Listless elections


Inadequacy of issues under debate, if they are discussed at all, is evident in Britain going to polls on Thursday

Inadequacy of issues under debate, if they are discussed at all, is evident in Britain going to polls on Thursday

Amendments to the anti-graft law announced last week by the Narendra Modi government have been adapted from a British law. It is so often that in the Supreme Court or the High Courts in India and in most of the Commonwealth nations, British case laws and verdicts are respectfully cited as precedents. Such has been Britain’s impact, acknowledging the colonial past. When George W Bush Jr. was elected for his first term as the United States President by counting of postal ballots several days after the main voting was over, the democratic world was dismayed and looked at America with bemused wonder.

Such are the expectations from the world’s most powerful democracy. Similar sentiments abound as Britain, touted as home to the Mother Parliament the world over, is heading for a general election. It seems listless, directionless, witnessing a campaign that is without the cacophony of highs and low and advertising frills and worse, yielding a possible ‘hung’ verdict. The polls have put the Conservative and the Labour neck and neck. And the pollsters have predicted weeks of political paralysis if no party gets a majority and forming a government poses problems. The scenario being painted is grim as Britons prepare to vote on Thursday. Inadequacy of issues under debate, if they are discussed at all, is evident.

Those including environment and climate change that dog the world today have barely figured in the campaign. Even the European Union, an issue that would once fire the Britons, has failed to excite the Britons. Is Britain reflecting the general decline in discourse in election-bound democracies across the world, even as the holding of these elections becomes frightfully expensive? Incumbent Conservative Prime Minister David Cameroon has lost political ground as his term ends. But that ground has not been seized by the Labour led by Ed Miliband and/or Nick Clegg of Liberal Democrats. A “Tory-Lib Dem” coalition is seen as one of the most likely results of an extremely close election in which fire and clarity are lacking. Unsurprisingly, senior MPs from both parties have betrayed deep reservations about such an outcome. They are widely perceived as getting ready for gruelling and protracted negotiations.

Viewed from India, the silver lining is the likely role of the large and increasingly economically powerful Indian community. The highest number of Indians, 29, is in the election fray from different parties. Some like Keith Vaz have done well and can be expected to make their contribution, if re-elected. Indians are a factor in many constituencies and Vaz got Bollywood star Abhishek Bachchan to pep up his campaign in Leicester. Long ceased to be The Empire where its flag fluttered and the sun never set, Britain gives the impression of going further into the background, even losing its importance as a world power. This perception could be reversed only if the Britons make a clear choice.

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