Thursday, November 10, 2011

Political Debates

My favorite political debates of all time were those that preceded the confidence motion before the Vajpayee government was ousted from its second term in 1999. Watching the likes of Pramod Mahajan, Somnath Chatterjee and George Fernandes take the floor was such a joy, but nobody could put you in a trance like Vajpayee could. Even his seemingly unending pauses were filled with such a sense of anticipation. I'm glad that he lived in a time when TV coverage was merely incidental and not the primary objective. A perfect example of the latter is the republican debates happening here in the US right now. Candidates are asked to sum up their thoughts on healthcare in 30 seconds. 30 seconds!! That's one half of a Vajpayee pause. Anyway, TV stations want to make the debates as exciting as possible for even an audience that is not interested in politics. I must say it makes for interesting viewing. Since it's not really an arena to discuss policy and ideology, you might as well enjoy the soundbytes, canned talking points and a lot of veiled personal cheapshots. Some comedian said that when people watch an airshow they are really wishing for an air-crash. Well, that might be sadistic when applied to airshows, but in debates such wrecks make compelling viewing. Yesterday, the audience must have prayed really to make this happen.
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