Democracy is the heart of our body politic and elections are its life blood.
Because there is some disease that affects it, we cannot apply leeches to drain it off, killing the body in the process, asserts Shreekant Sambrani.
Rising costs of living, struggling economies, ever more disturbing climate change in the wake of global warming, and the war in Ukraine showing no signs of coming to an end ... one would have thought elections would be the last thing on our minds, given these grim concerns.
But no, people the world over are voting and in possibly ever larger numbers for all bodies from local municipalities to national assemblies to presidencies.
As a wag put it, politics must be the second oldest profession of humanity!
In a world supposedly celebrating the new and young -- even old Blighty ushered in a new prime minister of Asian origin, a practising Hindu, no less, who is all of 42, the youngest to occupy 10 Downing Street in more than two centuries -- some old warhorses returned.
Brazilians gave themselves Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as their new president, preferring the once firebrand leftist union leader who was president from 2004 to 2012, to the incumbent Jair Bolsanaro, the Trump (not so) Lite.
Lula, as he is popularly called, has a tough task of keeping intact the badly fractured polity of his country, besides myriad other problems of governance.
Israel brought back its longest serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a brief spell out of office in its fifth election in four years.
He was expected to take an even more hard-line position on the Palestinians in order to retain the support of the radical Zionist parties.
Matte Frederiksen, the Social Democrat liberal Danish prime minister went to polls on November 1 after receiving a reprimand for her handling of COVID among the mink in the country.
She won a bigger mandate for her party (and herself) but was reportedly planning not to head the new government.
Her neighbours, the Swedes, recently voted in a conservative government, as did the Italians to the south.
And amidst all the turmoil on various fronts, most notably the economy, the Americans will this week elect 435 members of their House of Representatives and 33 members of the Senate.
Joe Biden, the oldest man ever to become president of the United States, finds himself embattled and considerably isolated.
(This mid-term election is important enough to merit a separate column a little later on to analyse its results).
At home, as this column had noted previously, we are always headed for some election or the other.
As a society, we are addicted to not just election news and data, but also to not-so-behind-the-scene whispers and goings-on, just as much as we are in case of those two other national pastimes, films and cricket.
This time around, we have state assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh this week.
The Gujarat assembly polls are scheduled for early December, along with those of the newly-merged Delhi municipal corporation.
The counting of votes is on December 7 for the corporation and December 8.
So, we can continue chewing our nails for another month (if we have any left after the suspense of the T20 cricket World Cup).
Ever since Narendra Modi became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001, assembly elections in that state have attracted more than their fair share of media attention.
Initially, in 2002 and 2007, the punditry declared ahead of the elections that the battle would be closely fought between Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
Modi won these with 127 and 117 seats respectively out of the 182 in the state Vidhan Sabha.
Modi played to the gallery with not very flattering remarks about the Muslim community, while the Congress leaders from Sonia Gandhi on down showered choice abuses on Modi.
Even as it became clear with each passing election that Gujarat was becoming an impenetrable BJP fortress, no efforts were lacking to invent some twist in the tale to keep the pot of media expectations boiling.
The last election in 2017 was contrary to prior expectations a close one.
Even though the BJP won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote, it could manage only 99 seats in a House of 182 (its numbers have swollen by a dozen defections since then).
With that high share of the vote, it would have been a landslide elsewhere with 70 + per cent of seats.
But in Gujarat, it was mostly a straight fight between the BJP and the Congress.
Another feature of the BJP victory was that its wins were with large margins, while its losses were close ones.
This time around, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party have decided to stir the pot.
The AAP supremo has been quick on Modi's heels in visiting Gujarat. He cannot announce or inaugurate multi-billion rupee projects, but he makes up by dangling other carrots -- free water and electricity, of course, and schools and clinics as in Delhi.
Obviously he thinks that he would have enough resources to pay for the cornucopia, but seems to forget that unlike in Delhi, he does not have high tax revenues from alcohol in Gujarat to pay for what he has promised.
Perhaps he thinks there are enough leaks from the existing revenue streams which he can plug. Obviously, he does not quite elaborate.
He pulled his biggest surprise a couple of days ago.
In a well-publicised press conference, he announced that the AAP would field Isudan Gadhavi as, hold your breath, not just the AAP candidate for Gujarat chief minister, but actually as the next chief minister of the state!
One wondered whether to marvel at Kejriwal's penchant for pulling a (tiny) rabbit out of a (large) hat, or at the conceit of the party.
Of course, here again he was following his bete noire, the prime minister, who, just over a year ago, summarily sent packing the entire Vijay Rupani ministry and replaced it with another one packed with mostly unknown faces under the leadership of Bhupendra Patel, himself a bit of unknown, a first time assembly member and a chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority.
Gadhavi was formerly an editor of a local news channel. A measure of the AAP media savvy is seen now in most national media carrying the same potted biography of Gadhavi, some even claiming him to be quite popular all over the state without bothering to check ground realities.
Gadhavi has worked in Saurashtra, but outside, even those who have had their ear to the earth, were caught by surprise when Kejriwal made his bombshell announcement.
Bhupendra Patel has had Modi and Amit Shah to propel him further and has been the occupant of the chief ministerial chair.
Gadhavi has Kejriwal and Gopal Italia, the chief of the Gujarat AAP, known mostly for his intemperate remarks, in his corner. Not much skill is needed to join the dots.
And what of the Congress, the also-ran for 22 years?
It puts on a brave face, but it should be worried, because the presence of AAP would split whatever anti-BJP, anti-incumbency vote there is.
Its local leadership patiently waits for central leaders -- read the Gandhis -- to help bail it out, but three weeks before the voting, all it can bank upon is Ashok Gehlot, the beleaguered Rajasthan chief minister who is also the Congress in-charge of Gujarat affairs.
He visits the state, but does not hold meetings.
Kejriwal and AAP can cite the Bhagwant Singh Mann precedent.
They successfully projected the one-time stand-up comic and Lok Sabha member as the prospective chief minister of Punjab.
But they were fighting mainly the Congress, a house hopelessly divided against itself with a haughty, aloof central leadership.
In Gujarat, AAP is taking on a popular prime minister in his own home state which he ruled for 12 years and now has vast party and government resources at his command.
Most surveys predict easy triple digit tally for the BJP, possibly its highest ever.
AAP is seen as at best making it to double digits, not quite able to dislodge the Congress from its second position, although weakening it greatly.
Meanwhile, in Himachal, the BJP juggernaut rolls on, hoping to break the jinx of the one-term-at-a-time jinx that affects the state politics.
The BJP big guns -- Modi, Shah, its president J P Nadda (a local man) and Rajnath Singh (defence is important in this border state which also has many servicemen, current and retired) -- have been stirring up the small hill state.
Priyanka Vadra Gandhi bravely takes them on, while brother Rahul promises to break his yatra for one entire day just before the polls to visit the state.
And what of the newly-anointed Congress president?
Local leaders in neither state seem too excited at the prospect of his joining the campaign. No prizes for guessing why.
Elections to the Delhi corporation could be potentially interesting, with a host of issues starting from pollution, effective urban governance (which would include water supply, garbage collection and disposal and smooth traffic management in India's worst urban jungle) and empowering local communities.
But for now, they are exercises in shrill name calling, with the AAP leadership only partially engaged, Gujarat being on its mind and the local BJP bereft of any local civic sensitivities.
Jayasukh Patel, the managing director of the Oreva group (of Morbi bridge notoriety), wrote a book in 2019 called Samasya ane Samadhan (problems and resolution).
He claimed that elections are a waste of time and money and hence must be given up.
Some of the present happenings might tempt one to see some merit in what he says, but that would be dangerous and suicidal.
Democracy is the heart of our body politic and elections are its life blood.
Because there is some disease that affects it, we cannot apply leeches to drain it off, killing the body in the process.
Winston Churchill said, 'Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.'
So however flawed they may be, we must carry on with elections, as people in far-flung United States, Brazil, Western Europe and Israel are doing it or have done recently.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com