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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

OCTOBER 2016

35

T

he fact that the U.S. presidential elec-

tions come around in the same years as

the Summer Olympics creates a pecu-

liar tripwire for an Indian like myself. To

date India has been famously mediocre

at the Olympics: we may scrape the

odd gold every now and then, but our

participants usually come away with

bronze medals, the total of which you

can count on the fingers of one hand.

There’s no logical connection, but that marginalization

somehow links up in my mind to how utterly irrelevant India

has always been to any American presidential campaign—not

that too many other countries find themselves discussed,

How

India

Sees

U.S. Elections

The old formula for evaluating the U.S. presidential contest

has given way to complexities.

BY RUCH I R JOSH I

Ruchir Joshi is a novelist, filmmaker and columnist

based in Kolkata. He is the author of a novel,

The Last

Jet-Engine Laugh; Poriborton—an Election Diary

, a

series of reports on the Bengal state elections of 2011; and

the forthcoming novel,

The Great Eastern Hotel

. A regular opinion

columnist for

The Telegraph

newspaper of Kolkata, he also writes for

other newspapers and magazines in India, including

India Today

and

Outlook.

at least not in positive terms, in the greatest (and extremely

inward-looking) one-on-one electoral contest on earth. And yet

many of us in India end up glued to the yearlong battle, with

almost the same fascination as watching some Olympic sport in

which we have never had any representation.

In the 1960s, in the days before we had TV, the U.S. elections

came to us chiefly via the print media. While local Indian news-

papers carried the daily developments, magazines like

TIME

and

Newsweek

delivered the more detailed analyses (naturally

from American points of view) and

LIFE® Magazine

gave us the

visuals. Embedded in the local broadsheets amidst the mess of

Indian politics were progress reports on the primaries and the

election proper; what such and such candidate said about Viet-

nam, the Cold War or U.S. foreign aid—whatever might eventu-

ally ricochet into our reality; and the odd cartoon from the great

daily cartoonist R.K. Laxman making fun of this Democrat or

that Republican.

Historically, there was across-the-board agreement in India,

even among grown-ups of opposing political views, concerning

the outcome of the American presidential contest: A Democrat

president would always be friendlier toward India, whereas a

Republican was bound to favor Pakistan. This formula proved

reliable into the Ronald Reagan administration and the end

FOCUS

ON THE U.S. ELECTION