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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A thought on India

India is the world's largest democracy. How a country with India's not inconsiderable problems in the last 50 years has managed to remain democratic is, I think, a worthy achievement. It is a shame therefore that Sonia Gandhi is not going to become Prime Minister. I would not be surprised if security fears, and real concern that her origin could hamper her party, combined with the fact that she really did not want to enter politics to begin with, all had their role to play here. That the racist and extremist elements of teh BJP had a role to play here is India's shame. I am pleased that the BJP were defeated, and I exult that democracy once again turned away accomplices of massacre like Vajpayee (I refer most recently to Gujurat - if he were honourable then something would have been done).

I don't like much of the reporting of the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4, but I listen to it all the time in the morning on the basis that its good to know what "they" (being the anti-free Iraq, anti-american, pro-Saddam, pro-bin Laden, anti-semitic, anti-Catholic lobby) are thinking. However, every so often they do turn in the useful story (there are apparently still some actual reporters in the BBCs and not just fiction writers). They had one reporter outside the house of Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi where people were protesting (perhaps begging would be a better, more accurately emotive word) for Sonia Gandhi to reverse her decision. I am, I think, inclined to look on the bright side. The BJP were promising protests against Sonia Gandhi and her heritage. Instead we have spontaneous protests for her. I am very doubtful they will change her mind, but this is an important sign.

I also wonder whether now Sonia Gandhi will slowly assume the sort of role in Indian society that the Queen Mother held in British society until her death in 2002. An interesting thought I think.

And other news for being hopeful. A hateful ban on religious conversions in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is going to be rescinded, as a direct result of the election.

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