Elections '98

Print edition : January 10, 1998

Your Cover Story on "the biggest elections in the world" presented fine party-wise and State-wise analysis of the situation (January 9).

The BJP appears to have gained initial advantage by forging several alliances, taking in defectors and launching a media campaign that projected its ability to provide a stable government. Although the Congress(I) is affected by infighting, splits and defections, it still has a mass base in several States, which will enable it to take on the BJP. With the Janata Dal considerably weakened, the United Front has to depend more on the regional parties and the Left parties. The United Front is in a better position with respect to the issues of corruption, secularism and social justice in comparison with the Congress or the BJP. But will it be able to translate this advantage into votes? As yet it is not clear whether a coalition that can keep the BJP out of power will emerge, but the polarisation of political forces will be clear in the post-election period.

A. Jacob Sahayam Thiruvananthapuram * * *

In an otherwise perceptive review of the political situation ("Election pointers" and "A round-up from the States", January 9), you appear to have erred in your assessment of the situation in Bihar. You have declared the RJD-Congress-JMM alliance a clear winner in the State on the basis of the 48 per cent vote share its constituents won in the 1995 Lok Sabha elections.

First, the votes received by the Congress (about 13 per cent) were largely anti-Laloo votes and are likely to drift to the Opposition in view of the Congress tie-up with Laloo Prasad. Almost every leader who counted in the State Congress (Jagannath Mishra, Ram Lakhan Yadav and Krishna Sahi, the only Congress victor in the State in the 1991 Lok Sabha polls) has now quit the party. The drift of the voters from the Congress was clearly demonstrated in the Assembly byelections that were held at the end of 1996, when that party lost its deposit in nine out of 10 seats it contested, polling a meagre 3 per cent of the votes.

Secondly, the break-up of the alliance with the Left parties, particularly the CPI, has affected Laloo Prasad adversely, because they provided dedicated grassroot workers which the RJD/Congress combine lacks.

Thirdly, the leaders of the rump Janata Dal have strong pockets of support in North Bihar largely at the cost of Laloo Prasad's base. In particular, Ram Vilas Paswan's Dalit base is frequently underestimated.

Fourthly, the even possibility of some gains in South Bihar may be undermined by the decline in credibility of the JMM leadership following their shenanigans in the recent past and the likelihood of the Congress and JMM both fighting in several of the Jharkhand seats.

To many media commentators, including your own magazine, the 1996 Lok Sabha results from Bihar came as a surprise. The 1998 polls may throw up further surprises, finally destroying the Laloo Prasad myth and also bringing out more clearly the damage Laloo Prasad has done to the cause of secularism and progressive forces in Bihar.

Priyamvada Singh Patna * * *

If the President does not issue an ordinance amending the Tenth schedule of the Constitution banning all kinds of defections after the elections, money-bags will win the next elections.

T.V. Achutha Warrier Thrissur, Kerala Shivarama Karanth

Dr. K. Shivarama Karanth was indeed a versatile genius ("A many-faceted man of letters," January 9). His opinion that if one has something to express, the form in which it is expressed will come of its own is noteworthy. He believed that if one is true to the values imbibed through life experience, then what one says will find the best form.

T.V. Jayaprakash Palakkad, Kerala Butterfly '98

Thank you for the new year greetings on Page 3 of the January 9 issue which carried a photograph of a butterfly with its wing showing "98". Initially I could not make out whether it was a photograph. But my doubt was cleared when I saw the picture credited to Gamma, the photo agency.

Shahid Rahman New Delhi Communist movement

Although I am not a Communist, I was delighted to read E.M.S. Namboodiripad's column "Eight decades of India's Communist movement" (January 9).

No non-committed voter will be surprised at the fact that the Communist Party of India(Marxist) is a major force in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala. CPI(M) leaders are not corrupt, unlike leaders of some other political parties.

It is good that EMS is conscious of the distance to be covered by the CPI(M) in order to emerge as a major force at the national level. To achieve that end, the CPI(M) will have to shed much of its communist jargon and use clear and meaningful common words.

The 39-year-old photograph of EMS and E.K. Nayanar was a sheer delight.

By the way, please consider publishing old photographs of present-day leaders.

S. Raghunatha Prabhu Alappuzha, Kerala Profiles and Letters

The excerpts from K. Natwar Singh's Profiles and Letters, published in the last two issues of Frontline, made entertaining reading. His reference to his own "gift of friendship" was the most entertaining. He says: "I live and have always lived for my friends. I believe I have a gift - the gift of friendship - and I am grateful to the Invisible Master for it."

Although the profiles and the letters are inextricably intertwined in many places, I looked for the profiles first as an impenitent lover of that branch of writing. I was thinking of masters of the art like A.G. Gardiner, Kingsley Martin and Richard Crossman in England; John Gunther, Arthur Schlessinger and John Kennedy in the United States; and Frank Moraes, Khasa Subba Rau (Saka) and K. Ishwara Dutt in India. But what I did find here was something rather different - the names of a galaxy of international celebrities.

D. Anjaneyulu Chennai The Jehanabad carnage

This has reference to "The Jehanabad carnage," with heart-rending photographs (December 26). The incident is a body-blow to the State administration. It is puzzling that although the killers belonging to the Ranbir Sena were running riot for more than three hours, no help reached the people of Laxmanpur-Bathe.

Satyadeo Prasad Patna Kidney trade

Your feature on the kidney transplant issue (December 26, 1997) clearly highlighted the fact that unless members of the medical profession take a positive stand against trade in human organs, it will be impossible to stop it. It is unfortunate that certain members of the medical profession are supporting the organ trade when they could be helping the progress of the cadaveric transplant programme. Cadaveric organ transplantation has proved to be a big success in the West, with a high turnover of organs, and the incidence of rejection is no higher than in the case of live related transplant. It can be developed in India provided the infrastructure improves.

Cadaveric organ transplantation will help not only the growth of a kidney transplant programme but also the development of large-scale liver, pancreas, heart, lung and small bowel transplant programmes which India lacks at the moment. It is essential that the medical profession takes a stand against "money for organ donation" before people start blaming members of the medical profession.

Mr. Parthi Srinivasan FRCS Registrar in Liver Transplant Surgery, Kings College Hospital London

* * *

This is with reference to the exhaustive feature on the kidney trade ("Kidneys still for sale", December 26, 1997).

It is rightly observed that "in a developing country where there are pockets of medical excellence comparable with the best in the world on the one side and a large population of the poor who are easy victims of the medical practice on the other, the ethical dimensions assume particular importance."

One of the main reasons for the trade is, as your reports have highlighted, "the glaring absence of a national public health service in dialysis for people with renal disease."

While dialysis is offered free of cost to those who need it in countries like the U.S., countries like ours do not offer such facilities. This is true at least in the case of Tamil Nadu. Patients who are unable to find suitable related kidney donors are, therefore, forced to buy kidneys from the market. The instinct for survival is a basic characteristic of any living organism.

I believe that the state cannot deny a medical facility to its citizens on non-medical grounds, especially if such a facility is available in state-run hospitals. That, I believe, is a violation of the fundamental right of a citizen to live.

Haemodialysis and CAPD are no doubt expensive today. They are expensive because haemodialysis machines, tubes and even fluid have to be imported.

A haemodialysis machine is a modified pump with a filter and the fluid used is a modified salt solution. CAPD does not involve even the pump or the filter. It just needs sterile bags, tubes and a modified salt solution. It is ironic that a country that can put a satellite into orbit has to depend on the West for such simple equipment.

The minimum we could do for those people with renal disease is to attempt to indigenise the production of these simple piece of equipment and make dialysis available free of cost to anyone who needs it.

J. Amalorpavanathan Chennai Encounter killing

This has reference to the 'encounter killing' of the underworld don Abdul Latif ("Death of a don", December 26).

Despite the fact that Latif was involved in 77 cases of murder, extortion and RDX landings, his son Mohammed Shaikh has sought the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission.

It is really lamentable that non-governmental organisations and human rights activists take up the cause of such persons. Why do they not think of the havoc these persons create in society?

K.P. Rajan Mumbai AIDS

This has reference to the article "Growing toll" (December 26). The situation with regard to AIDS is alarming. However, it should be noted by all people that this deadly disease is not transmitted through mere touch.

Let us be always careful in our daily lives and show love and affection to AIDS victims.

Goutam Ghosh Calcutta The U.F.'s record

This has reference to your Cover Story "Tragi-comedy" (December 12).

I do not agree with the concluding paragraph of the story "The politics of blackmail". The United Front regime can, arguably, be credited with many things, but it cannot certainly be complimented for its "core commitment to secularism, federalism and social justice".

The Congress(I), under Sitaram Kesri, has been rightly blamed for the furore over what can be termed a non-issue. But neither can the U.F. be let off the hook easily.

Notwithstanding Chandrashekhar's and Charan Singh's experience with the party, the United Front allowed itself to be lured by the prospect of power with outside support from the Congress(I). H.D. Deve Gowda soon learnt to his discomfiture how unreliable such "outside support" was. Going back on its commitment not to give in to "politics of blackmail", the U.F. sacrificed him. Inder Kumar Gujral was put in his place in a spirit of let bygones be bygones, all to keep the BJP out of power. So much for the U.F.'s secularism.

It must be said to the U.F. Government's credit that during its tenure the Inter-State Council was activated in an unprecedented way. The North-Eastern Council finally had a Chairman.

But if the U.F.'s commitment to "federalism" was ever on test, it was in the wake of the political crisis in U.P. The voting on October 21, 1997 in the U.P. Assembly deserved to be declared void for more reasons than one, none of which, however, warranted imposition of President's rule in the State, as the U.F. wanted the nation to believe. Its recommendations for President's rule in the State was returned by the President. Let us face it: the U.F. has failed the litmus test for its commitment to "federalism".

Diwakar Jha New Delhi

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