Paper tigers only roar
Sir — J.M. Lyngdoh must be given credit for one thing — being even-handed with the stick (“Sonia flies into EC thunder”, Nov 19). If it were Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which got one end of it on an earlier occasion, it is now Sonia Gandhi and the Congress’s turn to get the other end of it. At least the BJP will now stop making snide and distasteful comments about the “Christian interests” of the chief election commissioner and the Congress president. Perhaps the party will now also accept the inherent justice of the CEC’s directives against it and change its actions accordingly. Sadly, however, these are small victories — the larger war has already been lost with the political parties overruling a Supreme Court order and deciding among themselves that election candidates need not declare their criminal records or financial assets at the time of filing nomination papers. For all his severity, thus Lyngdoh is only a paper tiger with very little real power to rein in wrong-doers.
M.N. Singh, Jamshedpur
Leaders of men
Sir — In a nutshell, both the editorial, “Women on top”, and Sumit Mitra’s, “Are they fit to rule'” (Nov 9), posed the question — “Why can’t a woman be more like a man'” But not all women politicians can be judged alike. If one looks at the international scenario, there is Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister, who disciplined the country’s powerful trade unions and turned round Britain’s economy by implementing free market reforms with an iron hand. Then there is Benazir Bhutto, who like Indira Gandhi, is her father’s daughter. She was ineffectual because she had the army and Islamic fundamentalists breathing down her neck. In India, Indira Gandhi was a popular leader who could gauge the pulse of the common man. Her toughness helped India frustrate the designs of its enemies. On the flip side, she created a legacy of dynastic rule.
Among the current crop of women leaders, J. Jayalalithaa has the mindset of a despot. She has a simple way of dealing with the opposition — set the police on them. Mamata Banerjee, through her spartan lifestyle and fighting spirit, caught the imagination of the people for a time. But sadly for Bengal, she lost the bus because of her whimsicality. Sheila Dixit is a politician of the old school — sober and educated. But she cannot hog the entire credit for a less polluted Delhi — some of it should go to the Supreme Court as well. Also, how can Mitra exclude the redoubtable Sushma Swaraj, probably the most admired woman politician in India at present'
Tapan Das Gupta, Calcutta
Sir — The subcontinent has had a number of women leaders like Indira Gandhi, S. Bandranaike, Benazir Bhutto, Khaleda Zia, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Mayavati and Chandrika Kumaratunga, who were “democratically-elected” but rode piggyback on the popularity of their fathers, husbands or mentors. J. Jayalalithaa is one of them. Having taken a shortcut to the top, the democratic credentials of these women politicians are severely tested in times of crisis when they are liable to become virtual dictators. Vindictive politics using means, fair or foul, has been the hallmark of these women leaders. The disastrous record of Mayavati in Uttar Pradesh and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu has left people feeling helpless in the face of the open misuse of power. Uma Bharti in Madhya Pradesh seems set to become another such prima donna. Jayalalithaa’s misuse of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to jail opposition leaders and her majority in the assembly to put intransigent journalists behind bars brings out flaws in the system and calls for a debate on the ability of women leaders to abide by democratic norms. The media should analyse the emotional maturity of such leaders so that voters can make an informed choice, given the increasing number of women entering politics.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Sir — It is clear now — with the Supreme Court ordering the disproportionate assets case against J. Jayalalithaa to be held outside Tamil Nadu — how easy it is for political heavyweights to influence the judiciary in India (“Jaya’s trial in Krishna’s capital”, Nov 19). Financial clout and intimidatory tactics — both of which Jayalalithaa can wield in ample measure — can easily turn witnesses hostile. Lower courts in the states, especially, are vulnerable.
But Jayalalithaa is not moved by the apex court order at all. This is probably because corruption and illegal accumulation of wealth come naturally to her. So the piling up of cases and files against her has no meaning whatsoever. In the circumstances, the result of the apex court’s order can be discerned.
Jang Bahadur Singh, Jamshedpur
Sir — In order to prevent situations like the one where the Supreme Court was forced to transfer cases concerning J. Jayalalithaa to Bangalore, high court judges must be appointed from outside their home-states.
Subhash Chandra Agrawal, Delhi
Sir — It is only when journalists are at the receiving end, that they raise a hoopla (“A pressing concern”, Nov 13). The media should learn to deal with J. Jayalalithaa with professionalism, courage and objectivity, not by getting emotional and whipping up public sentiment. For the sake of democracy, we need a sane fourth estate.
Tapan Pal, Batanagar
Games they play
Sir — We are happy that India will host the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The success of our bid was owing to the promise of aid for the development of sports in Commonwealth countries. But sadly, Milkha Singh, who is inextricably associated with the games, was missing from the Indian squad that went to Jamaica to project India’s capability although a cricketer, playing a sport that has never figured in the Games, figured prominently. Was it because Singh refused the Arjuna award, when it was awarded to him after four decades, and came out openly against the powers-that-be'
Susanta Ghosh, Calcutta