VOTE only for secular candidates. Boycott criminal, corrupt, communal candidates. You can still find people who are good and honourable in the Left Front and the National Front. People like M.A. Balu, Malini Bhattacharya, Saifu-ddin Choudhary and V.P.Singh. They are completely untainted by corruption.
Who would I like to see as prime minister? Now that's a difficult question. One doesn't know how it might all turn out in the end in view of all the variables in the current political situation. Maybe a consensus candidate like Vice-President K.R. Narayanan. Agreed, he lacks charisma, but what we need is not a charismatic prime minister but an honest one who has something to offer to the country.
THE intelligentsia is not involved in the political process and doesn't even bother to cast its votes because there is absolutely no public spirit in this country. They don't realise their responsibilies and their duties.
People should not vote on the basis of caste and religion. The BJP should be supported on the basis of merit and not for their focus on religion. Other candidates too should be supported on the basis of pure merit, nothing else. I would not canvass for a candidate I was convinced of, but I would certainly support him—like I've supported Murli Deora. Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are possibly good alternatives as prime ministers; only I wish they were not communal-minded. There's Jyoti Basu too—he is good, intelligent, honest and has tremendous integrity.
LOOK I'm a writer, not a political animal. I've no advice to offer beyond telling fellow Indians to vote for people with proven integrity and commitment to the national cause. It's time for soul-searching both among candidates and their electorates. The message people should send out through their vote should be that the present breed of venal politicians is unacceptable. It's difficult to say who's the lesser evil. The Congress is in a rotten situation, I will never support fundamentalist parties like the BJP, the Third Front has united. Any government you get might not last more than six to eight months. Then you'll have mid-term polls and the same rigmarole will begin all over again. I'm disgusted. I don't even know if I'll vote this year.
I don't know if we have any choices in terms of prime ministerial candidates. Hope they appear. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I'D say vote for stability. An unstable government would have no legitimacy. Taxpayers would have to pay for another election in three years when such a government would inevitably collapse. As things stand though, no party is likely to get more than 150 to 160 seats. Everyone is tainted. There's so much corruption. The Congress is in a mess.
The Janata Dal is also corruption-ridden. Look at what's happening in Bihar. I think constituents should vote for local candidates who can help in any way. Speaking for myself, I don't even know who the candidates are this year. Don't even know if I'll go to vote this year. I'm very pessimistic about the future. Nagaland has two lakh voters, to manage whom we've flown in 25 companies of paramilitary forces. The J&K elections will cost us dear. What if militants pass an anti-national resolution? If the BJP comes to power, there might be riots. Though, I think, in power they'll be tamed. Every politician is power-brokering because they realise anyone with three MPs in Parliament can swing the balance in a coalition government. Put three people in, make money in six months. Kanshi Ram knows he can wield power even with 10 MP's in Parliament.
The next prime minister? There's no one on the scene capable of inspiring and mobilising the people. Vajpayee is lazy: incapable of putting in the 16/17 hours a day the job requires. Rao has compromised himself. The Janata Dal is factionalised, with every leader pulling in different directions. Biju Patnaik, Laloo Yadav, Deve Gowda are laws unto themselves. The Left has no credibility. The prospects of stability and a good prime ministerial candidate are few.
I'D say voters should get together to defeat both the Congress and the BJP. Support the candidates of the Third Front wherever they are. The BJP and Congress' economic agenda are exactly the same. Both are following anti-people policies, except the BJP is going one step further with its proposal to cut rations for families having more than two children. Both parties have brought about the feminisation of poverty. Naina Sahni, the Jalgaon case, hawala—they are all a consequence of the complete degeneration of the social milieu brought about by the present government and endorsed by the BJP. In Gonda, the BJP denies a ticket to a TADA criminal but gives the same ticket to his wife. That's political cynicism for you.
To say who should be the next prime minister would be difficult. It's not a question of a person but of policy. A prime minister representing the Third Force is what I'd like to see.
THE voter must vote for stability. That doesn't necessarily mean the Congress. It's a confused scenario, with people wondering whether to vote for a person or a party. I'd say vote for integrity. For individuals who have character, a track record of fulfilling promises. I've always done that.
Rao has at least made India change, gave us reason to hope. The next person should carry the process forward. It's a Hobson's choice: Rao or Vajpayee. I'd root for Rao as, to paraphrase the Star Trek line, he's "done what no man has done before". Five years ago where were we?