Bollywood in the 1980s was known for its melodramas. And we devoured them hit by hit. There was nothing called subtle. It was out there. Bad guys, good guys, vamps and villains. Martyrdom and sacrifice. Murder and mayhem. The formula didn’t change. Only the costumes did. The political drama in India, as of now, needs better scriptwriters. The narrative is so damn tawdry, it is making avid political watchers a tad restless. Mamata Banerjee aced the “super nautanki” game with her “changa-danga” nonsense… thank God she didn’t add “nanga”. Next came our Prime Minister’s comical photo-op — waving to non-existent crowds, deserted shikaras and water hyacinths floating on an empty Dal Lake in Srinagar. Rahul Gandhi has upped his agro antenna with the crude “chor-chowkidar” attack on Narendra Modi, adding “darpok” to his charges for good measure. He has also wondered aloud whether the PM suffers from “schizophrenia” (hope Rahul Baba knows how to spell it!). What’s with our leaders? Language issues? Staged photos that fool nobody? Hey Bhagwan! What happens with their minders and those overpaid spin doctors who are supposed to take care of details and gaffes on this scale? If they are too scared of their bosses to advise them during this, the most critical period before a national election, they should be sacked. Spin doctors are supposed to be perception experts who know precisely which buttons to press and when. Last week’s fiasco (CBI vs Kolkata cops), was so darned ludicrous, we would have laughed out loud had the implications been innocuous. But they are anything but. What we are witnessing is a near-anarchic development which can only lead to chaos. How many cover-ups can a country handle without cracks in the system threatening its very stability. If cops are colluding with the State, and if the Centre is suspecting cops, what sort of security/safety can citizens depend on during a crisis?
Pre-election stunts are not new to India. But some of the recent antics take the cake. And to think it is netas like them who harbour ambitions of leading the country! Astonishing! The low level of political engagement and discourse is a matter of grave concern, given the limited choices in front of us. There is hardly any serious contender on the scene for the top job — just a bunch of opportunists and wannabes. For starters, which one of them can be called educated? Take a look at some of the hopefuls — from Mr Rahul Gandhi to Mayawati, we have politicians with ferocious appetites for seizing power, but with no formal education to help them negotiate this vast and tumultuous nation of ours. Ms Banerjee’s CV shows multiple degrees, but when she speaks, her words make one wonder. Education is not just about degrees. It is not even about which school or college one has attended. I know several duffers who proudly refer to their Oxford/Cambridge/Harvard/Princeton days but are they truly educated? Civilised? Open and receptive? Interested in matters of the world? Aware and informed?
It is worrying to think India may soon be dominated by semi-literate leaders and members of Parliament. People who are ignorant, stuck in a time-warp, stubborn in their views and rigid in their thinking. It is a recipe for disaster. Our bureaucrats and technocrats are amongst the sharpest on the planet. But what chance do they have to function efficiently in a hostile environment that does not recognise merit and only rewards chamchas? It is demoralising to see just how eager our babus are to please the establishment and kowtow to their political patrons. When asked, they shrug and say, “Our careers and promotions depend on how we ‘manage’ our ministers.’’ Perhaps it was always this way. But it is far more in your face and blatant these days.
The most pathetic election stunt involves getting back our financial fugitives with a great deal of bombast and show. While I agree every such defaulter must be held accountable, as it happens across the world, what we are likely to witness in the case of Vijay Mallya looks like a dramatically staged tamasha to impress voters and prove a point. It will be a spectacle all right. Just as it is meant to be. The King of Good Times will be brought back to face a trial in India… one wonders whether manacles and chains will be used to make the homecoming still more dramatic? The timing couldn’t have been more cunningly calculated. Though how exactly achche din will be served through this theatrical stunt remains a mystery. Come on. If the present government means business and is sincere about addressing such issues swiftly, why not start by cleaning its own stables? There are enough benami billionaires in Parliament to make the rest of the businessmen-crooks look like amateurs. Will anybody dare to name and prosecute some of the veteran politicians who have been amassing wealth for over five decades? Their names are known to all. The identity of their frontmen is also not a secret. But everyone’s lips are sealed, because money talks. Especially during an election year. Given the overall cynicism this time, money will be the winner. He/she who has it will sit on the kursi. Buying and selling of crucial seats will be the real game-changer eventually. In all this, who are we? Nobodies! We will sit dumbly on the sidelines and watch our future being traded for a few pieces of gold. And yes, the uneducated will tell us what’s good for us. And we will go on pretending we are still a democracy. An unwieldy, ungovernable democracy soon to be led by a bunch of semi-literates. Welcome to an unlettered future, folks! And yes, Mr Gandhi… go ahead and build the temple, if you win. It will be the single most dishonest act coming from you… but as in love, war and politics, the winner takes it all! The only losers in Elections 2019 will be us idiots — the citizens.