The  joint venture that wasn’t
SIE, ~ The 28 June verdict of the Supreme Court on Bengal&’s panchayat election appeared to be a breakthrough in the tortuous and seemingly interminable confrontation between the State Election Commission (SEC), a constitutional entity empowered to conduct the election, and the Government of West Bengal. It was a confrontation marked by considerable wrangling and mud-slinging. 
Both the state and the SEC had a common agenda to ensure a timely, free and fair poll.  It is the duty and responsibility of the SEC to ensure a peaceful election subject to the fact that all the pre-requisites in terms of infrastructure and security are provided by the State. Law and order is a State subject.  The SEC and the  State ought to work in tandem. The election, after all, is a joint venture project. Regretfully, however, the task has not been pursued  as a joint venture. Hence the confusion and bickering over supremacy and the serial setbacks of the government in the courts. The credibility of the government is at a discount and its intention to hold the rural election is now all the more suspect.
The panchayat election has made Bengal&’s political scenario murkier.   The uncontested victories of Trinamul candidates reflect poorly on governance.
There has been a cynical manipulation of vote-bank politics couched in  hollow promises.   Bengal today is in the throes of anarchy. One can only hope that there will be no rerun of this discord before the Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Yours etc. Asit Baran Ray,
Perth, 1 July

Men without women

SIR, ~ A leading English daily has published a photograph of a conference held in Saudi Arabia, which was attended by representatives from 15 Islamic countries. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss the problems faced by women in these theocratic nations. What marks the event as unusual is the fact that all the participating delegates were men.
Yours etc. Vineet Phadtare,
Mumbai, 2 July.
Gujarat conclave
SIR, ~ The participation of Muslims in the recent conclave, Citizens for Accountable Governance, in Gandhinagar was significant not least because it witnessed an interaction between members of the community and Narendra Modi. Anointed by the BJP leadership to lead its Lok Sabha election campaign, the Gujarat Chief Minister is pursuing an inclusive strategy. He listened to the problems of Muslims with rapt attention. Yet the fact remains that the minority-dominated areas near Ahmedabad continue to be neglected.
APJ Abdul Kalam delivered the keynote address, and there was an interactive session between the former President and Mr Modi. Such conclaves can help strengthen democracy and the country&’s secular fabric.
Yours etc. Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,
Faridabad, 1 July
Parochial Modi
SIR, ~ Compliments to The Statesman for its brilliant editorial, “Bragging rights” (28 June). It has rightly pointed out that Narendra Modi, who has an eye on the Prime Minister&’s chair, betrays a parochial mindset when he emphasises that 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims, who were stranded in Uttarakhand, have been rescued. After all, as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr Modi has all too frequently raised such slogans as “Gujarati asmita” and “Hindu rights” to garner votes by placating  the lowest common denominator. Had he been really sincere about “Gujarat asmita”, innumerable Gujarati Muslims would not have met a gory death in 2002.
Mr Modi is yet to apologise to the Gujarati Muslims for the pogrom. They are yet to be suitably compensated or rehabilitated. And the Uttarakhand tragedy has exposed the hollowness of his Hindutva card.  The victims include Bengalis, Tamils, Marathis and people from Uttar Pradesh. And yet the Gujarat Chief Minister has harped on the rescue of the Gujaratis.  This was an insult to the essence of nationalism and verges on an inhumane response. Mr Modi seems to be concerned about the Gujarati Hindus alone.
His supporters seem unaware of the fact that the very first sentence of the Preamble to the Constitution defines the country as a “sovereign, socialist, secular democratic Republic”.
If he imagines himself to be a Prime Minister-in waiting,  Mr Modi must shed his parochialism, religious communalism and instead tread the path of secularism and nationalism.   Otherwise, non-Hindus and non-Gujaratis would vote neither for him nor his party.
Yours etc. Kajal Chatterjee,
Sodepur, 1 July