Congress buckles under flying shoe
One of George W. Bush’s most significant positive legacies (there aren’t many) is that the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at him last year opened up a new way for the desperate to express their abhorrence of politicians.
I was writing this post, with the headline “Congress buckles under flying shoe”, when the tv reported that a shoe has been thrown today at another politician – this time it was at Naveen Jindal, a Congress MP and industrialist and a popular figure on Delhi’s party and polo circuits, who was the target of an angry retired (reportedly drunk) school teacher in Rajasthan.
This looks like becoming a feature of India’s current general election campaign and is surely to be welcomed, providing no shoe lands too painfully on its target, and the throwers are not roughed up by the police and goons who guard the politicians.
I say this because many politicians and political parties deserve to be publicly humiliated for the appalling, self-seeking, and often corrupt way that they have run the country for years.
When Jarnail Singh, a 36-year old Sikh journalist, threw a shoe on April 7 towards Palaniappan Chidambaram, India’s home minister, he could never have thought he would hit his target so successfully. He says he aimed to miss Chidambaram – which he did – because the minister was only an intermediary target for Sikh anger.
The real target were Congress Party leaders who had named two politicians, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, as general election candidates. These two men both have cases against them stemming from violence that led to the deaths of 3,000 Sikhs after prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh security guard in 1984. Added to this, it looked as if a court case against Tytler was about to be dismissed.
Yesterday Congress amazingly buckled and cancelled the two men’s candidatures. The party, headed by Sonia Gandhi, was reacting to protests that spread across the Sikhs’ home state of Punjab in support of Jarnail Singh’s shoe-throwing.
So who has come well out of the shoe throwing so far?
– Certainly Jarnail Singh, a usually quiet 40-year old journalist, who became a national hero yesterday, and who then reacted well, almost apologising for what he did and saying “impulse got the better of me”.
– Also Chidambaram, who said he understood Singh’s motivations and asked for no more action to be taken. He also admitted that Congress governments had not done enough to charge those responsible for the 1984 killings – a specially significant statement coming from a home minister.
– But surely not the Congress leadership which, even though it took the right decision in dropping the two men, should not have chosen them in the first place – and now looks weak and indecisive by cancelling their candidatures when they suddenly became a general election liability.
There is much that is wrong with the way that India’s government’s political parties, government and legal systems work. The Sikh protests have led to extensive television and newspaper discussion of these problems – not only of the way that those accused in the 1984 killings have gone free, but also of how people have rarely been charged successfully for other outrages such as the Gujarat 2002 massacre.
That is surely good.