in the face of adversity? Or is it that his dreams changed to bigger national level goals, while he still had the proverbial carrot to dangle? If he does win, hopefully he does prove to be the trailblazer that his supporters seek. 

3. Sonia Gandhi (Top, 3rd from left)- At 68, the Italian born President of the Indian National Congress (INC) party, is contesting from Rae Bareli Parliamentary Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. Sonia Gandhi, has been known to be the torchbearer of the party since 1998, even as Manmohan Singh occupied the Prime Minister's Office, with Congress ruling the country currently. She was named the third most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine in 2004. In 2010, Forbes Magazine ranked her as the ninth most powerful person on the planet. She was also listed among the Time100 most influential people in the world for the years 2007 and 2008. Sonia Gandhi holds the record of serving the Congress Party as its President for 10 consecutive years, during which Congress has been the ruling party, winning the 2004 as well as the 2009 general elections.

I say, she might be said to enjoy the power position in the party on the grounds of being the widow of Rajiv Gandhi, the third generation politician of the Nehru-Gandhi clan, but a powerful woman like her cannot be ignored. Although she's not in the race for the Prime Minister's Office, the influence in the party might well pave the way for her son, Rahul Gandhi, to take the office- inexperienced though he may be. If that does happen, it'll certainly be seen as India's love affair continuing with the Nehru- Gandhi family. For once though, it appears to be an unlikely outcome. At least for now.

4. Rahul Gandhi (Top, 1st from right)- At 43, this forth generation politician of the Nehru- Gandhi clan, Vice President of Indian National Congress and Chairperson of Indian Youth Congress (IYC), Rahul Gandhi, is contesting from Amethi Parliamentary Constituency in Uttar Pradesh. In both 2004 and 2009 elections, he was elected in the Lok Sabha from this constituency. Rahul Gandhi was arrested on 11 May 2011 in Bhatta Parsaul village by the Uttar Pradesh police for supporting flustered farmers who were demanding more compensation against acquisition of their land ´╗┐for a highway project. In 2009, he traveled across the nation and spoke at 125 rallies, thereby being credited with the revival of Congress party in Uttar Pradesh.

We say, this Cambridge educated young man might be a progeny of globally respected leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (his great grandfather, the first Prime Minister of independent India), Indira Gandhi (his grandmother, the first and only woman Prime Minister of India) and Rajiv Gandhi (his father, who impressed the global audience with his charm where ever he went), but he has a long way to go, many experiences to gain and lot to achieve- before he can himself qualify to run the country.

Looking at the above list of key prospects for the prime ministerial position, is it any wonder that the american media is not paying much attention to the general elections in India? The Indian leaders that form the face of Indian politics, might be educated, but they seem to lack the aura of a global leadership (yes, India desperately needs a leader of global quality). They lack the three basic qualities- sincerity, selflessness and sophistication. Indian leaders need to step up and take the world stage even, make the global community take notice of them. However, lack of interest is not necessarily a bad thing either, after all, to please the west is certainly not the goal. Neither is attention seeking the strategy. Lack of interest by the global media might also be taken to mean that India does not pose the risk of bringing to rule a party or a person that will pose a threat of nuclear disaster and terrorism, one of the primary basis of interest in elections in regions like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Either way, whether it's the personalities of the politicians, or what they're expected to bring to the global platform (or not) or the lack of threat from India, the fact is that the general elections in India warrants not a mention in the media here because the outcome (no matter what) is of interest Not! 

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