March 05, 2014

Election dates announced for the carnival of democracy.

It’s here. The election dates have been announced. The big carnival of democracy is upon us. The vote is a special, sacred thing – it unites us all, it discriminates not between rich and poor, billionaire and street-side dweller, between caste and community. It’s our greatest festival, drawing from our greatest text: our Constitution.

As a child, I remember my mother telling me – cautioning me – “beware the fury of the patient man (or woman)”. I wonder if it was an early lesson, a warning almost, for a career in politics. Governments forget this. Heady with power and triumphalism, they forget that judgement day will come and the people will demand accountability.

The voter is patient, she is generous, she is understanding; but should the need arise, she can be unforgiving. It is the fury of the patient voter that singes and smashes self-important and under-performing governments and ministers, those who have betrayed the public trust. In a sense, this makes every election a revolution.

My first big closeup view from within the party was in 2004. Then, I experienced this inspirational and at once cataclysmic phenomenon again in 2009 and 2011. Mamata Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress’ founder and leader, accomplished a 30-year mission and unseated the Left Front government, which had held back the development of West Bengal over two generations. This summer, the voter will deliver a similar message to the UPA government. From my personal, business and political travels and conversations in different parts of India, I have little hesitation in declaring that the Congress-led government in New Delhi is the most unpopular in India’s recent history.

Elections are not just about politics; primarily, they are about people. An election in which 800 million are eligible to vote, from the Himalayas to the tip of the Indian Ocean, is a logistical marvel. My admiration for the men and women who work for the Election Commission and run the five-yearly election project knows no bounds. I wish them luck for the weeks ahead.

As for my beloved fellow Indians, the men and women who make up our great country and spectacular society, all I can say is: Choose wisely. Your vote is not just your vote. It is your blessing to your children, for it will determine their future.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress