In my life, I’ve exercised my right as a voter only a few times. Changes of residence (including cities), misprinting of name on voter card, the sheer hassle of finding out where my polling booth is and reaching there, and suchlike, have been the perfect excuses that my general political apathy has always looked for and found.
But the last few years…they have done enough to turn saplings of apathy into an Amazon forest. Let’s not even go into the astonishing non-performance of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre, everyone and his uncle (including several of mine) have shouted themselves hoarse and spend their days gurgling warm water and salt. But look at the alternative: the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the only “national party” other than the Congress. Houston, (or should I say Sriharikota?), we have a problem. BIG problem.
Senior BJP leader L. K. Advani with Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley lighting the lamp during the inauguration of the party’s National Executive Meeting in Mumbai on Thursday. PTI photo
Both the Congress and the BJP seem to be devoid of any leader with any mass appeal that cuts across regions and interests. All those Dalit villagers who Rahul Gandhi isn’t visiting any more…I weep for them. There is of course Narendra Modi. He will never have enough political support to head a coalition at the Centre. This has made him increasingly petulant—he didn’t attend the party’s national executive meeting last year, and this time he made sure that someone he didn’t like was shunted out. Modi sees himself to be larger than the party, and the party has surrendered. Meanwhile, disgraced former Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, after making some noises about Sonia Gandhi being a great leader and getting nowhere, is trying to claw back into favour. Lal Krishna Advani has announced that he will not attend the public rally at the end of the national executive meeting; apparently he is distressed about the goings-on.
While the Congress leaders are jumping at sudden noises made from their allies, and are lying awake scared of things that go bump in the night, the BJP leaders are in the same state, except that it’s not even allies they’re jumpy about, it’s the dynamics within their own party!
At no point in these three years of misrule has the BJP looked like a party in waiting to take over (think of Gordon Brown’s years as Prime Minister and David Cameron’s Conservative Party), in fact it hasn’t even looked like it believes it can ever take over.
Can anyone remember any statement made by any BJP leader as this government floundered like the blind men with their elephant taken away, other than homilies about “misrule”, and that this minister or that minister should resign. Have they been able to take up even one cause, get identified with it, and cause the slightest ripple in the voter consciousness? The RSS which covertly and expertly backed the Anna Hazare movement has now quietly washed off its hands of the Jan Lokpal business, and the BJP is left with nothing.
Nothing except their TV debaters. News television debate is today an elaborate drama with everyone involved colluding, except that the gains of collusion accrue only to the channels (till such time as enough number of viewers figure out that Comedy Channel offers more entertaining fare). All those talking heads in the boxes strewn around the screens—even a fool can see that half the time, they are trying to maintain straight faces and not laugh out loud, as they debate “topics of national interest”. All you lack in these game shows are some prize hampers sponsored by companies peddling cheap consumer electronics.
And the deadly-serious guys—yes, those grim men (and at least one woman with exquisite style sense) are going through their own little self-destruction drama in Kerala, waiting for their street muscle to return to their folds in West Bengal, and trying to match Marx’s theory of the withering away of the State with what’s going on around them.
The state of Indian politics does not even lend itself to humour. Anyway, humour is now officially a highly suspicious commodity. I wish those talking heads on TV would sometimes let go and just laugh. That’ll at least be honest communication to all those suckers who are still watching them.