My wife Mydhili is experiencing a peculiar problem these days. Though she is not exactly a devout Hindu, she is by no means an atheist either. She visits temples on festivals and special occasions as most Hindus do. But, unlike in the past, her visits to temples of late have not been tranquil and serene as before.
Last week, when we visited a temple—where the presiding deity is a goddess—thoughts of images of Sonia Gandhi and Vasundhara Raje—who have recently been portrayed as goddess Durga (goddess of shakti, power) and Annapoorna (goddess of plenty, generosity and grains), respectively—started bothering her.
Our politicians have such bloated egos and a larger-than-life self-perception that anything short of bestowing divinity does not seem to impress them these days. Gandhi, Raje and Jayalalithaa have all been projected as goddesses by their fawning followers. Way back in 1998, Jayalalithaa was portrayed as Kali wearing a garland of skulls depicting her bête noire, M. Karunanidhi.
Actors who have been featured as gods and goddesses on screen—both the silver screen and the idiot box—have made a killing in politics. N.T. Rama Rao (NTR) portrayed the roles of Lord Krishna and Rama with distinction which won him admirers all over Andhra Pradesh and helped him to script a very successful career in politics. Actors who played the roles on television of Lord Krishna (Nitish Bharadwaj), Sita (Deepika Chikalia), not to forget Ravana (Arvind Trivedi), have all made it to politics rapidly at the national level, becoming members of Parliament. Celluloid Rama (Arun Govil) was a favourite campaigner for the Congress in many elections.
Now, a reverse trend is in evidence. Avaricious politicians are no longer content parading celluloid actors as gods and goddesses in election campaigns. It appears that they want to don the role themselves in real life.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has always equated its top leaders with the Hindu pantheon of gods. While the ageing Atal Bihari Vajpayee-L.K. Advani duo was hailed as the party’s Ram-Lakshman team, Vajpayee surprised many at the BJP’s silver jubilee celebrations in Mumbai in December 2005 by declaring that Advani-Pramod Mahajan would be the party’s new Ram-Lakshman team. (Many people like me wondered then if Lakshman in Ramayana was indeed a scandalous character.) The allusion also rattled many young leaders in the BJP prompting Venkaiah Naidu to declare himself as Hanuman, the ever loyal soldier of Ram—in this case the strongman of the BJP, Advani.
It appeared as though the rudderless BJP was seriously revamping itself as a drama party playing Ramlila with its vast reservoir of acting talent. Lest they are equated with lesser mortals, several leaders are seriously relishing the prospect of being portrayed as gods and goddesses. Last month, a crony of Rajasthan chief minister Raje portrayed her as the goddess Annapoorna and the top leaders of the BJP—Vajpayee, Advani and Rajnath Singh—as the trinity of Hindu gods, namely, the Brahma (Creator), Vishnu (Protector) and Mahesh (Destroyer). Going by Advani’s speech at the recently concluded party’s National Executive, he seems to be fully approving Singh’s depiction as the ‘destroyer’ as he has set the party on a path of terminal decline with a sting of humiliating electoral defeats.
Neither the trinity of BJP gods nor its ‘Annapoorna’ Raje delivered any snub to the party leaders behind this blasphemous expression. On this score, Gandhi responded rather quickly and initiated disciplinary action against the party leaders responsible for projecting her as goddess Durga. Knowing politicians’ eagerness for fulsome praise and sycophantic expressions, I wonder if this was indeed a genuine expression of her angst. Whatever the reason may be, Gandhi’s action is praiseworthy.
Our politicians have made a tamasha of the Hindu religion by taking all liberties with it. No other religion has been as misused as Hinduism and politicians of no other religion dare equate themselves with gods and goddesses. Can you imagine a Muslim politician being projected as Allah or Prophet Mohammed or a Christian politician as Jesus Christ? Such an act would be considered sacrilegious and practitioners of these faiths would make mincemeat of anyone making such a daring attempt.
Because Hindus worship many gods, you do not see a sharp reaction when politicians arrogate to themselves the imagery of gods and goddesses. But, politicians don’t seem to realize that they have already become a subject of ridicule with juvenile and irresponsible acts of their chamchas.
G.V.L. Narasimha Rao is a political analyst and managing director of Development & Research Services, a research and consulting firm.
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