Since India has the annoying habit of dominating its neighbours with economic and cultural exports, it seems only inevitable that the newspapers in these countries would attempt to deconstruct the noise around its elections.
The Daily News in Sri Lanka, for example, nervously wonders whether Jayalalithaa will get Tamil Nadu to secede from India if she assumes a position of importance in the next central government.
While quoting an Indian expert who rubbished the idea, the paper added, “This raises the issue whether the AIADMK manifesto's announcement for the holding of a referendum among Tamils in Sri Lanka and elsewhere for establishing a Tamil Eelam, as planned by the LTTE, would not be the germ of a major separatist move within India in the not too distant future, which has a much larger Tamil population than in Sri Lanka.”
India’s elections do not threaten the nationhood of some of its other neighbours. Myanmar, for example, has barely covered the election, possibly because its independent media is only just building up speed again after years of military repression.
The connection is more fraught for some than others. Bhutan’s economy, for instance, is intrinsically intertwined with that of India, and its nascent cement company, which opened up to the Indian market only in February, reported a slight slump due to elections.
According to a report by state-run newspaper Kuensel, Bhutan’s newly privatised national cement company, Dungsam Cement Corporation Limited, had seen a fall in sales because the election code of conduct in India did not allow new projects to be started. But it is “expecting a huge increase in demand for cement by June”. Granted a royal charter in January, the company hoped to corner the entire North East market by providing it with cement at rates much lower than Indian companies further away will be able to offer.
Other countries were also directly affected, though not in their pockets. While Nepal’s border with India was sealed for four days from April 22 because of voting in Bihar, India had to decline to send observers for the ongoing Maldives election. Newspapers in both nations took the opportunity to poke fun at some of the more bizarre aspects of India’s elections.
Haveeru, a Maldives daily, picked up an Agence France-Presse story about a man who had run for elections and lost 158 times. They even pointed out something Indian news organisations missed: India’s most prolific candidate contested against India’s most visible one, Narendra Modi, from Vadodara.
Nepal News also plucked out an AFP story. This was about a Mizo man with 39 wives and 120 children and grandchildren who seems to be the darling of politicians every season because he can assure them of at least 160 votes.
Meanwhile, The Kathmandu Post was more concerned about the voting options of Nepali-speaking Indians based in Darjeeling. They had no candidate they could trust to bring up the issue of Gorkhaland for them in Parliament and did not know who they would vote for, the paper said. The situation, it concluded, was confusing.
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