The phrase “Hobson’s choice” means a free choice in which only one option is offered, “take it or leave it.” The phrase originated from Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a horse owner in England who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in the stall nearest the door or taking none at all.
Indian voters have something similar to choose from when we go to the polls later this month.
Let us briefly examine the runners in this race to loot the country.
1. UPA. This group of brigands calls itself the party of Gandhi and Nehru, swears by socialism—they added that word to the preamble of the constitution—and feels that only members of one particular family can rule the country. The corporate sector loves them.
2. NDA. This group of desperadoes calls itself a Hindu party, swears by capitalism—they think socialism is a dirty word—and feels that only people of the majority religion should rule; the rest are second-class citizens to be treated with disdain. The corporate sector loves them.
3. The Third Front. This motley crew of comedians, whose members are always playing musical chairs so that nobody knows who is where, says that they are neither socialists nor capitalists, that they hate UPA and NDA equally, and are proud of their regional hereditary fiefdoms. The corporate sector loves them.
4. The AAP. The new entrants to the field who are more at home agitating than governing. Nobody has any clue as to their ideology or their program. What can be said in favor of them, however, is that they don’t seem to have criminals in their midst.
5. The Left. This bunch of jokers has highly educated, but not wise, self-styled intellectuals who carry Das Kapital in their hip pockets and know what Lenin liked to eat on weekends. Ask them about sons of toil and they will wax eloquently for hours on this fascinating subject. Ask them about tons of soil and they will gaze at you blankly or, worse, label you a “reactionary.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what our choices are.
Do we vote for the UPA candidate who talks about the escape velocity of Jupiter to Dalits? Do we vote for the NDA candidate who believes that Alexander the Great was defeated by Biharis on the banks of the Ganga and that Takshashila is in Bihar? Do we vote for a Third Front leader who thinks Mizoram and Nagaland are “northeastern countries?” Do we vote for the new kid on the block, the AAP? Do we vote for The Left whose leaders are more concerned with Clause #112 of the party program rather than with strategy and tactics?
One-third of the UPA and NDA candidates, according to the National Election Watch and the Association of Democratic Reforms, face criminal charges—13% face serious charges like murder and kidnapping. Both fronts claim that people are innocent until proven guilty, and we all know how lightning fast our judicial system is. It has been 30 years since the anti-Sikh riots happened and the accused still roam free. Quite possibly, they will be declared guilty after they drop dead of old age.
Do we have a choice then? If so what is it? Tell me
Let us sit back and enjoy the drama that is Indian democracy, where the voter is free to vote for the candidate of his caste, sect, denomination, and/or religion, or his favourite dynasty—regional or central, and where ideology is just another word in the dictionary.
The author is a veteran analyst based in Chennai