Sunday, July 22, 2012

Such a poor loser….Sangma should accept defeat gracefully

Purno Sangma lost to Pranab Mukherjee. This was widely expected. No surprises there at all. TV channels were boring to watch since everything went to plan. Except for a little bit of excitement coming from Karnataka – where some 13 MLAs apparently cross voted against the BJP and Sangma – there was nothing else to liven up the coverage. And then Purno Sangma’s press conference happened. And he showed how poor a loser he was….

Sangma alleged that money power was used to win Mulayam Singh and Nitish Kumar over. It is not my point that this is an untrue statement; no one knows that for sure. It is also not my point that this is an absolutely ethical thing to do assuming it is true. My point is that there is a time and a place for everything. The occasion when a candidate loses and another wins is a perfect place to bring the fight to an end and to acknowledge, without conditions, the victory of the winner. We say that the President is above politics. There is no better place to demonstrate that than in the loser’s press conference.

If the Congress used money power to win over some political parties, Sangma was no better in his conduct. He raised the bogey of the aspirations of the tribals to seek support from parties. He would be the first tribal President, his rhetoric went. How strange that he was promoting himself under this pretext – had he used this argument to prop up another tribal leader, I could have still understood, but promoting himself up on this utterly irrelevant point was as bad ethically as the Congress wooing UP and Bihar with money power.

What about all the arbitrary charges Sangma levied against Pranab’s candidature? Something of some office of profit that Pranab may have erred in resigning from in time. At least in the Presidential elections – a post that very largely has only titular importance – we expect candidates to rise above such pettiness.

What about the BJP that continued to fish in troubled UPA waters? Their blatant encouragement to Mamata to break the UPA and call for early general elections is ethical? And when Pranab reached out to TMC members, that was dubbed unethical by Mamata. How convenient!

To Pranab’s credit, he never used his Bengali identity to appeal to the Left parties of that state. Till the very end, a couple of these parties continued to oppose him – again shunning the logic of him being a Bengali candidate. What pride is there for a state if the President comes from there? I live in Mumbai and I scarcely felt any pride that Pratibha Patil came from Maharashtra. Most of the times, I hoped and prayed that she would present herself in a little less orthodox image. Her pallu draped in a rustic fashion was a big problem for me. I couldn’t care which state she belonged to. Likewise, I couldn’t’ care what Kalam’s religion was or which state he belonged to. He was a good President because of what he was.

On that score, one has to be happy that the Presidential elections were one place where a good candidate won and bad politics lost. In the end analysis, no one questioned Pranab’s claims and qualifactions to be President. In fact, some may have said that he was over-qualified. In the end analysis, class, caste and sex played no role in getting him the support he got.

It would have been much better if the BJP had supported Pranab. When Yashwant Sinha praised Pranab in Parliament, I had a new found respect for the BJP. But that was just an error. The BJP would practice for 2014 like Sushma Swaraj said. It may have found nothing sincere to oppose him – so it created the bogey of India’s poor economic conditions to oppose Pranab. The party has some intelligent economists in its fold – it would help if they read Ruchir Sharma’s book “Breakout Nations” to understand that India is not alone in suffering economic decline. Every BRICS nation – including the indefatigable China – is in trouble.

In the end, there were some bad aftertastes that will linger on. Mamata’s dirty politics, and her shameless u-turn will stay in our memories. In her party spokeperson Derek O’brien’s complaint on TV, the food didn’t taste good in the stomach. But then as someone on another TV show countered: TMC needn’t have eaten the food at all!

Some other parties rose in grace. The Shiv Sena had nothing to gain from the Center. No monetary largesse. No state pride. And yet, it supported Pranab purely for his personal charisma and caliber. Nitish Kumar played politics with the BJP, but in the process showed that he wasn’t one to be taken for granted. Jagan Mohan Reddy supported Pranab and its impact remains to be seen.

The TV coverage was quite shocking to say the least. One popular TV (which I call Scam TV) kept repeating that “we must give it to Sangma” because he bravely faced the media. Really? After all the cry-baby comments he made against Pranab? Another TV channel had a panelist who questioned the need for decorum in these elections. What’s the need for grace he argued? Well….god save our country!

What must be really satisfying for the Congress is that none of its troubled units or allies voted against it. But for the BJP, Karnataka proved to be another embarassment; after Sushma Swaraj brought it upon the party first at the beginning of the election process when she declared that the BJP would oppose the Congress simply for the sake of opposing. That’s what we have seen again and again in Parliament too. Nothing surprising about that too.

The real truth is that in the end, the better man won. And everyone – Purno Sangma being the first one – should stand up and salute the new President. For once, we have a man who is known to be upright, non-partisan and very very intelligent and well informed. It is a proud day for India today…..

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