India Insight

Not funny – jokes Indian politicians crack

(Any opinions expressed here are not those of Thomson Reuters)

Politicians facing outrage over their comments often say that they didn’t mean what they said to come out that way. Lately in India, they say they were joking.

One of the latest was Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, whose self-confessed attempt at a joke earned him the ire of the Election Commission of India just before the beginning of this year’s elections that could boot the Congress out of power. Addressing a community of labourers in Maharashtra last week, the chief of the Nationalist Congress Party urged listeners to vote twice for his party – and told them how to do it.

“This time, Election in Satara is on 17 and as per my information election here is on 24. So cast your vote on ‘clock’ (party symbol) there and cast your vote on ‘clock’ here. Wipe the ink,” he said, referring to the indelible ink to mark the fingers of people who have voted, noting that people should be able to remove it.

For those unfamiliar with how it works, the ink blot is supposed to make sure that people don’t con election officials into allowing them to vote more than once.

When the statement led to a media uproar, Pawar said he was joking. Political commentator Manisha Priyam called it a judgment error. “It is the politicians who belittle the act of voter rights and citizens’ power who [make] statements of this kind. You don’t crack that joke,” said Priyam, a senior lecturer at Delhi University.

Parents to get top marks for voting in UP

Students at a Lucknow college will earn extra credit if they can get their mom and dad to vote in the Uttar Pradesh state elections this month.

Getting those 10 extra marks is no easy task. A girl student at Christ Church college said she would have to work hard to push her “lazy” mother to go out on polling day but it would be worth it.

School officials insist this is no bribe, only an incentive to ensure students learn the value of their vote. At a parent-teacher conference immediately after the election, the ink-stained fingers of voting parents will show which students have succeeded in the task.

Should NRIs get voting rights?

USA-INDIA/Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seems to have set the ball rolling for granting voting rights to Non Resident Indians.

“I recognise the legitimate desire of Indians living abroad to exercise their franchise and to have a say in who governs India,” Singh said at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas meet in New Delhi.

According to reports, the law ministry is working on amending the Representation of the People Act to include those living overseas as citizens.

Voting via SMS in the election: reality or fantasy?

A politician asks people to vote via SMS whether they want malls in villages. ‘No way’ — comes their response. 

“What an idea, Sirji,” says a beaming Abhishek Bachchan, appearing as the politician’s tech-savvy secretary in the popular TV campaign for mobile operator Idea Cellular.

‘What an idea’ indeed if people across India can vote for candidates via SMS in the April/May general election.

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