After every election we should analyse reasons of the outcome and speculate what they portend for the future: It was generally believed that the Congress Party would sweep the polls in Arunanchal Pradesh (AP) and Haryana, and with its allies, gain an overall majority in Maharashtra. The forecast proved correct in the case of AP. In addition, the record turn out of voters (over 73 per cent) sent a clear message to our Chinese neighbours that Arunachalis regarded themselves as Indians.
In Haryana though Bhupinder Singh Hooda has managed to form a government, he had to seek the help of independents to do so. His main rival Om Prakash Chautala was able to prove that he is still a viable political force. Bhajan Lal hardly counts now.
The real contest was in our richest state, Maharashtra, with its base in the metropolis Mumbai. As predicted, the BJP and the Shiv-Sena continued to decline. Bal Thackeray is a spent force; his son Uddhav has proved to be a non-starter. The unpleasant sign is the emergence of the hate-monger and separatist Raj Thackeray. An important task for the new government will be to make him hold his tongue.
What brought about the boom in the fortune of the Congress party? Full credit must be given to its president, Sonia Gandhi. She has proved herself to be an astute politician and an able organiser. She is measured in her speech and unbiased in the decisions she takes.
The same can be said about her son Rahul. Much as the educated elite may decry dynastic succession, no one can deny that so far he has not taken a false step and neither he nor his mother can be accused of nepotism or cronyism. Perhaps the most significant factor in the acceptance of the Congress party is the role of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He has acquired the image of a father figure whom everyone trusts and looks up to for assurance. His being at the helm of affairs makes everyone feel comfortable.
What follows? We are without a viable opposition party at the Centre. Both the Saffronites and the Reds have destroyed themselves. This creates unease as the ruling party may acquire a sense of smugness and become insensitive to meaningful criticism. Although L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Sushma Swaraj are still there, their criticism will not carry the same weight it did. My guess is that the real critics who will be able to deliver the goods will be Arun Jaitley and Jaswant Singh. They do their homework, don’t shout their mouths on trivial issues and therefore are heard with respect.
I get Playboy whenever I’m abroad and ask foreign friends to pick up a copy for me at the airport when they come to India. It’s banned in India for obscenity. I do not share the view of our censors of morality. It certainly has pictures of nude girls but it also has some very good articles, short stories, interviews, original jokes and cartoons. It’s erotica and soft porn, but not pornographic. There are many other magazines, which have hard-core pornography that even a dirty-minded man like me find unacceptable. Once when I was in the US I took a year’s subscription to Playboy and wrote to its editor not to have the name of the magazine on the wrapper. He ignored my request. No sooner than the first copy arrived, I got a letter from the Indian customs asking me to explain why I was receiving obscene literature. I wrote back protesting that it was not obscene and if somebody was sending it to me how could I be held responsible? I have little doubt the customs chaps enjoyed looking at the girlie pictures and even sold the journal at a considerable profit!
Although I like reading Playboy I don’t much admire its founding editor and proprietor Hugh Hefner. He is a good businessman and has made his journal into a multi-million dollar business as it is published in many countries in different languages. I discovered from the papers that its circulation is on the decline. Perhaps Hefner is getting old. He celebrated his 83rd birthday in grand style in his mansion in Los Angeles. He invited three girls featured earlier in all their naked glory as the month’s beauties to stay with him for a few weeks. All three are young enough to be his granddaughters. But there he was in his nightgown posing with the girls grinning ear to ear for the readers to see — and envy. I certainly did not envy him. I said to myself: “The fellow has got old and has started making an ass of himself.”
Mother (Circa 1970): “Son, please marry a girl from the same caste as us.”
Mother (Circa 1980): “Son, please marry a girl belonging to our religion.”
Mother (Circa 1990): “Son, please marry a girl of our social status.”
Mother (Circa 2000): “Son, please marry a girl from our own country.”
Mother (Circa 2010): “Son, please marry a girl.”
(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, New Delhi)
The views expressed by the author are personal