Fifth Column

19th December 1999

It is like selecting a TV set

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My Dear Chandadaayakaya,

I thought I must write to you now because you are given this chance only once in six long years- and that will be on Tuesday. On that day, you will be electing the Head of State of our country for the next six years. Needless to say, it will be a great responsibility.

Of course, Chandadaayakaya, you will know that despite the wide variety of candidates that has been offered to you this year, the real fight is between the blues and the greens with the reds also expected to come up with a decent performance.

On the one hand we have the blue lady who was red and blue to begin with but who is now marooned, what with even some greens surrounding her. Her biggest asset is still her smile but we are seeing less of that now- some say it is because the tide is against her. I really don't know.

She has indeed made many mistakes and the worst among them is not choosing the correct persons for the correct jobs- be it ministers, advisors or coalition partners. Her latest selection of the some greens- especially having them so prominently displayed in her campaign- I believe was the worst decision of her five years in office and it might prove costly.

Then somehow, somewhere she also seems to have lost the sense of decency and fairplay that we associated with her five years ago. The various incidents of thuggery, the many allegations of corruption- though they may not involve her directly- have all spoilt her image.

But I suppose, the overwhelming factor as far as you, Chandadaayakaya is concerned, is the fact that all those promises made in 1994 are still just that- promises. We remember how her mother promised rice from the moon but was unable to deliver. Unfortunately, this habit of breaking promises seems to be a family tradition!

Then, on the other hand we have the green boy who no one seriously took notice of even a few months ago. He wouldn't stand a chance against the charisma of the lady, they said. He sounded like a puppet and he had no life in him- "pana madi"- they used to say, but he has indeed surprised all of us- and the blues will be the first to admit it.

He has certainly improved rapidly but part of the credit must go to the blues themselves for trying to link him to the Tigers, questionable business deals and Batalanda when the evidence for all that appears to be lacking.

And this tactic of being brutally honest with the voters- saying I won't promise you milk and honey in twenty four hours- seems to have worked, again because voters are sick of politicians who hoodwink them with false promises.

But of course working against the green boy is not so much his own deeds but that of his party over seventeen long years. People still remember some of those atrocities and say that the greens cannot be trusted again so soon. The red chap, I think will come a decent third-and that is a good thing because otherwise they feel frustrated and take to the gun and we must prevent that at all costs. But the votes that go to the reds will be more blue than green, I suspect.

The statisticians, analysts, election monitors and opinion pollsters and yes, the astrologers are having a field day now, predicting the winner. I would not do so, dear Chandadaayakaya, because I must leave it to you to make your own choice. Please do so, instead of spoiling your vote or not going to the polling booth at all- that will help only some people. Trust your conscience and vote for the person you trust most, whoever it may be- that is your duty by your country.

Yours truly,
Punchi Putha.

PS- This year, someone said, the contest is like selecting a television set. You have a wide range of models to choose from, thirteen in all- big ones and small ones, flat ones and curved ones, ones that give you a very rosy picture and others that give a black and white image of what lies ahead. Almost all of them make a lot of noise and some are being remotely controlled too. The problem is once you select one, they stop working and though you are still in the guarantee period, when you complain you cannot exchange it for a different one! So, select a model that you can put up with for six years!

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