A vision of the elections of 1958

Mauritius Times – 60 Years Ago

By Jay Narain Roy

It does appear that there will be elections in 1958. Whether it is the 1948 Constitution or the projected P.R. Constitution or a new one, the expiry of the present term will necessitate another general elections. How and what are the prospects?

The reactionaries have so far deployed tremendous energies in Port Louis and Plaines Wilhems. Although much of the staging is done in these premier districts, we should not lull ourselves by feeling that they are resting on their oars in the other constituencies. I understand that there is a steady infiltration, a consistent organization and house to house canvassing. It does also transpire that some quasi-religious organizations are expending all their dynamism to make a dent on their group of the electorate. Behind all this is the high wheels of money the funds of which have swelled through these fat years. After all reaction as it is manifested in many quarters is the foster-child of the chimneys and it derives its force and motive power from the far-flung citadels of fortune.

Money will flow, flood, drown. That is the natural calculation of those who hold the purse. It is surmised that some candidates find the game pretty lucrative. X is voted for his election. He keeps his expenses at Y and the difference is such a margin that in three attempts he would be prepared to negociate for a sizeable estate. If he wins, he gets the best of both the world and if he loses, he has not the least scruple as he can assuage his sorrows by silent revelry until the next bout. The big business is the choice. Will coloured candidates be chosen and will they also be privileged to humour their discomfiture by going in for a large estate?

I have been at pains to understand this machinery. On the side of the reaction will they put up Coloured and White candidates pro rata of the population or will they allow the chimneys to rule the roost as it must when it holds the purse-strings? Some newspapers just ditto what the demigods do – not because they agree but because they cannot do otherwise or probably because they think that any stick is good enough to beat down the wretched Labourites. This machinery of newspapers, tracts, chimneys, hirelings, prospective bank-balance hunters and this kind of fraternity will run amuck to boost the dictated gods and the machinery will zoom its deafening din.

How will Mauritius take it? Take it by all means, we would say. It is your money the guy had robbed and which out of pure repentence he is returning you. Take it by all means. Here’s your chance to give yourself the long-denied luxury. Here’s your retarded right restored. Use it without scruple. It is your money to be sure and you do not sell your soul by using your money in any way you like. What scruple? Religion, morality and God are all on your side. Take it. Take once, twice, thrice, and as many times as you can manage to get. Go for it. It will help you to fight your real battle. Ask for it. Row for it. They are bound to give. Make it hot for them if they don’t. How can they refuse you your money? Is there no God, no authority, no morality?

What on earth can beat this attitude? I want the reactionaries to sow twenty million or thereabout, make some tens of thousands of people taste of the good things of life and ultimately their candidates should forfeit their security. That is the lesson of history in all new democracies. If the reactionaries repeat the experience a few times, they will be on the brink of closing shop.

But where do all this money come from? We can all see a file of all manner of folks queueing up in some offices for their money. Everyone can see it except the authorities. But I sincerely feel that it is nothing to be despondent of. It is only necessary to organise, to educate public opinion. The average Mauritian is not such a blessed nincompoop as the reactionaries seem to think. The poor people know the ways things are shaping. They read the newspapers and they know how the reactionary candidates vote on crucial issues. They cannot act in a way to cut their own throat. How much money can you give to a man for him to commit suicide? Try it.

The stakes of 1958 are great because the Universal Suffrage, the Responsible Government, progress, Ministry, future planning and everything else will be on the anvil. The country will have to decide this way or that. The verdict will for once and for all seal the fate of protracted discussions. Naturally therefore the reactionaries will risk heavy.

It is scarcely 18 months off. The progressive side must get going. There are quite a few tough nuts to crack. We do not want to disperse our strength in useless wrangles. The selection of able, popular and straightforward candidates will tax some energies. It is difficult to foist on the electorate any dark horse. If we do not provide for some of the whims and proclivities of the hot partisans, we risk incurring their wrath just when we should avoid it most. We must study to eliminate friction and dexterously sound the electorate before accepting candidates. A candidate must be adopted not just because he has the lust to be an Honourable but because he is capable of deploying courage and commonsense to the conviction of the most severe critic, because he is au fait with the problems of this country and can speak with knowledge born of convincing data.

If we play the game wrongly, we shall drive our ablest supporters into the camp of the enemy and will spell disaster to the entire population. I am none too happy about the local elections in certain towns. The pointer is not too flattering and it is high time for us to reassert our position and to mobilise the manchinery which we dauntless have. The population are with us. How to get about the next step is a matter that we should begin to think about right now. It is going to be a tough fight but it will settle it once and for all. Therefore, let us be up and doing as 18 months of steady campaigning is necessary to put the gigantic machine into fuming run.

Friday 2nd February, 1957

* Published in print edition on 4 October 2019

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