Daily Archives: September 16, 2008

I am told that the population of India is now around 1.2 billion. So it is slightly surprising that many of the politicians I have met over the last couple of days seem to be related to each other.

On Monday I met Omar Abdullah, a young and charismatic MP, who represents a regional Kashmiri party. The conversation on the future of Kashmir and Pakistan was fascinating – the only distraction being several large dogs frolicking behind him in the garden. (I thought I spotted a St.Bernard – I do hope not, since it’s a long way from the Alps.) When we took our leave, I mentioned that we were going on to see Sachin Pilot – a young Congress Party MP. He turned out to be Abullah’s brother-in-law.

Today started with an interview with Manvendra Singh, a rising star in the BJP. It ended with a chat with Jaswant Singh, a former Indian foreign minister – and Manvendra’s dad. The next door neighbour was Farooq Abdullah – who turned out to be Omar’s father. Jaswant Singh’s other neighbour was Manmohan Singh – otherwise known as the prime minister and, surprisingly enough, no relation. Read more

One of the more comic episodes during the last US presidential election was the effort by Britain’s Guardian newspaper to influence the vote. The Guardian accurately foresaw that the state of Ohio was going to be crucial to the outcome. So it provided its readers with the addresses of 14,000 voters in Clark County, Ohio – and encouraged them to write letters, urging a vote against George W. Bush.

Ken Loach, a British film director, set the tone for this charm offensive by writing: “Today your country is reviled across continents as never before.” But – sadly – this effort to win friends and influence voters backfired spectacularly. In the event Clark was the only one of Ohio’s 88 counties to switch from Democrat to Republican in 2004. A headline in the Springfield News-Sun, an Ohio paper, summed up the local mood: “Butt out Brits, voters say.”  Read more