Fears of a Megalomaniac
Clouds of Rhetoric
Pick Your Choice
Fears of a Megalomaniac
Arvind Kejriwal, I hear, doesn’t stir out in the afternoons. You may think siesta is the possible reason. Not at all! He has vowed, I’m told, that he’ll have an after lunch snooze only when he occupies 7, Race Course Road. That, however, is extremely unlikely.
The reason, I understand, is that shadows tend to lengthen as the sun starts its descent. And Kejriwal cannot stand the idea of anything, including his own shadow, to be larger than himself. He must stand tall - taller in stature than everyone else around.
Take the case of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who plays impeccably the role of the ever-laughing Sardar in Kapil Shrama TV show. Based on the understanding that he would head the AAP campaign in the Punjab’s forthcoming elections, Sidhu resigned his Rajya Sabha BJP seat. Weeks passed and the poor fellow had to cool his heels. The reason? Simple. Kejriwal has had second thoughts. How can he stand the idea of someone with political ambition overshadowing Kejriwal’s.
It seems Sidhu took for once a hasty decision. As a test cricketer he had learned that after hitting the ball you must watch the field and never venture out of the crease unless you were absolutely sure of reaching the other end safely. Kejriwal pulled a real fast one by signaling his partner to take a run but refused to budge from his own crease. The result was the comic sight of Sidhu standing mid-wicket and declared bowled out.
Poor fellow finally has decided to launch his own party along with another sportsman, former India hockey captain Pargat Singh. They have announced a joint front to contest the upcoming elections in Punjab under the banner of Aawaz-e-Punjab - another AAP. It will be led by Sidhu. The fourth front would be joined by several former Kejriwal AAP leaders, including the sacked convener of its Punjab unit, Sucha Singh Chhotepur.
Dame rumour has it the real mover behind the new coalition is another man yearning to avenge his humiliation by Kejriwal. His name — you’ve guessed it - is Yogendra Yadav.
I hear it is absolutely de rigueur to use honorifics to refer to the party chiefs in Tamil Nadu. Kalaignar (artist) or Thalaivar (leader) for Karunanidhi and Puratchi Thalaivi (revolutionary leader) or Amma for Jayalalithaa. So when an AIADMK MLA stood up to and referred to Karunanidhi by his plain simple name, opposition legislators jumped to their feet to protest. He had the temerity to maintain that it was quite in order to refer to an ex- chief minister by name without the customary title.
As it stands, you are not allowed to name Jayalalithaa in the Tamil Nadu Assembly. So what do you call her? Of course only Puratchi Thalaivi.
UP is not far behind. In power or out of power, Mulayam Singh, the Samajvadi supremo, must be addressed as Netaji.
Long live the legacy of Subhas Bose who outlined the protocol how to address the supreme leader of the day.
But then look at the egalitarian Americans who call their Chief Executive as plain Mr. President.
What would happen if the entire world launched nukes at the US at the same time? I read this awkward question asked by a layman.
The wise of the world, including all our military strategists mulled it over and, in essence, the well-thought-out answer was:
Within an hour, 95% of cities with a population of 500,000 or higher cease to exist. Fires rage across continents in their place. The human race is reduced to barbarism, at least for a short time.
Is it for all this that trillions and trillions of dollars were spent ever since the WWII ended to make the world safe for democracy?
Clouds of Rhetoric
In the history of democracies there are numerous instances of authoritarian “strongmen” rising to power, and virtually all have based their appeal on a promise to restore order. Donald Trump clearly aspires to join this list, and, in one sense, his apocalyptic speech accepting the Republican nomination for President, merely confirmed what we already know.
“I have a message for all of you,” he thundered. “The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored.” Well, wait for the fateful day.
Remember how in 1968, Richard Nixon told the Republicans gathered in Miami Beach, “As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame. We hear sirens in the night. We see Americans dying on distant battlefields abroad. We see Americans hating each other, fighting each other, killing each other at home. And, as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish: Did we come all this way for this?”
So learn to live with the rhetoric of American presidential candidates. Finally, when the electoral dust settles down in November things will be back to usual.
Whenever I have time to kill - that means once in a while - I settle down to watch a TV soap opera. And Indian TV channels specialize in dishing out wishy-washy social dramas that seem to go on and on for years. They are indeed the clones of most Bollywood movies that represent, in the epic phrase of Satyajit Ray, “a synthetic non-existent society.”
Who started this inane genre of TV entertainment? My research zeroed on the name of a respectable figure of contemporary Hindi literature who opened Pandora’s dreaded box. And he was Manohar Shyam Joshi. He authored the first Indian television’s soap opera, Hum Log. That was way back in 1982. And once the tiger tasted blood there was no looking back. It was followed in 1987 by another hit called Buniyaad. However he also authored that brilliant political satire Kakaji Kahin where Om Puri played brilliantly the role of Kakaji.
And since then a lot of water had flowed under the bridges. Now it has become a simplistic formula. Begin with a boy-met-girl story and then week after week give it a new twist so that it lasts for the next couple of years.
‘Metro man’ E. Sreedharan credited for successfully steering challenging projects like Konkan rail and Delhi Metro, also has a penchant for calling, when necessary, a spade a bloody shovel. Referring to a study conducted by a magazine which surveyed some 300 engineering colleges, he concluded that only 29 per cent engineers are employable, while 30 per cent can be made employable after further studies, whereas 48 per cent are simply not employable.
So half of those who go to engineering colleges (including our ex Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi) are merely wasting their time and national resources.
What Sreedharan said about engineering colleges is equally - in fact more - true of our management graduates, thousands of which are being churned by mushrooming management colleges.
The BJP has a problem that its members aren’t prepared to talk out in public. It has dominating present, a promising future but precious little to show in terms of a glorious past. Hence, every now and then the Party stakes an ideological claim to the legacy of prominent Congress leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose, BR Ambedkar - icons who have been carelessly cast aside by the Congress which has been too busy promoting the Dynasty to notice anything else.
BJP traces its beginning to Shyama prasad Mukherjee. But he was really the founder of Jana Sangha, not BJP.
Veer Savarkar and Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay are the two ideologues that the Party faithful can really turn to. Savarkar’s thought is not all that coherent and at times confused whereas Deendayal Upadhyay is indeed a beacon of light. He was a man of soaring idealism and had a tremendous capacity for organization - the Achilles’ heel of India - and reflected different aspects of a social thinker, economist, educationalist, politician, writer, journalist, speaker, organizer all rolled into one.
In 1951, when Syama Prasad Mookerjee founded the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, Deendayal was seconded to the party by the RSS, tasked with moulding it into a genuine member of the Sangh Parivar. He later became the Party’s General Secretary. The acumen and meticulousness shown by Deendayal deeply impressed Syama Prasad Mookerjee and elicited his famous remark: “If I had two Deendayals, I could transform the political face of India.”
I recall how a dyed-in-in-wool Republican threatened on the eve of Obama’s re-election that she’d move to Australia because “their president is a Christian who does what he says he’ll do”. She was doubly disillusioned when Obama won and Aussies pointed it out to her that their prime minister was both a woman and an atheist. (The reference is to Julia Gillard.) So, the poor thing was forced to stay on.
In India we have had the case of famous Kannada writer U. R. Ananthamurthy vowing to leave India if Narendra Modi got elected as Prime Minister of India in May 2014. Unfortunately for him, Modi made it with flying colours. When confronted after the election, Ananthamurthy said sheepishly: “Where in the world can I go?”
The lesson of the story is that it isn’t safe to play the role of daredevil bravados in politics.
Pick your Choice
Here’re a few gems:
Artificial intelligence is absolutely no match for natural stupidity.
You take my advice, I am not using it.
Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself type.
I am great at multi-tasking - I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.