If you haven’t been living off the grid lately (In India) with no means of communication at all, then by the chances of getting a 6 on the rolling of a fair dice, you know something about the current political scene in India. Though I’ve tried to keep many worlds and oceans in between myself and this ‘Democratic’ Politics of India, I’ve often lent my ear unwillingly to pigeonholed opinions. In fact, I don’t read the newspaper, or Google News, or listen to Television news (I wonder what I do, but I do), I am barely informed of what is going on where, except for my roommates discussing things about sports, politics and the world in general. They have ample opportunity to entertain a dunce (yours truly) who likes to have an opinion on everything he is not concerned with. The only report that I check on the mobile phone is the weather report and the thankfully it does not report the political temperature of the capital; Then there are blogs. Blogs which informed me what’s wrong with Egypt, with US, with Syria, and above all, with India and because they don’t tell everything, I am slightly misinformed.
If you have been a part of (Indian) society for a while in any form, be it chatting on a dining table, print media, television, radio or online social media, facebook, emails, blogs or (plain) News sites, chances are that you have already heard about Narendra Damodardas Modi. Last year, you must have heard about Arvind Kejriwal and a little bit earlier, about baba Ramdev making forays into Indian polity through fast unto deaths and then escaping the batons in a woman’s dress. Anna Hazare also grabbed limelight for a while and that did create a momentary surge in our office premises too. One guy in office started putting query e-mails with an aim of bringing transparency everywhere in the corporation and CCed it to almost everyone in the office and I dare say, he threatened to poke his nose everywhere. Most people, first responded positively and the replies made to the emails circulated like hot potatoes, garnished with spices of sarcasm, mooting about things that were wrong, but eventually everything fizzled out like gas from carbonated beverage kept open. Who wants to hear snide comments and petty criticism as a daily chore? Who wants to hear the complaint that ‘why is the fast-food menu not being put up and why are people being made to eat regular healthy food?’, ‘why are the rotis half baked?’ or ‘why does the raita have no variety?’ People often derail the transformation efforts themselves, these little captious comments were just that, diversions from the main point. We want change, everywhere, but without moving a finger, forget about moving a lazy butt which grows heavier each passing day. Most recently, I heard he is happily engaged and soon to get married. The issues portal that was opened with much enthusiasm now just another piece of software that ran its short course. Besides, having played a few table tennis games with him, I’ve known that he’s just like tin, easily heated and cooled, easily bent. So do I think that all of this, protesting and ‘satyagraha’ should stop? Absolutely not! We need a push and pull of powers, since everything boils down to power. No good without evil, no evil without good. Then why am I having a negative viewpoint on it? Seriously, you do need people whom you have to convince that it can be done. I’m just being a (de)motivator. Still I think it is better than comparing resumes of various people against soft targets like Rahul Gandhi on facebook. By making fun of him, you are giving him attention, just so you may know if you don't.
More than the news through media, I learnt about these protests when metros in Delhi were commanded not to stop on stations like Central Secretariat, Khan Market and every station near Janpath. People laughed that the government is being paranoid and wants to quell the strike by making it hard for people to reach there and complained that it is such a spineless government. But imagine the crowd on these metro stations had they been kept open for commute. That would have broken the already burdened transport system, if not the political system. It was the same when the youth from the capital thronged towards Janpath in protest of Rapes and crimes on hapless girls. Personally, I had this inkling that it was going to be a failure, public as one organism does not think, it is led by instinct, or by a rabble rouser. Notorious elements mingle in these crowds and start agitation which makes things ugly. We had a dog who was intimidating to look at, but was too friendly and outgoing with dogs. He just wanted to play, and as a result, did not mind stray dogs piddling all over our territory. The stray dogs, on seeing his advances, bristled as a show of annoyance, and did not play with him. So, one day, my father showed me an old trick of this trade, how to rouse the dogs into fighting. While our dog went about his ‘sniffing their asses’ business, papa threw a stone at them. Because the other dog was already baring his teeth, our dog thought that the other dog hit him, and hit him back. By virtue of his brawn and size, our dog easily overpowered stray dogs, even when they came in packs, but was easily swayed, until he was trained to not allow others into his territory. The notorious elements amongst the otherwise peaceful crowd do the same. Have you ever heard what Owaisi spoke in his rallies? And did you see the way he was cheered while he roused communal feelings? If someone doesn’t discount what he says as pure trash, every person hearing him will either be swearing for his blood, or by his blood. Ironically, when people like Katju state this truth (that people don’t think), we crucify him, every one makes sense sometimes.
I think, Arvind Kejriwal announced his entry into Politics a little too soon, just like Baba Ramdev. I don’t want to question their ideals, but the timing was the most awful. I think they should have waited, the momentum wasn’t just right, the credentials weren’t just that validated. Besides, baba Ramdev doesn’t want to die of a hunger strike, unlike many, not so popular saints, who have died of hunger while sitting in protest against illegal mining of Ganga and Yamuna banks, or any other societal concern. Once, at the end of a month and a Friday afternoon, I was standing in line in the nearby local SBI bank to submit a challan form. It was really a long line and the lunch hour was nigh. You know how we all are, we want a back door entry, each one of us wants to be that person whose clout is enough to get him into places easily. That is why the ‘common man’ is frustrated, because we don’t want to be common, we want to be special. There was a single counter for such requests and the person was doing his work mechanically, and as his experience in this job must have taught him, patiently, even with the cantankerous customers. To pass time, I pulled out a book and started to read, but was soon distracted when someone in the front started talking heatedly. This guy had just come from outside and was wearing an AAP badge. He demanded that a new counter should be set up so that the work can be done with greater speed. He was adamant and by the interaction he had with the person sitting over the counter, it was evident that he had been a trouble maker before. He said that he wasn’t there to break bank property, and he’ll talk with the manager. Break property? I instantly disliked him. He’s done that before, or people from his group have done it, why would that topic even come up otherwise? And then I get to thinking, is his claim justified? Will opening a new counter help? Yes, on this particular day, it would, without a doubt. But what about other days, when there is hardly any rush? It is the end of the billing month, so everyone is lined up to submit their bills, the people who are here for depositing money in accounts don’t even comprise the 25% of the line right now. So, is having a separate counter justified? In my opinion, no. Plus, Arvind Kejriwal might be the best man in India, but he’s surrounded with ‘goondas’, who have petty propaganda of their own and I cannot support them in his name.
Then there is NaMo. Lately, he has been declared as BJP’s prime ministerial candidate squashing any desires left of Mr. Advani of getting a chance at the title for once. Advani might be an apt candidate for the role of Bhishmapitamah for BJP, will serve with his heart, but will never rule, but he too doesn’t embody the virtues of Bhishma. NaMo first gathered a very big spotlight during the 2002 Godhra riots where he and his administration were accused of connivance and abetting the Hindu militants in response to what some Muslims had done to the train carrying Hindu activists the night before. His critics have always used this as their first weapon against him and resort to other allegation only when this point has been thoroughly ignored by the hearing party. Other allegations against Modi include his leniency towards industrialists and ignoring the farmers, and even extorting land on unfair prices from the farmers to promote his pro-developmental agenda, hyped statistics on Gujarat’s success story and taking the credit of Gujarat’s development as his personal excellence in administration, anti-secular, Hindu chauvinist, ruthless and apathetic autocrat. People from outside Gujarat say Muslims in Gujarat do not feel safe anymore, while someone from Gujarat yells back, ‘No, we do!’. This ping pong of comments and allegations has ensured that the spotlight seldom leaves NaMo, and that is exactly what he seems to be wanting. “Give Modi a break”, exactly! (pun intended).
I needed a reasonable opinion about him. I belong to a state where he has worked once, Himachal. My parents tell that he is a shrewd man, their sympathies lie with Shanta Kumar in Himachal, who they believed, straightened out many bends in the administration with his authoritarian stick. They attribute the availability of telephone in Himachal to his efforts and say that it does not matter if he filled coffers out of black money in doing so, at least he brought utility to the common man. But outside that, they think that NaMo is a capable leader. One of my friends who has visited Gujarat a few times is only smitten by that place. He narrates to me that one day he was on his morning walk there when the traffic policeman stopped everyone, the traffic and pedestrians alike and in a moment, few cars flew by. On asking, he told it was NaMo going to meet his rival on the very next day of his winning the elections. The policeman said that NaMo did not like inefficiencies and to him, if the traffic had to wait for many minutes because of him, it was not tolerable. Hence, his caravan and traffic police movements were highly coordinated to minimize disruption. Impressive indeed, because I trust this non-political friend of mine to not cook up such stories. This friend of mine has the opinion that if ever he has to make his house outside Himachal, it would be Gujarat. Another friend narrated to me that while NaMo was addressing a rally in Rewari (Haryana) recently, the police had cordoned off a group of people who were sitting in silent protest against Modi and followed him everywhere. They were being touted as the villagers from Gujarat whose lands have been illegally taken away from them by Modi Government and hence they are carrying their protest to everywhere he goes. The policeman also mocked that none of them actually was from Gujarat and were planted there by opposing groups. It is appalling, and could very much be true, but I cannot be sure.
So, to produce a right opinion about him, I decided to ask a friend, an insider to Gujarat (born and bred there that is) and with a clear head. Sadly, the person was as much confused, much because of the awareness of own biases, but did offer me a good and reasonable post (a very long post albeit). Having read it, I had two conclusions. Modi’s time spent in theatre was well spent, and second, a scrupulous person as him must be feared, looked on at with awe, yet, never trusted. Do not expect obedience from him, he has a mind of his own and being fully aware of what he can do, he will only entertain his own ideas. The note on the end of that article might be actually true.
“Shivling mein bichhu baitha hai. Na usko haath se utaar sakte ho, na usko joota maar sakte ho.”
Today, I see more Modi fanatics and AAP fanatics than reasonable men walking amongst us. When Modi speaks they listen with their brains shut. He does mind his words, to be honest, but that is what he is supposed to do best. But all his development talk goes into the gutter because his small line of criticism against the PM or the CM rouses these masses more than any of his pro-development agenda. People cleave to him like he’s their only hope in these tumultuous times, and they don’t see him in the purview of reason. They won’t hear anything against him, and sadly, they are not to blame. They are a frustrated lot. Some of them are frustrated of the news they read every day in the paper. They are frustrated that the politicians are eating fodder and using the coal to warm their own houses. They are frustrated that Raja made a big house by selling more 2G spectrum on lesser quoted prices to some big shots, even though they don’t know what 2G is or what does spectrum have to do with anything, even though the very same big shots are making services available at very cheap prices. Pray, if these big shots are stripped of their telecom licenses, there will be another protest demanding a substitute, or people will cry foul play on Government’s part for promoting state owned telecom providers. They are frustrated that ‘the common man’ is nothing special. They are ready to overlook the blemished cloth of their now-beloved leader but someone sitting in the opposition is trying to ensure that his hands are still stained in the blood of riot victims.
Somewhere I do believe that it is hard to be a Bhishmapitamaha as of today. Probably we should give chances to ‘Ratnakara’s to become ‘Valmiki’s. But unless we give them a chance we cannot know how they will fare. I for one, don’t expect much to change and can bet on these fanatics that they are expecting too much from a man, whatever they are expecting. But I will allow these authors of Indian (future) history to convince me of their story. I’ll let their efforts and the results thereof, speak, not vain promises shouted across podiums or manifestos. Sachin Tendulkar, has exemplified living on such morals on field. Rarely has he allowed his tongue to do the talking when on the pitch. He has silenced many Akhtar’s with his mighty paddle and given many Warne’s a beating even in their dreams, but he has never uttered a word about it. Maybe he has, and as we all are in the habit of deifying people, we overlook that. I for one am just poorly informed. He, in many ways is inimitable, we might find another master blaster, but not another Sachin, and perhaps, Dravid too (and Inzamam Ul Haq too, for that matter).
I don’t want it to look like a diatribe or a rant either, but an honest opinion of someone who wants to have an opinion on everything. Essentially I am annoyed with this fan following, this mindless dabbling over petty matters, this power politics. And I am all hands for ignorance to engulf me for periods when I search for mental peace. So, why I write this? Just to have an opinion. Besides what applies to NaMo and Kejriwal applies to almost anybody, me included:
“I'd rather be a could-be if I cannot be an are;
because a could-be is a maybe who is reaching for a star.
I'd rather be a has-been than a might-have-been, by far;
for a might have-been has never been, but a has was once an are.”
Elections are about to commence and the political parties have been trying hard to market their parties to the public, through social network outreach programs. NaMo’s fans have even created Android apps to honor him, he too has been using his twitter accounts and other social networking platforms to ensure that the tech savvy youth is kept informed (or influenced). AAP has registered its election symbol as a broom, and ironically that reminds me of a Coldplay song:
I used to rule the world.
Seas would rise when I gave the word.
Now in the morning I sleep alone.
Sweep the streets I used to own.
The other day I had to go and attend the call of nature while in office. So, while I sat there relieving myself of the heaviness of my stomach which portended to make my heart heavy, I noticed that there was something written on the toilet paper.
‘Vote for AAP’
This was the second instance when I had seen such a notice on a toilet paper roll. Last time, I did not have a pen with me. But it is really annoying to have your moment of relief disturbed by such intrusions of your privacy. This time I had a pen in my breastpocket, so I carefully took that paper out of the roll and neatly wrote,
‘You know what I am going to wipe with your opinion?’
The only difference between them and me is, I have a better sense of hygiene and just let that comment be, in case the one who put it there took notice. I don’t like to put faeces on public display.
‘When you take your politics to someone else’s toilets, it is bound to get dirty.’
P.S. Opinion subject to change when I have better reasons :-)
P.P.S. What is your opinion?