Random Thoughts

Study in Commonality, Telephony with Revenge

Study in Commonality
When the Salt Loseth its Savor
Telephony with Revenge
Sweet Wonder
Congress ka Haath Janata ke Saath
Think it Through

Study in Commonality

Whether they choose to publicly admit or not, all leaders have role models that shape both their basic outlooks and functioning styles. The two main contenders for the Prime Ministerial office – and the dark horse chasing both – are no exceptions. However, neither Rahul Gandhi nor Arvind Kejriwal.

NaMo claims to derive his inspiration from Sardar Patel and Swami Vivekananda. So far as I know, he hasn’t (at least publicly) referred to the long-serving RSS chief Guru Golwalkar, who once served as his lode star.

Vivekananda is, fortunately, a universally accepted role model of inclusive Indian nationalism which finds ready endorsement everywhere in India. Even our self-styled secularists haven’t expressed their reservations about his advocacy of our Vedantic legacy. But didn’t he also say:

I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body .

And with Sardar Patel, Modi has an instant Gujarat connect apart from Patel’s much-lauded, no-nonsense administrative style, which is also his.

Yet I was shocked to read that the real source of inspiration of the Gujarat strong man is none other than – hold your breath firmly – former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. At least for the forthcoming elections!How, you’ll ask?

First of all, Modi entered public life during the Nav Nirman movement in Gujarat in the early 1970s directed against Indira’s government. Hasn’t Gujarat and its leaders – most importantly, Morarji Desai – have been prime movers of anti-Congress stirs?

Intriguing though it is, let’s see the hidden similarity in the style of electioneering in 1971 and 2014. The 1971 campaign was, like Modi’s present one, quaintly presidential. Indira Gandhi’s main slogan was: Garibi Hatao, Indira Lao, Desh Bachao. Modi’s appeal is similarly pitched: Congress Hatao, Modi Lao, Desh Bachao

Unmistakably, the emphasis then – as now – is on me. Didn’t Indira try to establish a direct rapport with the masses, bypassing the Party machine? Give me your mandate and I’ll transform things as I did in Gujarat, Modi tells us.

Political pundits see in this an echo of the American presidential system. I’m afraid that’s not true. The American system is based on two political parties. Each has its candidate painstakingly chosen through several rounds. The candidates, since the Kennedy-Nixon contest in 1962, are locked in face to face debates. All these features are conspicuously absent in our case.

Unlike the Congress, the BJP has been a cadre-based organization which gets its muscle from the RSS. Modi’s ascent has enthused the cadres in a manner in which even the original BJP Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was perhaps unable to do. But while the rank and file party worker is galvanized, the rest of the BJP leadership itself is being pushed into the shadows.

Watch a Modi rally. No BJP leader is given even remotely the kind of status or position that the man from Gujarat is. In the space of six months since being anointed, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Modi has risen from being the first among equals to being the unquestioned ‘Supremo’ of his party. The only other national BJP leader who gets some importance in most of Modi’s rallies, is the party president, Rajnath Singh.

Indeed, the remarkably single-minded zeal with which Modi has crisscrossed the country in the last few months as part of his ‘Mission 272’ is reminiscent of what one reads of Indira’s 1971 campaign. In the pre-television era, she addressed rallies in almost every nook and corner of the country. Modi, who, unlike Indira, is a natural orator, has chosen not to leave out any part of India, including unwinnable states where the BJP has a negligible presence.

It is almost as if for the first time since Indira, a leader is consciously attempting to build a pan-Indian appeal that will enable him to rise above his own party’s limited geographical base. He has even made multiple forays into states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where again the BJP has little chance of winning seats, if only to create a psychological edge of looking beyond the Vindhyas.

There is more to the Modi-Indira similarities.Like the former Congress prime minister, Modi trusts very few people. Authoritarian and insecure in almost equal measure, Modi’s streak of ruthlessness has ensured that after a decade of ruling Gujarat, his writ is unchallenged. Indira, too almost completely decimated an entire generation of Congress leaders at the state and national level in an imperious manner.Some uncharitable critics call it dictatorial? However, the loyalists call it decisive style of functioning.

In 1971, the Congress riding the Indira wave won 362 of the 520 seats, a gain of 134 seats and a clear two-thirds majority.Can Modi repeat the feat? No, the chances I’m afraid are remote indeed. And for that there are two reasons. There was then no supremacy of regional parties – like DMK/AIDMK in Tamil Nadu, RSP and Telangana in vivisected Andhra, TMC in West Bengal, BSP and SP in UP and JUD in Bihar. They won’t let happen a repeat of Indira-like performance by either the NDA or UPA. However, if Modi were to win two-thirds of the seats in the 300-odd constituencies where the BJP today is seen to have a fighting chance, he may be very near the simple majority mark in the May 16 tally. Anyhow, the election will be remembered Modi vs. others just the 1971 election was Indira Gandhi vs. the rest.

You might have noted another similarity between Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi: their propensity to support the headgear of the region they visit to win friends and influence voters.

When the Salt Loseth its Savor

Politicians are notorious for trying to manipulate the media to give flattering versions of their interviews so as to project a favorable public image of their doings. How mistaken were we who thought Arvind Kejriwal is different from the run of the mill? He was interviewed by the TV channel of India Today group.

A one-minute video has surfaced on You Tube which shows Kejriwal asking a TV news anchor to emphasize certain sections of his interview. Don’t forget the same man was repeatedly accusing the media of bias against him. In what way is he different from the rest of the lot?

One feels utterly disillusioned with our politicians all of whom are as I mentioned last week, chips of the same bloc. And with no other bloc in sight, whither shall we look? Meanwhile, those of us who envisaged a new dawn in the emergence of AAP are left to bemoan: if the salt has lost its savor, with what shall it be salted.

Telephony with Revenge

There was a time – and most of us around today have lived through it – when our telephone services were in a deplorable mess. First, we couldn’t get a connection without pulling some string or the other. And once you managed to get one, you troubles started. My phone is out of order was the common complaint. You had to keep the local telephone linesman in good humor – and you know what it means – to keep it working.

Then telephony went through a revolutionary change. Now people may not have a personal toilet or running water connection but everyone in the family has at least a couple of cellular phones, if not a smart phone. And most interestingly, everyone seems to be talking to someone else. You see cyclists holding their handle with one hand and the telephone in the other. Most people driving car are also conversing with someone. This is called multi-tasking.

I wonder if all this is to make up for the earlier absence of telephonic services.

Sweet Wonder

I was forced to write last week the bad news about sugar, which has become this generation's ticking time-bomb, leaving a trail of diabetes and obesity in its wake. I repented the whole week about my spoil-sport role. Here is some good news to make up.

From their copious cupboard of substitutes, food science analysts report that salvation lies in a naturally sourced substance called stevia, which has no calories, no carbohydrates, and does not raise blood sugar levels. It comes from a plant that has been used as a sweetener for centuries in Paraguay and Brazil, and has been sold in Japan for about 40 years. The West, however, has been slow to wake up to its virtues. Stevia-based products have only been approved as food additives since 2008 in the US, and since 2011 in the EU.

One drawback is that despite being between 250 and 300 times sweeter than sugar, some people find it has a slightly bitter, liquorice-like aftertaste. But companies are getting round this by blending it with sugar. Tropicana recently launched a juice made with 50 per cent stevia and 50 per cent sugar, halving the number of calories per serving. And Coca-Cola is poised to launch its stevia-sweetened alternative to Coke across the world. It already sells a version of Sprite that includes stevia.

Congress ka Haath Janata ke Saath

It was after a great deal of brainstorming that the Congress Party hit upon its all-too-catchy slogan: Congress ka HaathAam Aadmi ke Saath. Then comes that political upstart Arvind Kejriwal and usurps the well-conceived slogan. And after he grabbed the aam aadmi from the Congress stable, how could the Congress just retain the haath?

So, the search started afresh and ended with the modified slogan: Congress ka Haath Janata ke Saath. I know your reservation. Isn’t it too stale? Doesn’t it sound a redo of Indira Gandhi sloganeering?

Think it Through

“Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him,” famously said Groucho (not, repeat not, Karl) Marx.

Does your experience corroborate that?


More by :  Sakshi

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