2014 more important than 1977 polls: Lord Desai
The coming Lok Sabha election "is more crucial" than the 1977 election that for the first time ended the Congress rule nationally, economist Lord Meghnad Desai has said.
"This may be the first time someone born after independence will (become) the prime minister," Lord Desai said here, referring to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who was born in 1950.
"We ought to take these elections seriously. It is more crucial than the 1977 election when the idea of India was at stake," said Lord Desai, emeritus professor of economics at the London School of Economics.
Also a Labour party peer in Britain, Lord Desai and other experts added that the debates ahead of the April-May Lok Sabha election were focused on personalities, not issues.
They were taking part in a debate on democracy at the India Habitat Centre. The speakers included Lord Meghnad Desai and Sudheendra Kulkarni.
The panel released journalist Hindol Sengupta's book "100 Things to Know and Debate Before You Vote".
"These elections have become so personality centric, issues have been backgrounded," said Kulkarni, chairman of Observer Research Foundation who was a part of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's office.
Kulkarni had an advisory role in Bharatiya Janata Party leader (BJP) L.K. Advani's prime ministerial campaign in 2009.
Kulkarni, however, added that despite odds, the elections were a proud moment for India.
"There are many shortcomings but the elections are a proud moment for Indian democracy... India's status as a democracy will be enhanced."
He also felt the Congress might be ousted and a BJP government was likely to take power.
"People want change, there will be no UPA III. In all likelihood, there will be a Modi-led government. But the BJP needs to focus on governance."
Lord Desai felt that the Indian political system belittles its MPs.
"The Indian political system has made MPs unimportant... But they are given access to power. They can (execute) local contracts, and that is how you get rich."
Desai called India a nation of many nations and said the elections gave it one identity.
"What kind of a nation is India? It is a multinational polity, not a single country. It was created as a single country in the 19th century and became one thanks to elections."
Pointing out at the lack of issues in election debates, agriculture and food activist Devinder Sharma said all the focus was on GDP and a hope for change.
"There is euphoria... GDP is not a symbol that all is well... Even when the growth was eight-nine percent, it was a jobless growth."
(Posted on 23-03-2014)