Today's Story Line

One of the peculiar qualities of a democracy is that an individual can build a formidable base of power by promising to better lives for the poorest and most frustrated voters in society. This is one element evident in two different stories today in two very different places.

In Bombay, India, where half the population lives in abject poverty, a politician who admires Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill says: "What we need is a benevolent dictator...." Bal Thackeray was given fresh political life this week when a judge said the statue of limitations had run out on charges that Mr. Thackery incited riots in 1992 and 1993 in which 800 Muslims died.

In Venezuela, President Hugo Chvez is again appealing to his electoral base - the 86 percent of the population that lives in poverty. He's seeking reelection Sunday under a new constitution, which was rewritten at Chvez's request. A victory would effectively extend his rule for six years.

David Clark Scott World editor


*KNOCK, KNOCK. WHO's THERE? Getting an interview with Bal Thackery in Bombay, India, tested Robert Marquand's ingenuity and tenacity. Twice Bob went to the gated community where Mr. Thackeray lives and was refused entry by the police on duty. Phone calls to Thackeray's press officer weren't returned. Then, Bob's interpreter remembered she had a friend who lived in the same community. That connection got them through the first gate at 9:30 p.m. At the gate to Thackeray's residence, Bob spent 20 minutes trying to talk his way in. Finally, he wrote a request for an interview on the back of his business card. Word came back: Mr. Thackeray, who was familiar with the Monitor, would be happy to give an interview the following day even though it was his son's birthday. "When I arrived, there was a one kilometer-long line of well-wishers bearing flowers and gifts," says Bob. But Thackeray excused himself to do the interview.

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