Home Minister P. Chidambaram has urged that the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) be postponed, due to conflicts with the Indian general elections in April — May, 2009. He argues that law enforcement forces in India will be unable to provide sufficient security cover during the games due to election commitments. This blogger feels that the Home Minister is attempting to play it safe during election season and not be drawn into a scenario that provides a damning indictment of his party’s mismanagement of India’s internal security apparatus, should something, God forbid, happen during the event. The Lahore terror attack on the Sri Lankan team gave Mr. Chidambaram a convenient out, before a security assessment on the matter was even conducted. Outside the Subcontinent, there appears to be an attempt to paint India and Pakistan with the same broad brush, in terms of threat potential. Various quarters in India have also been playing up this hyphenation.
Let’s get real. Pakistan is a smoldering pot of jihadi fanaticism where the writ of government is undermined every hour of every day as a matter of common practice. Extremist forces in Pakistan operate with impunity both inside and outside the federal framework. The Pakistani establishment brought this upon itself and is now overwhelmed and unable to deal with this Frankenstein. To compare this to the state of affairs in a country that is about to hold the world’s largest exercise in universal suffrage (the 15th such installment, since independence) is laughable.
So go ahead, Mr. Home Minister, do your security assessment. Keep in mind, however, that your inability to provide security cover will be a condemnation of the security apparatus that you and your predecessor oversaw for five long years. B. Raman believes that only a pragmatic security assessment should dictate whether the IPL should be allowed to go ahead as planned. He suggests:
The national debate on this question is sought to be influenced more by commercial considerations arising from the profit-making urge of the corporate entities owning the participating teams and the money-making urge of different sections of the media and the advertising community than by security considerations…
The importance of ensuring the security of the life and property of the common citizens is sought to be subordinated to catering to the money-making urge of these sections with a vested interest in seeing that the IPL tournament goes ahead as scheduled.
I have nothing but the highest regard for Raman, but my beef with this article is the notion that just because this is a commercial venture (or a “money-making urge” as Raman puts it) that it should be brushed aside. No one in their right mind would assign anything but top priority to security during national elections, but private enterprise is an integral part of urban, middle class India, and has been for some time. It isn’t a “money making urge”, like some sly, underhand, nefarious charade, it is the engine that is driving India’s economy.
If the Home Minister is telling me that he can’t protect private enterprise in the country, our law enforcement agencies, along with the Home Minister can just pack up and move along because they are of no use whatsoever. Our law enforcement agencies have done little else in recent memory than raid rave parties in Mumbai and Bangalore. What message is Chidambaram trying to convey to India and to the rest of the world? That we are incapable of holding a sports tournament and national elections at the same time in India? Pragmatic Euphony echoes similar thoughts on The Indian National Interest:
[I]t should worry the nation that the Indian state seems incapable of holding a sporting event along with the general elections. The UPA government has done little to build these capabilities during its tenure and is intent on using Mumbai or Lahore as an excuse for its failure.
[T]he greater impact is in the signalling value of the decision taken. It impacts the international standing of the country not only for the tourists, but more importantly, for financial, commercial and business interests, as the security advisories get revised in corporate headquarters and government departments the world over.
The show must go on. Not for “national pride”, or for corporations’ “money-making urge”, but for the Indian government to show its people and countries outside that the fallacious hyphenation of India and Pakistan is absurd, and that it is capable of maintaining law and order it the country after the aberrations of the recent past.