The world’s largest democracy has gone to the polls, and the turn-out has been immense. Across India, voters have poured in. It has not been all smooth, as would be expected – voting machines failed to work, names missed off electoral rolls, and most recently, the twin blasts in Chennai, killing one and wounding nine more (although whether this is linked to the elections remains to be seen). Yet if you read practically any Western media, the image you receive is bizarrely one-sided. On one hand, there is the nasty, nationalist, far-right presence of the BJP, headed by the monster-in-chief Narendra Modi – a man who presided over riots which killed 2000 Muslims. Opposed to him are the forces of light lead by Rahul Gandhi. He is young, handsome, and has a series of Prime Ministers in his family. It’s an obvious choice, right? Only those religious zealots would vote for a man like Modi! Quite how practically the whole of the Western media has managed to mess up their perspective this badly will be a mystery for the ages. Anywhere else in the world, having a whole dynasty of Prime Ministers would smack of dynasticism, of nepotism, and of corruption – yet somehow, this is seen as a mark of good breeding for Rahul Gandhi. Incidentally, a point worth noting is that the family bears absolutely no relations to the Mahatma, bar Nehru’s friendship with him. Indira Gandhi, Rahul’s grandmother, married a man by the name of Feroze Gandhi – but this hasn’t stopped Congress on trading on a false image of purity and secular values.
A quick glance through the family record suggests otherwise. Nehru was a womaniser and drinker, but at the least was as an adept statesmen who served his country well. His daughter, Indira, gave the country victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war, helping to create Bangladesh at the same time – yet when she was about to be evicted from power due to electoral fraud, she brought down a State of Emergency, rounded up opponents, and censored the press. Her older son, Sanjay, installed a programme of forced sterilisations during the Emergency, though his chance to be Prime Minister was cut short by a plane crash. Indira’s own downfall came from her fight with Sikh secessionist terrorist groups, culminating in Operation Blue Star, the attack on the Golden Temple of Amritsar. In 1984, her Sikh bodyguards assassinated her in retaliation, leading to anti-Sikh riots which saw thousands of Sikhs killed. Anyone who wants to take umbrage with Mr. Modi’s handling of the 2002 riots might like to consider Rajiv Gandhi – Indira’s younger son – and his response to the riots: “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” His own rule saw him train and fund the LTTE – better known as the Tamil Tigers – in a fashion disturbingly reminiscent of American assistance for the Mujahedeen or Bin Laden. Unsurprisingly, it all went badly wrong when the LTTE refused to accept a peace deal and began a war against Indian forces stationed in Sri Lanka. In 1991, LTTE suicide bombers delivered ironic punishment by killing the ex-Prime Minister in a suicide bombing. His wife, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, remained the power behind the throne, and under her leadership, the Congress party has lurched from scandal to scandal.
Whether electricity, coal, sugar, or military hardware, Congress has been found guilty of massive corruption – not that you would see that from reading a Western newspaper. Instead, Congress’ lip service for secularism and progressiveness has allowed the media to gloss over their colossal flaws. The ANC has had less time to screw up South Africa, yet pages were lavished upon their failures – there’s hardly a peep for Congress. Some Indian commentators have questioned whether this is linked to Congress’ close links to the West – a number of leaders, Sonia Gandhi included, are Oxbridge-educated. Others see it as a concerted effort to support a weak, nepotistic, and self-obsessed government, which can be easily lead by foreign powers. Whilst I am dubious of such conspiracy theories, the ability to misread the political situation quite so badly is worrying. If Congress loses to the BJP, it won’t be purely the result of ‘borderline fascist religious bigots’: over six decades of corruption can’t help but play a part.
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