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After the counting and other stories

May 17, 2009 12:23 IST
The great fabulist O V Vijayan had a collection of short stories -- and some of the best were based on the Emergency -- titled After The Hanging And Other Stories.

I could stretch the point and suggest that democracy was hanged in India, but perhaps that is too dramatic. Democracy was already a walking wounded in India. It had been a zombie for years, with paraphernalia such as elaborate elections, but it is merely form, not substance. What passes for a democracy in India is make-believe. It is, to paraphrase that old racist Churchill, about as real as the equator.

Nevertheless, it is a little sad to see a people committing collective suicide. For, this year's election is a point of inflexion, coming as it does at a point when the unipolar world of the recent past is clearly unraveling. There is a power vacuum, as the dominant power of the previous century, the United States, is clearly suffering from imperial over-reach. Much as other imperial powers have done in the past, America is also realising that there are limits to its power to compel others.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, a new power is stepping into it: China. They have amassed, as is well known, a war chest of $2 trillion. They are making noises about replacing the US dollar as the reserve currency, and economist Nouriel Roubini (known as 'Dr Doom' for his Cassandra-like warnings about the economic crisis) wrote in The New York Times about the 'almighty renminbi' possibly replacing the almighty dollar.

This was India's chance to also make it to the top, but of course it won't with the UPA at the helm. The UPA and its coterie of leftists have a congenital inferiority complex, and they simply cannot imagine that India in fact has the potential to be one of the poles in a multi-polar world. Their imaginations have been stunted by all the dogma of non-alignment they have mouthed for decades -- and they can only imagine being a pawn and a supplicant to some superior power.

The fact is that an unfettered India which defends its interests had a very good chance of being not only one among the top ten global powers in its economic, military and innovation capability. India, if it played its cards right, would have had a non-trivial chance of being Number One, the biggest power in the world. If the intrusive Indian government did not interfere, the native genius of Indians would naturally enable the nation to flourish, as was demonstrated in sector after sector after 1991. Indians have thrived despite the government, not because of it.

The problem the Americans face is that, despite their vast continental resources, they are a waning power, as they reached the zenith of their empire in the 1950s and 1960s, and it has been downhill ever since, except for a brief moment when they became the sole hyperpower. The Chinese, on their part, have tremendous problems because, despite the acknowledged entrepreneurial capacities of its citizens, Chinese history shows that it can only do well when there is a strong imperial government. Eventually, the Communist dictatorship will collapse.

India would have had a chance, but not with the UPA in power. An old gentleman, whom I have no reason to disbelieve, once told me of an incident with a Communist leader in Kerala, who opposed prohibition. In a private conversation, this person questioned the minister about the obvious fact that the consumption of liquor by men was impoverishing their families and preventing them from rising up to the middle class. Whereupon the leader told him, in effect: "We don't want to end poverty. If there is no poverty, who needs us?" This accurately reflects the UPA's beliefs as well. Their slogans will have no takers unless there is a large, hopeless underclass.

The UPA has demonstrated that it can only think of India as a vassal state throughout the last five years of craven behaviour towards the US ('India loves you, Mr Bush,' said the PM). The opaque manner in which the nuclear deal was rammed through was preposterous. India will pay tens of billions of dollars for nuclear fission reactors from the US and its allies, and will go into 'cap, rollback and eliminate' mode as it is blackmailed into the NPT, CTBT and FMCT.

In the meantime, the Americans are giving billions to the Pakistanis, in effect supporting their new plutonium reactors, as reported by MSNBC on May 15.

It would be ironic if the Americans are taking the very same billions coming from India and giving those to the Pakistanis. That would be, as Karl Marx said, history repeating itself as tragedy: British imperialists, it may be remembered, coerced money from Indians to build the infrastructure to oppress Indians.

The energy issue is just one of many in which the UPA has not looked after India's interests. Consider China -- now that energy prices have fallen, the Chinese have locked up long-term contracts for oil and gas by waving their bankroll around, in places like Venezuela, Russia, and Angola. The UPA has done nothing, apparently complacent that Uncle Sam will ride to the rescue with uranium. The UPA couldn't even get Bangladeshi or Myanmarese gas, which the Chinese snatched up. That is nothing short of criminal.

In fact there are several reasons why the last five years of UPA rule have been disastrous. I am reminded of Ronald Reagan's famous jibe: 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?' Absolutely not, in area after area:

Economy: because of disastrous populist policies, the budget deficit is around 13 to 15 per cent, one of the highest in the world. Inflation of up to 12 per cent has permanently pushed up the prices of most essential goods by a factor of 1.5 to 3x, and it will return with a vengeance because of the high deficit.

Foreign Policy: India's 'near-abroad' is a disaster, as India's sphere of influence has shrunk, and China's has grown. Nepal is now controlled by friends of China; Sri Lanka is massacring Tamils, and has leased the Hambantota naval base to China; terrorist infiltration via Bangladesh and Nepal continues apace; the Pakistani Taliban are only some 200 kilometres from Delhi.

Security: Terrorists attack Indian cities at will; the invasion of Mumbai has already been forgotten by the UPA.

Corruption and money-laundering: Gigantic amounts of money appear to be stashed away in numbered Swiss accounts -- enough to pay off the national debt; the ill-gotten gains of the Italian Quattrochi have tacitly been given to him. This makes the already corrupt Indian system even worse.

Opaqueness: The UPA lied continuously to the Indian people and Parliament about the details of the nuclear accord, which turns out to be far less attractive than was advertised; the huge bags-of-cash-for-votes scandal has been swept under the carpet.

The Indian voter is not stupid, and is exquisitely sensitive to things that affect his wallet. Therefore it is a little surprising that the average voter drank the UPA's Kool-Aid.

There is, of course, the possibility that the average voter did not in fact fall for the UPA's charms, and that this election was subject to massive fraud. I am talking about Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Having spent many years in the high-tech world, I do not trust computers, especially embedded systems. Researchers in the US have shown how easy it is to break into EVMs, which is why they have not adopted them. They have realised how important it is to have a paper audit trail, hanging chads and all.

It would not be extraordinarily difficult to install a programme with a Trojan Horse in it. To outward appearances and to ordinary testing, the programme would appear normal. However, when it is fed a sequence of keystrokes by the agent of the party committing the fraud, the Trojan Horse wakes up, and then, regardless of what buttons the voter actually presses, it can assign a certain (non-suspicious-looking) percentage (not 90% but, say 45%) to the preferred party. The Trojan Horse can even be programmed to quietly delete itself when the voting is over. Nobody would know any better, as there is no paper trail.

Let me emphasise that I do not have any evidence that this happened in 2009, but it is worth investigating. There were too many surprising -- almost miraculous -- victories by certain candidates whom the casual observer would have written off. By Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is fraud. I would like to note in passing that in 2004, expecting the NDA to commit fraud, an Indian Communist in the US had prepared a suit alleging EVM fraud. Therefore it is clear that the thought has occurred to various people that there could be EVM fraud.

In any case, the 2009 elections, I repeat, were an inflexion point or a tipping point, which will mark the rapid decline of India. Looking back, historians will identify this election as the precise moment that India as a nation and a civilisation began unraveling. It is fairly likely that India would have become a dismembered state by 2025, thus fulfilling a long-felt need in certain hostile quarters -- one in which both the Communists and the West see eye to eye -- to break up India.

Rajeev Srinivasan