As the UK is being bashed about with overwhelming rain and biblical floods, there are many who believe that it almost reflects the political devastation that pervades. Everyone is gearing up for elections, but the problem seems to be that there is no Opposition to the Conservative leader, Boris Johnson. According to surveys, he may have opened up a 17-point lead over his Labour rival, Jeremy Corbyn, who is falling far behind. Indeed, if there is anything to worry about, it could be that competition is only creeping up from the Far Right, the Brexit Party under the maverick leader, Nigel Farage.
So much so that some might want to dissuade Mr Farage from opposing the Conservatives, as he may end up dividing the votes, leading to a win by Labour by default. Is the Brexit Party really so popular? Or is it just that it is the only party with a radically clear agenda and among those who want to leave the EU, it is immensely popular.
But can Boris actually get the majority that he craves so much in Parliament? Right now, he could get a 96-seat majority, and he needs it to get his Brexit plans passed. Things may even work out for him because John Bercow, the diminutive, but loud-voiced Speaker of the House of Commons has moved on, and it is no secret that he was a “remainer”. He is now alleged to have ensured that the Parliament dominated the government, and thus neither the former Prime Minister, Theresa May, nor the present PM, Boris Johnson, could hope to get the Brexit bill passed.
There are reports that Boris has even apparently vowed to stop drinking alcohol during the election campaign — things are that serious!
What has happened to this beautiful country, with the mother of all parliaments? I am horrified to see so many parliamentarians quitting, and especially women. They have all come in after huge personal sacrifices, and it was always a fact that we could proudly uphold: just see the number of women in the UK Parliament! It proved that they could do it — and were an example for countries like India. They did not come in through the good will of their fathers or husbands, but through sheer hard work. Now alas, they are quitting as they find the atmosphere more and more vitiated. They are at the receiving end of abuse (on the social media and otherwise), and threatened. Their families are not spared either.
This indeed is bad news. More so because now many of those women who feel vulnerable do not want to do door to door campaigning as they may encounter some more rough behaviour. Not everything can be blamed on Brexit, but it has had a very volatile and divisive effect on society. Or are people just generally becoming more and more disrespectful? Usually if I use the social media, I try not to argue with those responding through angry or unsavoury remarks, as I realise it will serve no purpose. Those who are negative will continue to find the black cloud in every silver lining. But should one completely withdraw from political debates because of this? Is trolling now just the beginning of something more dangerous?
The one woman who is not quitting is Jo Swinson, leader of the Lib Dems, projected by some as a would-be Prime Minister. This could be because it is the only party which has consistently backed the call to “remain”. So she indeed could be the young hope for a shattered British polity. Many are willing to back anyone who helps Britain finally get its mojo (even if it is BoJo!) back. Everyone longs for certainty!
Partition is back in the news here, thanks to the Kartarpur corridor. While the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being hailed for inaugurating the Kartarpur corridor despite provocations from the other side, thousands of Sikhs from here are also heading to Pakistan, trying to reach there in time to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. It has given a fresh impetus to those who never really thought of going to Pakistan as a religious tourist. Many Sikh families who had settled in the UK, and lost their homes during Partition are now intrigued at the prospect of perhaps returning to pay their respects at the Gurudwara and maybe visit their own lost homes too.
This has also piqued their interest in other gurdwaras which were left behind, since many of the gurdwaras in Pakistan were in a dire situation after Partition. It is speculated that the renovation of the Kartarpur Darbar Sahib will give a chance to Sikhs in the UK and elsewhere to preserve their lost heritage, and maybe encourage the renovation of other gurdwaras. The establishment of a university for Sikh studies by the Pakistan government will also attract many scholars from the UK. Of course, there will be benefits of this heightened travel to Pakistan — not only will this spiritual tourism fill their coffers, it will also give the country access to the precise details of the rich Sikh community scattered all over the world.
This soft, spiritual approach by Pakistan has got the Sikh community here excited. India will have to see where it leads, as there are Khalistanis in the UK who would use every chance to subvert the spiritual and peaceful discourse....