All political parties are keeping their fingers crossed. The mud-slinging is over, so has name-calling, come to an end. The results of the elections will now be awaited with bated breath. The Times of India (April 11) gave its own assessment of what the results could be. Thus: ?The UPA?in which we are now not including Lalu Prasad'sRJD, Ram Vilas Paswan'sLJP or Mulayam Singh'sSP?is likely to end up just short of 200 seats?with 198 seats to be precise. The NDA?which no longer includes Naveen Patnaik'sBJD?is expected to get 176 seats. This should tell you the big story.?
Individually, the Congress, according to The Times of India will get 154 seats while the BJP will get 135 seats. We will now have to wait for the election results to be announced sometime towards the third week of May to find out how credible our psephologists are. Few newspapers, incidentally, gave detailed coverage of the election manifestos of the various parties, which is par for the course.
The Hitavada (April 4) did its best. The Hindu (April 20), true to form, provided a comparative study of all the political manifestoes, which is something of a journalistic achievement. The Hitavada (April 10) incidentally gave a summary of The Week / CVoter survey of election prospects.
According to The Week survey, the UPA and its allies will get 234 seats, the NDA and its allies 186 and the Third Front consisting of the Left (33), BSP (29), AIADMK (24), TDP/TRS (14), BJD (9), JDS (2), HVM (1), PRP (2), Others (9) will bag 112 seats. But the survey noted that 15 per cent of the people surveyed thought L K Advani as their best choice for Prime Minister. Advani'sdemand that the Government should bring back into Indian coffers over $ 1.4. trillion stashed in tax havens mostly in Europe, in Switzerland and Lichtenstein, has been strengthened by a detailed analysis of the subject by R Vaidyanathan, Professor of Finance and control, Indian Institute of Management, Bengaluru, in an article in the recent (April 2009) issue of Eternal India. It is an article worth reading.
The Indian Express (April 23) quotes Pranab Mukherjee as saying that the UPA government has not been slow in taking action against illegal money of Indian citizens stashed away in secret Swiss banks, but considering that this has been going on since Nehruvian days of socialism during Congress rule in Delhi, the party'scredibility doesn'tstand up.
The party'scredibility?and especially that of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh took a strong beating when Dr Manmohan Singh admitted at a meeting in Mumbai that he was completely in the dark about the CBI clean chit given to Jagdish Tytler in the case of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. It is a shocking admission. The Free Press Journal (April 14) took him strongly to task.
It is frightening, for example, to learn that in Assam, since 1987 as many as 22 journalists have been killed, the last one to be assassinated being Anil Mazumdar, a Guwahati correspondent of the largest selling Assamese newspaper Asomiya Pratidin on March 24. He fell to the bullets of unidentified assailants right in front of his own residence, as he was returning from office around 10.30 pm. One does not know why Asomiya Pratidin is the target of asassins since its Executive Editor, Parag Kumar Das was gunned down in the heart of Guwahati on May 16, 1996. The first one to be killed was Punarmal Agarwal, a correspondent of The Assam Tribune?way back in 1987. The north-east seems to be a dangerous place for journalists. For all that, the north-east seldom gets much attention in the media unless ULFA is on the killing spree or there is some sort of uprising in one of the seven states, collectively known as the Severn Sisters.
To get to know about the north-east one has to have access to serious journals like the quarterly Dialogue whose January-March issue is completely devoted the north-east. Dialogue is a highly scholarly journal brought out by Astha Bharati of Delhi and the recent issue carries articles like the Story of North-East Vision 2020, Understanding Economic Growth in the North Eastern Region, Peace, Violence and Development in Manipur, Murder in Manipur etc. The trouble is that very few people are aware of the existence of such journals, unless there are intellectual professionals who have a stake in knowledge accumulation.
Thus we have another quarterly published by the Indian Council of World Affairs known as India Quarterly which carries just five significant articles, one of which is on India'sDialogue Partnership with ASEAN and another on Minority, Polity and Governance in Myanmar. So much information is so easily available, except that one must known where to get it.
The Indian Council of World Affairs is a fabulous organisation with its headquarters in Delhi. Its library has a collection of over 1,25,000 books, not to speak of rare, bound periodicals, microfiches and about seven million Press clippings, a figure which is mind-boggling. The ICWA library receives about 384 research journals from India and abroad and possesses 28,000 periodicals in bound form. One wonders how many Delhiites make use of the facilities and knowledge available for the mere asking. Shouldn'tthe ICWA set up branches in many State capitals so that its stock of books etc., becomes available to a wider circle of readers and scholars?