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regular-article-logo Friday, 19 July 2024

In a democracy, it’s dangerous for any party to get too big a majority

Back in Britain, some polls have predicted that in the 650-seat Commons, Conservatives will be reduced to 57-72 seats (down from 344), while Labour would get 400 (up from 205)

Amit Roy Published 22.06.24, 07:47 AM
Strength in numbers

Strength in numbers Sourced by the Telegraph

Too much strength

I have covered quite a few general elections but I don’t think I have come across the word, ‘supermajority’, until now. First, it was with reference to Narendra Modi’s “ab ki bar, 400 paar” and now it is about the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, ahead of the British general election on July 4. The inference is the same — in a democracy, it is dangerous for any party to get too big a majority. The Daily Telegraph said: “India’s Narendra Modi is on course to win a ‘super majority’, early exit polls showed, stoking fears he will use sweeping powers to change the constitution amid a rising tide of nationalism. Right-wing Hindus have been openly campaigning to transform India from a secular state into a Hindu one, or Hindu Rashtra.”

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Back in Britain, some polls have predicted that in the 650-seat Commons, Conservatives will be reduced to 57-72 seats (down from 344), while Labour would get 400 (up from 205). This prompted the Tory defence secretary, Grant Shapps, to say, “If you want to make sure that in this next government, whoever forms it, that there is a proper sys­tem of accountability, then we would argue that you don’t want to have somebody receive a supermajority.”

India is not a priority for the Labour leader, who hasn’t even bothered to visit the country. He has also excluded Indians from his top team. Labour does indeed like to support ‘coloured immigrants’ so long as they don’t do too well. What Labour hates are successful, aspirational Indians who refuse to be patronised — as the first generation of factory workers in Southall once were.

Partition memories

When Indian literary festivals come to the UK, they have no difficulty in inviting Pakistani authors, something that has become increa­singly hard back in India. Thus the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival, held in London and, for the first time in Cambridge, gave a prominent role to the Pakistani historian, Fakir S. Aijazuddin. There was also a session in Cambridge with Noreen Masud, the daughter of a Pakistani father and a Scottish mother, whose frank memoir about growing up in Lahore is called A Flat Place.

Meanwhile, one of the big draws at the Jaipur Literary Festival at the British Library in London was Mishal Husain who was born in the UK to Pakistani parents and is
now a celebrity BBC presenter. She has added to the growing literature on Partition by writing about her grandparents, Mumtaz Husain and Mary Quinn on her father’s side and Shahid Hamid and Tahira Butt on her mother’s side, respectively, who chose life in Pakistan after 1947.

Sandhurst-trained Shahid served as private secretary to Claude Auchinleck, commander-in-chief of the British Indian army, and later became the first director-general of Pakis­tan’s Inter-Services Intelli­gence. Incidentally, Tahira told Mishal in a taped conversation that “Partition need not have happened”. Mishal admitted that because of Partition, “I am left with a massive feeling of loss. A big part of my heritage lies in India.”

Race report

It’s fascinating to be reading the memoirs of the ace reporter, Shekhar Bhatia. In Namaste, Geezer: Life as a Fan and Journalist of Asian Heritage, he reveals just how much racism he has had to suffer not only from football fans but also from white colleagues in the press box. Bhatia, who was once married to the actress, Meera Syal, admits that he sometimes doesn’t want England to win — he explains: “Southgate’s is the most representative England squad we have seen in terms of background and diversity, but my reasons for preferring defeat for the national team are solely due to the xenophobic history surrounding the team and the thuggery and racism I have witnessed while reporting their games.”

Worth emulating

Sometime in the autumn of 2025, the Royal Academy of Arts is to hold an exhibition featuring Mrinali Mukerjee’s knotted sculpture using local hemp and jute. The Royal Academy was founded by King George III in 1768 and has been holding a Summer Exhibition without break since 1769.

Out of 16,500 works sent in through an open submission, 1,710 were selected by the hanging committee for display. I made a point of looking at the inspiring works of the Indian-origin artists, among them Permindar Kaur, Radhika Khimji, Akash Bhatt, Neera Sehgal, Poojan Gupta, Kiran Chauhan and Rahul Rahanu. The Summer Exhibition always reminds me to make my usual pitch for a spacious Museum of Modern Art in Calcutta. India should also have something like the Summer Exhibition. The Americans are apparently trying to copy it.

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