Sound and fury
Sir — Margaret Alva’s outburst will not surprise those who have been following Indian politics for some time now (“Habits die hard”, Nov 14). It is commonplace for members and second-line leaders of political parties to accuse higher-ups of favouritism and double standards when candidates of their choice are not given election tickets. But Alva being a general secretary of the Congress at the time of this incident, people are bound to wonder what she was doing about it when she was sitting at the power centre of the party. Or has she woken up to nepotism and favouritism within the party only because her son happened to be at the receiving end?
It is quite surprising, though, that the son of such a senior leader was denied a ticket, when it has become the norm to give priority to ‘family’ in such cases. It may be recalled here that another AICC general secretary, Rahul Gandhi, has also been ‘perturbed’ by the way the Congress has given tickets to family members of party leaders in Rajasthan and in Madhya Pradesh. He has even expressed a desire to remove the links of his party with ‘family’ and ‘money’. Perhaps he could think of making some provision in the party constitution to allow a certain percentage of the party’s electoral tickets to be given exclusively to its grass roots members.
Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee, Faridabad
Sir — It is one thing to have problems with the allotment of election tickets by one’s party. But it is quite another to express outrage, as Margaret Alva did, in front of the press and the people. Alva ought to have aired her grievances in suitable party fora, rather than washing the Congress’s dirty linen in public. By doing so, she has handed the Opposition, most notably the Bharatiya Janata Party, a perfect poll plank. Having said that, one must admit that there is truth in her allegations. Who can doubt that Rahul Gandhi’s present stature owes largely to his lineage? Surely, this holds true for Alva’s son as well. But it is not just the Congress that likes rising sons. The Samajwadi Party has Mulayam Singh’s son, Akhilesh, Kashmir’s National Conference has Omar Abdullah (whose father too was the ‘son’ of Sheikh Abdullah), and the Janata Dal (Secular) has the Deve Gowda sons, H.D. Kumaraswamy and H.D. Revannah — to name only a few. If India is to evolve into a true democracy, then it must do away with political dynasties.
Ambar Mallick, Calcutta
Sir — There is no doubt that Margaret Alva would have no reason to feel angry if her son had got the party nomination to fight from a seat in Karnataka. Her sound and fury have no connection whatsoever with the larger ailments of the Congress. Instances of party leaders openly laying down ‘terms’, including financial ones, for aspiring candidates are not unheard of. That Rahul Gandhi himself should point at family and money being pervasive presences in the party is an indication that the Congress must clean up its act.
J. Akshay, Secunderabad
Sir — It was most injudicious of Margaret Alva to revolt against a party of which she has been a member for the last 40 years. Her allegation that Congress leaders have sold tickets to prospective candidates in Karnataka might cost the faction-ridden party dearly in the six states going to polls in the next few weeks. Alva’s intention was not to blow the whistle on corruption in politics. Rather, it was to let out her frustration at failing to secure a ticket for her son, Nivedith. Party discipline was thrown to the wind, and Alva behaved more like a street politician than like the senior leader that she is. Of course, no one can deny that loads of money change hands before ticket-allotment. But this stands true for most parties in India, and Alva, as a veteran, looks very fake when she feigns surprise at such things.
Now that she has been sidelined from the most important committees in the Congress, she is likely to walk out and float her own party, where — no prizes for guessing — a top post will be left for her ‘hurt’ son. But what good can this achieve, except swelling the numbers of regional outfits? I think it is time Indians came to terms with the truth that democracy is not strong enough to put an end to dynastic politics.
Subhankar Mukherjee, Burdwan
Sir — Stripping Margaret Alva of her official posts is not the way by which the Congress can prove her allegations false. It is obvious that the actions taken against Alva are meant to deter others within the party from opening their mouths on similar issues. Politics in India is more lucrative than business. A businessman stands the risk of losing his fortune, but an MLA or an MP can expect to lead a life of luxury with what he accumulates in one or two terms. No wonder there is such a rush for party tickets, and no wonder people react like Alva did when their family members are denied tickets.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore
Sir — The report, “Glare on Muslim marriages” (Nov 9), revealed a commendable step taken by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission. The proposed legislation to restrict polygamy among Muslims, if passed, will go a long way in bringing about marital gender balance, which, at present, is terribly unequal. In fact, the practice of going by this or that religious text should be done away with altogether, regardless of religions and their various ‘personal laws’. The principles of secularism and equality should be given primacy above all else. This would be a step towards a uniform civil code that is needed to cure many of the maladies of Indian society. Coming soon after the Kerala education board decided to discourage religion in a social studies book, this latest move towards gender equality is most welcome. Kerala is certainly proving to be ahead of its comrade state, West Bengal, on several important social questions.
Amit Banerjee, Calcutta