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Shoegate to Laptopgate

Ever since a shoe was flung at George Bush, easily the most powerful President in the world, it has become so popular that it has been generously copied in India, the world’s largest democracy. So many shoes have been hurled at God knows how many dignitaries so far, including Home Minister Chidambaram and the Congress Party General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. Some enterprising entrepreneurs have already started plans to put up a factory specially to manufacture shoes for this holy purpose. As the experiment started with the head of the world’s number 1 Superpower, America, it has great export potentials too. Shoegate is so popular in the current Assembly elections in 5 States in India, that the audiences going to attend political rallies are de-shoed before being allowed to enter the venue of the meeting. It is not due to any fear of hidden explosives, as is the case with airports in the USA since 9/11, but just to ensure they are not used as manually propelled missiles making the political leader as the target. Since this is election year for America, they can take some lessons from the Indian shoegate as Indians have adopted it from the American experience. Otherwise also, there has been a lot of mutual cooperation between India and America in adopting constitutional practices of each other. There is so much to be adopted from the current election tactics in India. Laptopgate is only one such mechanism in the making.

All political parties are promising everything to the voters from heaven on earth to long life! But this promise takes the cake: all parties have promised to distribute free laptops to secondary school students! This sudden love for laptops has made many like me rather curious. Why are politicians interested in free distribution of laptops to millions of students? Most candidates for Assembly elections don’t even know what use is a laptop or whether it is different from a mobile phone.  Unless they smell hefty cuts in the purchase of these costly gadgets, there is no other explanation. The economic thinkers of the Planning Commission of India think that Rs 32 a day income is adequate for a person for all his daily needs of food etc, which immediately puts him above the poverty line, disqualifying him for benefits of several welfare schemes.Rs 32 x365 days works out to something like US$240. A laptop comes for no less than US$700. A million pieces can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in easy money. The benefits of welfare schemes hardly reach the target groups if the reports of the labourers being paid wages as low as 1-10 rupees a day instead of the guaranteed minimum 100 rupees or the NHRM(National Rural Health Scheme) funds being swallowed by the politician and bureaucrats or the farmer being compelled to sell his produce below the MSP (Minimum Support Price) by the FCI (Food Corporation of India) are any indication. When even hundred rupees is not being paid to the poor for the day’s hard labour, how could one trust that a laptop worth Rs35000 or so will reach millions of students? So there is great potential for the promise becoming a laptopgate.

Ever since the word gate caught tagged to water in America to form the Watergate, every such miracle of a political invention instantly becomes some gate somewhere in the world. Shoegate to laptopgate are sure to be blessed with more siblings in the coming days, when the American Presidential elections gain steam. As the American democracy is no different from Indian democracy in many ways of electioneering and hard politics, perhaps a few lessons from the current assembly election in India may be of use to America. The beauty of it all is that they are available for free too!

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