LK Advani has been calling for live television debates since the schedule for the 15th Lok Sabha elections was announced. The people of India have a right to know where the Congress, the BJP and other national parties stand on the complex issues that face the nation. But the silence from the Congress has been deafening. The maneuvering, amusing. First, we were told that there would be no debate between Manmohan Singh and Advani because unlike the US, ours isn’t a two-party system.
Then we were told by Manmohan Singh that he isn’t much of a speaker, and lets his actions speak for him. In other words, he’s a decider: like his good buddy, George W Bush. But Bush’s record in the White House makes him look like FDR after the Great Depression, when compared to Mahmohan’s record over the past five years. And now this vitriolic harangue from Sanjaya Baru, the PM’s former “media manager”. A cushy job, I’m sure, as it entailed doing nothing, just like the post of Home Minister.
Never before was a prime minister denied the right of reply in a debate on a motion of thanks to the President. Never before has a prime minister been prevented from defending his record in office in a debate on a motion of confidence. Manmohan Singh was at the receiving end of such grossly unfair treatment from an Opposition that turned every parliamentary debate into a duel. And now they want a television debate? Hah!
Wonderful. In other words, you tried to knock me off the pedestal when I was vulnerable. Now, it’s payback. To hell with the voters. Damn the plebs. Where is this disillusioned rhetoric going to take India? The kind of debate favored in our country is one where accusations are countered with counter-accusations. In the end, it’s the man on the street that loses. This will continue only as long as you and I give currency to such garbage talk.
Voting begins in India tomorrow. So please go out and participate in the largest democratic exercise in the world. But pledge to yourself that the act of casting your vote won’t be the end of your engagement with governance in the nation; that it will be the first of many such engagements between a complex, if chaotic, democratic system and you, the middle class, English speaking, Internet surfing, pub hopping, reality TV watching Indian voter.