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   The eyes of the entire world...... (April 14, 1996)

The eyes of the entire world are on the Indian elections. The ‘New York Times' has sent its political correspondent for Asian affairs to explain to its readers our election process. The other day, he called on me for a brief introduction to the elections.

"I've just covered the elections in Taiwan and South Korea and the run in to the elections in Bangladesh. Compared to these, you elections should be simple," he said. "Now, let me see, you've got two parties, Congress and Communists."

"No, no, no," I said, "our two main parties are Coingress and BJP Hindutva. Communists are in Calcutta."

"Ah, the City of Joy. How strong are the Communists? Our editors are particularly interested in the Communists influence in India," he said.

"Well, the CPM are stronger than the CPI, but the CPM Marxist-Leninist has more clout than the CPM. There is also the Forward Block."

"That's a bit confusing," he said. "Tell me about the Congress."

"Which Congress would you like me to tell you about," I said. "The Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress, or the All-India Indira Congress (Tewari Group), or the Indian National Congress of Narasimha Rao, which is fast disintegration?"

"I had no idea there wer so many Congresses," the correspondent said, taking notes.

"There would be, we are the world's largest democracy," I pointed out to him. "There is also Prem Sawhney's Congress of People and the Tamilnad Maanila Congress (Moopanar Group)."

"Are they all contesting the elections as one party?" the ‘NYT' man asked.

"You must be joking," I said. "Though the Indian National Congress has joined hands with the AIDMK (Jayalalitha Group), but not the DMK (M. Karunanidhi Group), which is with the Tamilnad Maanila Congress (Moopanar Group)."

"Are there any more parties in your elections?" he asked.

"Not really," I said. "Unless you want to take seriously Pavitra Hindustan Kazhagam Party (Jethmalani Group)."

"And that's the lot," he said.

"Not quite," I said. "Now, let me see, there is Bahujan Samaj (Kanshi Ram Group), and the Samata Party (George Fernandes Group), and the Bihar People's Party (Anand Mohan Group), plus, Mr. Thackeray's Shiv Sena. Yes, we must not forget that, it is going national."

"I don't think the average ‘New York Times' reader can manage this lot," the corespondent said.

"You will have to explain it to him," I said. "And be careful to distinguish between the Samajwadi Party (Mulayam Singh Group), Samajwadi Janata Party (Chandrashekhar Group), and Samajwadi Party, Maharastra (Anil Ghote Group)."

"And that is all," he said.

"I think so, unless you want to know about the independents who are contesting the elections," I said.

"Amazing," said the Correspondent. "How do you manage to write about so many parties in your elections?"

"Writing is easy," I said. "It is which party to vote for that is a difficult task."

 
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