For someone like me, never quite ‘tired’ of politics or politicians despite the perpetuity of their uselessness, I am used to an election fever of a different kind – a razzmatazz of screaming party spokespersons, animated TV discussions, post mortem analyses with an extra dose of historical context thrown in, self-assured psephologists and irreconcilable editors pontificating with the same gusto and enthusiasm (much to the viewer’s bewilderment) on 2 or 3 different news channels at the same time. This is what I am used to and this is what I expected. The stoic indifference with which Britain seems to be going about with its elections puzzles me. I mean, elections back home are almost like a soap opera; a new twist every day, new candidates being announced, new trends being spotted (more women standing this time, fewer Dalits in the fray, record number of independents and so on) new fronts being formed, old alliances being disposed of like used tissue, dirty linen being washed publicly – it is as colourful as it can get! Like a carnival. A Jamboree.
With so many parties, regional satraps and openly negotiating kingmakers trying to cobble up last minute coalitions (the norm rather than the exception in Indian politics until very recently), the sheer permutations and combinations to chew on are remarkably exciting. Then there are those grossly inaccurate exit polls, the ridiculous prime time debates which are about almost everything else but policy, the self-congratulatory manifestos and the daily khabar on all the jibes and potshots of the day. All of this is missing here, and sadly ‘election time’ isn’t half as much fun as it is in India or for that matter in the US with all its primaries and Super Tuesdays and swing states.
I guess part of it has to do with the fact that unlike in India or the US, where actual balloting goes on for weeks or sometimes even months, polling here finishes in a single day, so there is hardly any foreplay before the final act. Also, unlike India the UK has a unitary system, so there is no state-level politics to worry about in order to gauge what card who will play so as to hold the balance of power!
But finally, and most importantly, the UK lacks the colourful personalities that abound in Indian politics and make elections such great fun. I mean, David Cameron and Gordon Brown are almost like peas and mash before Mayawati’s Bhelpuri and Lalu’s Aloo Chaat and Signora Sonia’s Penne Al Arabiata (Indian ishtyle!!). What could Indian politics be without these characters? Could Brown or Cameron really match up in the race to being interesting (what with all their well-bred properness and university degrees) to rustic Mayawati’s pre-election statue installation sprees, or Lalu’s attempts at speaking English? Too much of a fight, then, isn’t it? Even the curry-worshiping Britons would agree!