Aprils Fools

Updated: Mar 29 2004, 05:30am hrs
As the general elections draw near, and with summer also setting in, the heat is really on. Politicians out on the campaign trail are busy wooing voters for a fresh term in the Lok Sabha.

As the voter settles down to choosing his or her candidate, the political apparatus through its babus is busy ensuring that the voters decisions dont get biased by mundane day-to-day issues.

From the uninterrupted telecast of the Indo-Pakistan cricket series to keeping prices of essential commodities and of petrol, diesel and kerosene under check, to the long hours of load shedding (a common feature every summer), these are all issues that capture a voters mindspace.

Not surprisingly, politicians do not want to take chances with such matters.

So we have a private television channel forcibly succumbing to the State flexing its muscle, merely to ensure that the cricket series is televised to a larger audience.

We have officials from the Union power ministry drawing up detailed plans to ensure load shedding does not take place.

Remember the onion crisis of 1998 that forced the government to import the commodity Or the recently concluded elections to state assemblies where incumbent governments were voted out on the issue of bijli-sadak-paani

The politician certainly remembers and, therefore, he believes that the citizen cannot make a rational decision in conditions where some of his basic needs are unmet.

However, there are practical limitations to what the government can do for the voter. Not much can be done in a few days to drastically change the condition of roads or to augment water supplies, especially when there is a shortage of this resource.

But the concerned government will definitely try to address these matters. Thus, roads would be spruced up and the price of filling up a fuel tank will remain the same, regardless of an increase in the global price of crude.

Load shedding would come down or be postponed as all power stations would be running at maximum capacity, sometimes ignoring basic precautions. But all these do come at a price.

The present cushioning of oil price hikes would either erode the bottomline of oil companies or, after elections, be recouped from the same hapless consumer through a price rise. Overstretched power systems could lead to a grid collapse or result in stations packing up at a later stage. But thats a risk worth taking, isnt it

The voter is happy, at least in the short term, and the politician is happy that the voter is happy. After all, April is election season and the voters decisions shouldnt be influenced by petty issues.