The recent elections in five states deserve to be known as landmark elections for many reasons. The turnout of voters was about the largest we have known: between 75 to 86%. This is a clear indication that the aam admi knows that voting is his privilege as well as his duty.
There was very little violence and most of the exercise was carried out peacefully. Musclemen and booth capturing are past history. So are vote banks based on caste or community. People look forward to improving their living conditions and cast their votes to the party which promised to do so. Nitish Kumar's victory in Bihar prove that appeals to caste or religion together no longer count for much.
The rout of the Communist government in West Bengal should teach Communist Party leaders, particularly Prakash Karat, a lesson. Dogmatic Marxism, rampant trade unionism and frequent strikes took a heavy toll of industry and prevented Bengal from becoming a leader in industry. Also, its leaders' allergy towards everything American was childish beyond belief. They have paid a heavy price for their obscurantism.
The demise of Karunanidhi's DMK is to be welcomed. He treated Tamil Nadu as his family property. All the scams that ruined the reputation of Dr Manmohan Singh's government were the doing of DMK ministers. Only last year, Jayalalithaa said she would give unconditional support to the Central Government if it dispensed with DMK. I hope she will stick to her word.
Assam stays with the Congress for the third time. In Kerala, another bastion of the Communists, the Congress support increased.
So what do we make of the results from the five states? As far as I am concerned, I see the wind still blowing in favour of the Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi, the president, and her son Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary of the party. And the central government headed by Manmohan Singh reassured of a full five year term in office.
Every Buddha Jayanti, I am reminded of the one I spent in Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh). Eminent Buddhists from many countries were expected to offer prayers at the Stupa. Dr Radhakrishnan, then Vice-President of India was to give the inaugural speech. I was commissioned by All India Radio to cover the event for Indian listeners.
The Sanchi stupa dates back to the third century BC. It had many sculptures depicting Jataka tales from Buddha's life. When I reached Sanchi, a whole city of tents to accommodate visitors had come up. Dr Radhakrishnan who was a great orator gave a spell-binding speech and touched on the salient teachings of the Buddha, notably the all-pervasive dukha (sorrow) and the need to learn detachment to combat it. The came the chanting:
Buddham Sharnam Gachhami
Dharmam sharnam Gachhami
Sangham sharnam Gachhami
By the time the ceremonies ended, it was well past midnight. I walked about the fields taking in the hallowed atmosphere. Now I live in a crowded Delhi where garish electric lights blot out the moon and the stars from vision.
Arab in Yankee land
Mohammad, a child of Arab parents was enrolled in a school in New York. On the first day, his teacher asked: "What is your name?"
The boy replied, "Mohammad". From now on your name is Johny as you are in America," she said. In the evening, when he came back, his mother asked, "How was your day Mohammad?" He said, "My name is not Mohammad. I'm in America and my name is Johny."
His mother slapped him and said angrily: "Aren't you ashamed of trying to dishonour your parents, your heritage, your religion?" Then she called his father and he also slapped him.
The next day when the teacher saw him with his face red and asked what happened, Mohammad said, "Madam, four hours after I became American, I was attacked by two Arabs."
(Contributed by JP Singh Kaka, Bhopal). The views expressed by the author are personal.