Back to Work
Company to Keep
Our Dear Peter Pan
Back to Work
I was happily enjoying my sabbatical in which I had planned to do nothing but read all the enchanting poetry of Tulsi. Your editor, a heartless taskmaster, sent a firm reminder to get back to work and attend to the long-neglected column that I had started. So, here I’m at my desk to hammer out the first issue of the Diary after an unconscionable gap. I wonder if anybody missed it though in our vain glory we humans tend to think someone or the other might have.
Nothing has changed since I wrote the last edition of this Diary. Perhaps nothing really changes. The wise French who thrive on baguette, Bordeaux and beret have a phrase for it: the more things change, the more they stay the same ? plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. So am I the same: ever ready to prick holes and burst bubbles, and an incorrigible believer in the ‘don’t worry, be happy’ Mantra.
Company to Keep
The good old adage has it that one is known by the company one keeps. Whether you like it or not that includes politicians too. Look at poor old Nitish Kumar in Bihar. For the next month’s election he has resorted to a new idea – har ghar dastak. JD(U) worker are knocking at each door to canvass. The prospects however look bleak. People are not dissatisfied with the old fox but are disillusioned with the company he has chosen to keep, namely, Lalu Prasad.
If NDA alliance makes it in Bihar, which I think is very likely, it will be because of Nitish’s electoral embrace of Lalu Prasad who plays only one card that of caste politics, which has become dangerously counter-productive. Recall how Lalu was vociferously rebuffed by youth when in a public rally he asked, copying Modi-style oratorical flourish, if caste mattered to them, fully expecting them to say a loud ‘yes’. Lalu must have missed a heartbeat or two or even three when, to his utter shock and dismay, the youth shouted back a resounding ‘no’.
Thanks to Modi the disillusioned voters of India want only development and change. They have had enough of Mandalism. Let’s bury caste-ism at VP Singh’s Samadhi.
Poor dear Nitish! It is now too late to dissolve the electoral marriage when the baby is due in little over a month
Turning down each plea and refusing to slip on any banana skin, she stuck on and on and has done it. And haven’t you guessed it? I’m referring to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. She has just passed the record of the long-lasting Queen Victoria as the longest ruling British monarch in history. If for nothing else she will have permanent place in that endearing compilation called the Guinness Book of Records, which is updated every day. So, long live Her Majesty. And God Almighty bless her to preside over the destiny of
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself…..
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
There is a saying that behind each great man’s achievements there’s a woman. Isn’t the reverse equally true? Don’t forget Queen Elizabeth, the marathon m’am as the Economist describes their ruling sovereign, has indefinitely kept poor Prince Charles waiting in the wings.
Regrettably, such callous treatment of sons by their moms is not uncommon. Nearer home, look at Sonia Gandhi. She has been confirmed by the rubber stamp party as president of the Congress for a record 18th years. She took over control of the family grocery store, you remember, in 1998 from that faithful courtier Sita Ram Kesri – may God bless his soul – in 1998 when the Party faced annihilation. And give the devil his due; Narendra Modi has done his bit to convert the Congress Party into a crowd-entertaining circus,
Don’t forget the Sonia miracle has been at the cost of heir apparent Rahul.
Some evil minded political pundits tell me that Rahul had, during his much-talked-of furlough, visited – of course secretly – Prince Charles to learn a thing or two about the art of waiting and public speaking peppered with catchy slogans.
It was the wise Prince of Wales who reminded him of the Miltonoian counsel: “They also serve who only stand and wait”. His new and improved version is – “They also serve who only stand and wail”.
Our Dear Peter Pan
Remember that long-lasting, ever popular character Peter Pan, created by the Scottish playwright J M Barrie. His most conspicuous trait was that he could fly but he stubbornly refused to grow up. He spent his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island called Neverland as the leader of his gang, known as the Lost Boys interacting with (who else?) mermaids, native Americans and fairies, but never with the real world in which you and I are condemned to and live and interact with.
M.A. Jinnah used to describe Jawaharlal Nehru as the Peter Pan of Indian politics. You may agree or disagree with this not-inapt label. However if ever there is a politician who deserves this label most fittingly, it is the Prince Charming of the Nehru-Gandhi family. You know whom I’m referring to? Of course, Rahul Gandhi.
Wandering in political wilderness, Rahul Gandhi’s speeches are tailored for predictability. Chappal, dhoti, baniyan, kurta-pyjama are the recurrent themes of his speeches. And all that to further elaborate on his suit boot ki sarkar jibe. Cannot someone in the family or the inner circle of cronies remind him that slogans, especially the political variety, sound horribly stale if repeated too often. It was some good nine months ago that he coined it or someone coined it and he just mouthed it. The shelf life of slogans is pretty limited. And if repeated ad nauseam they tend to boomerang. Look at another one, namely, garibi hatao. Hearing it today no one will even care to laugh at it.
It appears Rahul Baba’s suit-boot fixation is the metaphor for his politics. Howsoever much he tries, like Peter Pan, Rahul simply can’t nudge beyond a point in politics. His politics, like his speeches, is inextricably stuck in a quagmire. Recall the gramophone records of old which used to get stuck in the middle and go on repeating a note ad nauseam till you manually lifted the needle. Rahul’s political career resembles a spool of hype and hope followed by frustration and failure.
The future doesn't augur well at all. In Bihar, the Congress is the weakest link in the Mahagathbandhan; in Assam internal rebellion has diminished its chances of winning the impending Assembly polls; in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh there is no sign of the party being a frontrunner; and in Karnataka, if the Bangalore municipality polls are an indication, the Congress is on the decline.
The one amazing thing that crises do is to bring out at once the best and the worst in those affected by them. Surprisingly, the generalization is as valid of individuals as of countries.
Take the case of the recent stock market bubble triggered by the Greek default to pay back the EU loan installment. It showed startlingly the vulnerability of the Chinese capitalist system. Notwithstanding their global hegemonic ambitions, it revealed how insecure the Chinese economy is.
The lesson is simple and straight. Better a status quo power like India than a contender to the world throne if the price tag is presence or absence of self-assurance.
On the first day of every month I check up who’s the Prime Minister of Australia. Australians are accustomed to the flaky – would ‘slippery’ be more appropriate? – nature of their country’s politics which has given their polity the reputation of a see-saw democracy.
You might have, for all you know, missed the news of how another coup that landed Australia its fifth PM in as many years. No wonder the British press calls Australia the “coup capital of the democratic world”. Their political landscape has often been compared to a Tarantino film well known for its non-linear storylines.
So what does Malcolm Turnbull change mean? Well, the following sentence sums it up: “Australia greeted another bloodless coup at the pinnacle of government with indifference – and onions.” Why onions, you may wonder. The ousted Prime Minister relished them.
I’ve weird hobbies. One of them is to ascertain the origin of popular phrases in common use. I’ve of late been researching how on earth the term hot button became a favorite of the political vocabulary where it means “a central issue, concern, or characteristic that motivates people to make a particular choice.” The image is that of a particular spot or button that must be found and pressed to trigger off the desired responses in the people one wants to influence.
The expression hot button, I discovered, originated (where else?) in salesmanship in the US in the early 1970’s referring to the principal desire or motivation of the potential client which the salesman needed to ‘hit’ to clinch the sale. By the late seventies it had begun to be used in political contexts, but it was not widely applied to issues of current concern (what the British might have called political hot potatoes) until the US presidential campaign of 1984.