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An Uninformed Democracy

An Uninformed Democracy? Romesh Thapar THOSE who rely on Akashvani and Door- darshan for their daily diet of 'news', and even those trapped by the tiny type-set of our expensive, badly printed newspapers, should make it a point to read "Amritsar, Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle" a reportage of the Punjab events by Mark Tully and Satish Jacob of the BBC. Quite clearly, if this was the material made available to BBC listeners, they were better informed than the general public in India.

CAPITAL VIEW

compounded not only by giving weightage to Centrally-sponsored schemes in different areas of development which fall within the sphere of responsibility of the states, but also by more detailed supervision by Central authorities of the allocation of funds and their deployment under these schemes. This is bound to hamstring the initiative of the states in the implementation of these schemes in the light of local conditions and circumstances. Such a dispensation is bound to create frictions and tensions in Centre- State relations which will in due course find political expressions in a variety of ways and forms. The fact is that the Prime Minister does not subscribe and is indeed allergic to the concept and principles of a federal polity. He is fond of insisting that India is not a federal set-up but is a union in which Central authority is supreme and must prevail in regulating relations between the Centre and states. This is the basic position which colours his views on strengthening national unity and integration.

Alarums Around Security

a border settlement with the Chinese which did not either give Aksai Chin back to us or give us a substantial territorial compensation for the same. The crucial question is whether our new ruler wants to break new ground on this issue. One thing is certain- he will not face resistance like Nehru did from 1959 onwards. The new round of talks has received a good build-up. This is an interesting indicator.

The Political Debate, and the Reality

The Political Debate, and the Reality Romesh Thapar WITH Rajiv Gandhi being hailed in extraordinary fashion as some kind of messiah in the West

The Single-Leader Principle

WE are taking a great deal of time getting over our obsession with single leaders. The arrival of Rajiv Gandhi through an embarrassing dynastic process could have signalled a change for thinking Indians more concerned with issues than with personalities, but the obsession is worse than ever. It is little short of Rajiv peddling, and as a counteir there is the flicker of baiting too. What with the daily (hourly?) outpourings of Akashvani and Doordarshan, and the effort of the press to reduce R K Hegde, Jyoti Basu and N T Rama Rao to political inanity by overplaying every favourable reference they make to Rajiv Gandhi, we also have new recruits to an agit-prop that warns against 'negativism', whatever that might mean in the lexicon of democracy. We even have political controversy around this theme. The Rajiv-baiters are not far behind. They live in the make-belief wo rid of Indira Gandhi where fiats issued from a single office in Delhi. They talk democracy, but actually preach the need for uncontested power. They cannot hide their contempt for federalism, and see in it all the ingredients of an Indian dismemberment. That Rajiv Gandhi is sensitive to such federal pressures, because he realises that he cannot survive in the old centralist frame, is enough to spark the twisted attack. The logic of the situation is conveniently forgotten.

Rajiv s Bharat Mala

Rajiv's Bharat Mala Romesh Thapar IT's a messy business, Indian politics. Punjab, Assam, Kashmir. A stress here or there makes all the difference to the viewing. We haye the dynastic totem of the ruling Congress Party under-playing the defeat of his candidates in the Punjab election and hailing the victory of the Akali Dal(L) as a vindication of Bharat Mata's unity in democracy. Very good. However, this doesn't prevent him from dismissing the investigations of citizens' committees as 'kangaroo courts' (for those unaware of Wild West novels, these were courts constituted by the early settlers in America to dispense instant justice to bad characters and criminals).

Security-Peddling and Showmanship

Security-Peddling and Showmanship Romesh Thapar THE pattern is familiar. Repeated Cabinet reshuffles to make clear to all and sundry in a corrupt party who is the 'boss', and to break any possibility of alternative power centres crystallising. A mix of new 'faces' and old 'gizzards' to keep faith titillated in political advancement. No one is buried. Revival is possible. Keep consulting the astrologers. After all, who knows what is on the Cards, as it were. The coterie, or the 'boss', plays it close to the chest. Surprise, after all, is the essence of effective showmanship.

Where Have the Norms Gone

Where Have the Norms Gone? Romesh Thapar I SUPPOSE the reading of spy thrillers and other kinds of pulp literature, now imported into this country as waste and sold at fancy prices, must assert a profound influence on the behaviour patterns of the ruling elite. Apart from security aspects, we are obsessed with conspiracy theories. And some of them are bizarre, to say the least

The Poison of Terrorism

The Poison of Terrorism Romesh Thapar BY now, after 38 years of freedom, I would have thought, we were equipped to deal with Sikh terrorism. After all, we have been playing this role from the earliest years of our freedom, and against terrorism in many forms. There are the continuing tribal insurgencies in the North-East; the killings of the so-called Marxist-Leninist Naxalites which, when stamped out at seme point, surface at another point; the political gangsterism of the Hindi-speaking heartland'; and the mixed up liberatiomst culture of the Tamils against Sri Lankan oppression.

The Sharing of Political Power

The Sharing of Political Power Romesh Thapar IF an attempt is made to look at the situations which have matured in Assam, Punjab and Kashmir in a careful, detached way, it will be seen that the very nature of the ethnic, communal and caste collisions are heightened to explosive polarisation by the way in which we practise our violent, intolerant and strangely destructive democracy. Punjab today captures all the nuances of our deteriorating polity.

Correctives Snarled by Stupid Follow-Ups

Correctives Snarled by Stupid Follow-Ups Romesh Thapar MUST we live with a heavy lacing of stupidity even as the correctives to the Indira era are carried out? We had a taste of this in the tragic Punjab situation where Sant Longowal's vital role as the builder of Sikh- Hindu unity was not fully grasped and an early election was ordered. Now, election or no election, we might not achieve the normalities so essential for peace and stability. And, here, I am looking beyond the terrorist/ killer presence.

The Awesome Costs of Correction

The Awesome Costs of Correction Romesh Thapar THE price of hasty, 'instant' management is sometimes awesome, almost destructive of the original intent. Sant Longowal's killing at the hands of some hopelessly misguided youth parading as 'avengers' shocks because it should not have been possible to do this to him. He was targetted for destruction by the hard core extremists the moment he signed the Accord. What do we make of our security systems, and all the other paraphernalia operating against such killers?

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