The mother of all elections, election for the most powerful office of the world has just come to an end. Without doubt the world looks to the USA for leadership. Not everyone though is ready to accept its hegemony. Some look at this great country with awe, some with hatred, some with loathing, some with envy...........there is indeed a plethora of different feelings associated with the greatest democracy of the world. On the one hand it is a bullying super power, poking its nose all too often in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries, and on the other it is the only truly free country in the world, a land of hope and opportunity, which has over centuries welcomed peoples of all nationalities, cultures, colour and creed into its fold. Like it or hate it, America is the undisputed leader of the world. There have been instances of countries like China, Cuba, Iraq, Iran etc challenging its hegemony, most have been left much the worse for it. What better proof of its greatness, that the country has chosen as its leader a black American of African origin, and one with ‘Hussein’ as his middle name. It is not too long ago that one heard of the Ku Klux Klan and its campaign against blacks. I can still remember the severe thrashing of a black motorist by white policemen, caught on camera in New York. But Obama’s historic win has proved beyond doubt that the day that Martin Luther King Jr had dreamed of has finally arrived. And what a proud moment it is for America.
However, the purpose of this blog post is not to sing praises of America, it is to introspect into our own democracy, the largest one in the world.
All of us would have followed the riveting election campaign for US presidency. I for one did not follow it too closely, but follow it I did. What struck me most was the dignity, humility and grace with which it was conducted. The mutual respect shown by candidates to each other during and after the campaign. The primary between Obama and Hillary Clinton, was a close run thing. But once over, the graciousness with which Hillary accepted defeat and then, more importantly, pledged her support for Obama as the presidential candidate was touching. It was gracious and sporting to say the least.
The actual campaign, between Obama and McCain, was equally fascinating for its dignity and grace. Imagine for a moment what the same campaign would have looked like, had it been an election in India, say for example between Mulayam and Madam M. I shudder to even think what kind of mudslinging, slandering, verbal abuse and physical violence that would have been used. I would rather not go into all that. But the point I am trying to make is the difference in the quality of politics and politicians. I am not for a moment suggesting that the presidential campaign in the US was totally devoid of mudslinging or slander, but it was kept to a minimum. The real focus was on how the two proposed to govern the country. Even in defeat McCain was gracious enough to urge his own supporters to move on from the disappointment of defeat, and support the President elect as best possible. In his own words, "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together.
"Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans."
Obama on his part assured the Republican supporters that he was indeed their President as well and had no hard feelings, while he said, “And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”
We in India keep talking about reforms. Reforms in the civil services, Police, Intelligence Agencies, Armed forces et al, but what is required most is reform of our Democracy, plagued and poisoned as it is, by partisanship, pettiness and immaturity.
But we can take pride in the fact that we have had a large number of citizens from the minority communities hold high offices. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, Giani Zail Singh and Abdul Kalam as Presidents and right now we have Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, not to mention the numerous others who have held and are holding senior ministerial appointments. However there are numerous important lessons that we ought to learn from other more successful democracies of the world.
Reform must commence from the top, if we want to take our country, with the immense potential that it has, to its rightful place on the International stage.