The Election Man
Dr Yakub Quraishi has had an exceptional career - one-time head of Doordarshan (India's equivalent of the BBC), then - at the time I first met him - a wise and effective head of India's National AIDS Control Organisation, and now the country's Chief Election Commissioner. He has an electorate, he declares, bigger than that of every European country, all of Central America and of South America combined. He is among the most senior Indian Muslims in public life. He is also a keen fan of The Shadows and I have heard him on the keyboards - and to paraphrase Samuel Johnson (please forgive me, Dr Quraishi!): 'it's not that it's done well, it's that it's done at all'.
India's Election Commission, and above all a succession of powerful and forceful Chief Election Commissioners, have achieved what once seemed almost impossible. India's elections are now, if not model, much improved. Booth capturing, rigged electoral rolls, dubious counting - all now largely of the past. Though the hold of 'black' money, and of crime-tainted politicians, has not yet been fully tackled.
Dr Quraishi was in London principally to launch his new book, a richly illustrated coffee table volume about Old Delhi - or Shahjahanabad, to give the old city its ancient name which is now coming back into vogue.
At the London launch, Sohail Seth waspishly commented that of Old Delhi's two most famous sons, one is in charge of elections in the world's largest and most complex democracy, and the other is a former dictator hiding out off the Edgware Road. (General Musharraf was born in Delhi, though his family left the city for Pakistan when he was very young).
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