An Indian Obama?

Could it happen in India?

Ever since the election, the media has been full of stories about Obama, and editorials about whether it might be possible to have such a thing happen here in India– a minority elected president.  Perhaps a Muslim, or a Dalit.

In today’s Times of India, there is a very interesting opinion piece by Ashutosh Varshney about why he thinks it won’t happen:

  • “First, party establishments cannot easily be challenged until there are open intra-party elections for the leadership of political parties.”
  • “Second, the US has a presidential system, India a parliamentary one. Since a US president is elected by the whole nation, a presidential system creates a national political arena.”
  • “Third, to mobilise citizens for vote, one has to speak in a language that the citizens can understand.” The India electorate is multilingual.


This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.

Post-election Obamania

Obamania has hit India, too.

Obamania is here in India, too.  There is much talk of it among my colleagues; even my taxi driver mentioned it and affirmed that Obama is a “good man”.  The Times of India gleefully noted the appointment of an Indian-American to his transition team, Sonal Shah from Google.   They have also reported on a group, though small, of African-Indians, largely from east Africa, who were celebrating in the streets.  

[photo credit: New York Times]

“There are two contrasting images of America abroad. One is that of a bullying superpower that undertakes bellicose military adventures abroad, epitomised by Iraq. The other is that of a land of hope and opportunity, an open society that welcomes migrants and where merit and talent matter for much more than ethnic background or kinship ties.” [Times of India]  There is general relief that America has recovered its senses. Furthermore, “Obama will be America’s first true multicultural president, with something of Asia and Africa in him.”  India, like other nations, looks forward to a multilateral approach with an increased awareness of Asia in general.  The New York Times noted that the “Election Unleashes a Flood of Hope Worldwide”.

More deeply, India is struck by the fact that the nation formally known as racist has remembered its core values and actually elected a black man to the presidency. “Yes, he can”, noted the Times of India in its editorial. India, the world’s largest democracy and an incredibly diverse one at that, still struggles with caste, religion, and regional differences in its politics. 

Obama’s trademark line, “Yes, we can” and the amazed recognition that someone of mixed race and an unusual background can actually become US President, are deeply resonant here.  I see India, as a country, deeply proud of its achievements in the past decades and with clear aspirations to become one of the leading countries of the world.  The reasonable are quick to recognize that the country is far from perfect, but there is a profound optimism that India will only become more important on the world stage.  Obama’s personal journey is inspirational to their national journey.

This post was transferred from MobileMe to WordPress in 2020, with an effort to retain the content as close to the original as possible; I recognize that some comments may now seem dated or some links may now be broken.