08 October 2009

election day

next tuesday, october 13th, is the date of state assembly elections here in maharastra (the state that mumbai is in), and things are ramping up. there are banners hanging overhead, election trucks driving all around town blaring slogans from loudspeakers, and today there were even firecrackers going off in the streets near a rally.
it’s the first state elections since the terror attacks of last october 26th, so it’s a big deal.

the main 2 contenders are the congress party, the party of ghandi, which has run india for most of its independence, and the right-wing coalition of BJP and Shiv Sena, who are both Hindu nationalist parties. they are reactionary parties, reacting both to the occasional corruption found in the congress party, and to the terror attacks. congress has been accused of nepotism, as many of its national leaders have come from one family, the nehru/gandhi family (that gandhi is no relation to mahatma gandh) they have produced the first indian prime minister, nehru, and his daughter sonia, and then her son rajiv. in part, this happened because indira and rajiv were both assassinated, and the people looked to relatives to take over in those times of crisis. rajiv’s wife sonia is a leader in the party, and even though she was italian-born, the indian supreme court ruled she could be PM, but she didn’t want to be, and after all the assassinations, who can blame her. still, she’s big in the congress party, and she hand picked the current PM. and her son rahul is young, but rising quickly, and everyone expects him to be PM eventually.
the BJP/Shiv Sena alliance is, as i said, a hindu nationalist coalition, meaning they think india should be for hindus, which means not for christians and especially not for muslims. every once in a while, they tear down a mosque which was built on the site of a destroyed hindu temple, to rebuild the temple, which leads to riots and unrest and violence. mahatma gandhi would have hated them, he wanted india to be a democracy for everyone, and he in turn was killed by a radical hindu who didn’t think so, just like rabin in israel was killed by a radical jewish assasin for trying to make peace with the palestinians.
because of last year’s terror attacks, shiv sena has gained a lot of followers, and many people think they will take control of the state assembly. in turn, as they’ve gotten more popular, they have mellowed their stance, promising to be a party of all the people, not just hindus. but they are still very scary to some people.
election day is not only a national holiday, it’s also a dry day; no beer or alcohol is allowed to be sold. a good idea, as the parties will no doubt get raucous as the night goes on. it’ll be interesting to see the results.

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