VOTE for the lesser evil is what I'd say to the Indian voter in a situation where the choice is between the devil and the deep sea. Vote on national rather than local issues. Have a single-point agenda which is: throw out corrupt people. The Prime Minister says corruption is a non-issue because all of them are like that.
Boycott the BJP. Because they stoke fanaticism. They seek to divide men in the name of God. That makes them more evil than evil itself. The NF has no ideology, no leaders. A man projecting himself as a potential prime minister heads a government that pulls a Rs 600-crore fraud on the people. Imagine what he would do if he were to head a defense purchase committee.
Prime ministerial choices? Why not me? No, but seriously I'd say Manmohan Singh, P. Chidambaram and A.B. Vajpayee. In that order. I don't approve of Vajpayee's party and ideology but he's alright. I'd prefer someone young and dynamic though who could take the country forward.
THE intelligentsia does get involved, though not whole-heartedly because of its lack of conviction when it comes to supporting any side. Most don't vote because of lethargy and because they don't feel strongly about any one party. But I think in this election, one should take sides. And there is absolutely no argument for not casting one's vote. Yes, I would canvass for a candidate I was sure of. Even if I was unsure, I would canvass for him if the opposing candidate was one I didn't approve of.
As far as prime ministerial alternatives go, let us not talk about individuals. Whoever imagined that Narasimha Rao was capable of bringing in this kind of economic change? Also, those born to be prime ministers may prove to be incompetent. What is important is the pressure group backing the prime minister, not the individual himself.
We do not have a party that can offer a complete package—with strong, secular, liberal values as well as knowledge of the market forces. But the intelligentsia cannot leave the ruling of the country to the corrupt just because politics is a cesspool. They should be prepared to raise the level of Indian politics.
NO, the intelligentsia is not involved in the political process because they would be in a minority where whatever they say will not be tolerated. Those among the thinking minority wishing to be counted will only be misfits because 90 per cent of those in the political arena are corrupt and have made it a den of thieves. But not voting is sacrilege. Armchair critics who form part of the intelligentsia are also the first to use the election weekend to get out of town.
There are alternatives, however. Besides Narasimha Rao, there's Vajpayee, and there's the third alternative in Jyoti Basu—though the choices are not necessarily in that order. I would plumb for Basu because he is the most practical communist. He does not believe in what's mine is mine and what's yours is also mine. And of course, there's Manmohan Singh also.
BADA mushqil sawaal hai . I'm sure people are fed up of all the dhotis, caps, smiles being seen all over the country yet again. The situation has changed only marginally. People ought to vote for people with proven capability, some sort of track record. Lawyer Kapil Sibal is among the very new faces on the scene. People should send out the message that the current breed of politicians is no longer acceptable. Where there are only incompetent candidates they ought to put their imprint on three places on the ballot paper to render it invalid.
It would be wrong to take names, state my prime ministerial preferences. All I will say at this stage is that change is desirable in the light of all that has happened. Newspapers are telling us about all those 'suitcases' sent to Nandyal. I strongly disapprove of the Prime Minister using government-controlled television for personal image-building in spite of clear Election Commission directives to the contrary.
THE intelligentsia tends to intellectualise problems away in our country. They look only at the political analysis of the problem—even corruption. We need a unification of urban and rural India because the elite, which forms 5 per cent, doesn't react emotionally to the rest of India. I realised this while making Bandit Queen . A lot of the intelligentsia is now involved in the process and some of them are contesting the elections. But politics starts at the grassroots and though the intelligentsia is trying to form links, the grassroot involvement is not sufficient.
There are no viable alternatives actually—we have the same people under different garbs and splinter groups of the same party. Only the communists—whether viable or not—came as an alternative. We should base our choices on a clearer and more transparent government. I would prefer a corrupt but effective government rather than a clean but ineffective one. I would canvass for a candidate if I'm convinced he's exceptional. But quite honestly, one can't find an alternative who is an intellectual as well as has a feel of the grass-root level. Besides the usual people who are touted for the prime minister's post, nobody has impressed me. I don't see a Gandhi or a Nehru amongst us.
THE intelligentsia believes that the political process is for the masses. They think they can manipulate the system anyway with money and power. Most of those living in high-rises don't bother to vote. I'm sure there is a very low voting turn-out in south Bombay. It is most definitely a crime for the educated to abstain from voting and then take advantage of the system when it suits them. The hawala scam has jolted the system to a considerable extent and the press has played a large part in convincing the people not to support the candidates who are corrupt.
My vote goes to Chidambaram. He represents the new India, is progressive, educated, affluent (therefore does not need to scrounge around for the scraps that politicians are notorious for) and being a sophisticated, urbane man, he can present India in the right perspective abroad. He also understands both money and foreign policy.
I believe the prime minister should be a good chief executive. Politicians are only good at manipulating votes. They can only offer, not deliver. I have not met a single person who I could vote for. Even Manmohan Singh does not have the action abilities that a prime minister would need to have. He can only formulate policies.
KRISHNA BALDEV VAID
I don't think any intelligent person will vote for a specific party. On the other hand, the voter's choice will depend on the candidate. One would have to have prophetic insight to say who the prime minister would be. Personally, I would prefer Man-mohan Singh while he retains the finance portfolio. He is not a tainted person, and could be a non-party prime minister with the consensus of all the parties. Among the leading contenders, Rao is the best choice. Vajpayee is a respectable person but he won't be able to work independently without his party's interference.