Raghunathan, P.A. to Principal Secretary to Prime Minister
Head Bearer in PM’s House
Thakur Sab Dishaon Mein Uchhaal Singh
Sarvatra Kankar Prasad
Jee Two Raja
Sriyut Ganana Shastry, Psephologist
Professor Murmur Gappodhyaya,
Students 1,2 and 3
(A room in Prime Minister’s House. Enter Principal Secretary to P.M. and Cabinet Secretary, talking)
Cabinet Secretary: (boiling over) What a joke! What a bloody joke! You mean you have called me this early in the morning so that I can help you choose a proper slogan for the next elections! Is that what the premier service of the country has been reduced to?
Principal Secretary: Come on, Sam, don’t be melodramatic. We are no longer room-mates in the Allahabad University hostel. This is real life. This is what we are supposed to do.
C.S.: Sometimes I wonder if my babuji had the foggiest notion of what he was getting me into.
P.S. Oh I am sure he did. The people of that generation were pragmatic men and women. He wanted you to draw a good salary, get an attractive match and enhance the family’s status. All that has happened. You have even ended up as Cabinet Secretary. You have really nothing to crib about. But, even in College, you were always the neurotic; you had grandiose dreams of making sacrifices for the country.
C.S. (reflectively): Well, dash it. I am damned if you are not right. I have always had exaggerated notions of what kind of mettle I had.
(sighs a deeply philosophical sigh) I say, P.K, can we have some coffee?
P.S.(expansively) Oh sure.( lifts a phone and speaks into the mouthpiece) Raghu, can we have some coffee? Seri! (drops the phone on the cradle)
C.S. Now tell me, what exactly is on the mind of the boss?
P.S. It is not so much the boss…he is such an apolitical animal I often wonder how he survives in this jungle. No, no, not the Boss, it is Number Ten who is concerned, vitally concerned now that the Crown Prince is at last ready and willing.
C.S. Oh, the Crown Prince? Hasn’t he been ready and willing for a long time? Will the mere change of a slogan help?
P.S. Well, parents are always hopeful about their progeny. Remember how Panditji groomed Indiraji, how Indiraji tolerated Sanjay’s escapades and how Rajiv was more or less persuaded into the takhte-tawoos against his innermost desires!
(Enter Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission. He looks like a younger version of the P. M. even to the colour of his turban. His manner is brisk, his accent American)
Deputy Chairman: (smiling) So this is where the great man is hiding. The Big Two are obviously holding a Secret Conclave. What cataclysms are being planned?
P.S. (laughing): Oh no! Nothing of the sort. Can any conspiracy be hatched without the connivance of the Deputy Chairman?
C.S. In a way, you are right. We have got a massive project. We have to suggest a slogan that will win the battle of the hustings for the Crown Prince.
D.C. (impishly): Oh I love slogans. You remember when I was with the U.N. The Secretary General was grappling with the name of a new organization. It was called United Nations Fund for Economic Development. At first no one noticed it. Then someone made the acronym. Can you beat it? It was UNFED. UNFED!!! Preposterous! This could never have happened in my bailiwick. Why, I first coined a suitable acronym and then expanded it into a name. The Secretary General called for me. I volunteered the solution. Changed the name, don’t you know, to Special UN Fund for Economic Development. So UNFED became SUNFED. Simple! Ha, ha, ha, what do you say?
C.S.(laughing) Yeah, we have all heard that story ten times already. Though different people have taken the credit for that brainwave.
P.S. (trying to be businesslike) Let us forget stories for a moment. Can you think of a good slogan for the elections?
C.S. (testily): What was wrong with the good old slogan of socialistic pattern of society? If it was good enough for Panditji, it is good for me.
P.S. He went for socialistic pattern because he did not quite go for socialism.
C.S. Panditji was a shrewd leader. He had seen what Stalin had done to Russia and Mao Tse Tung to good old China. Many of his closest friends were kulaks! Several millions of them would have had to be sacrificed at the altar of communism.
D.C. Was ‘socialistic’ not the same as ‘socialist’? Was it not just a play on words? Like my UNFED and SUNFED.
P.S. It was too difficult for people to grasp. That is why Indiraji plumped for Garibi Hatao.
D.C. That was a nice juicy one. Although I was in the World Bank at that time, we all heard about it. How did it go? (in strongAmerican drawl) “Indiraji kaiti hain Garibi Hatao. Woh kaite hainIndira hatao.” Wasn’t it fun? (bursts into guttural laughter)
C.S. The decider was the final persuasive: “Ab aap hi chuniye”
D.C. Yeah, that was great! Aap hi chuniye! What a line. After the Bangladesh war, what was there to choose? Absolutely classic! That caustic irony was the Indira touch!
P.S. But there were the detractors to that line too. Sharad Joshi, the youthful iconoclast of Hindi literature wrote a stinging piece for Saarika.
D.C. (impatiently) What was that? What was that? I missed it.
P.S. (satirically) Not that your being in Delhi would have made a difference. When did you last read a magazine in Hindi?
C.S. That is not true of him alone. When did you or when did I last pick up a Hindi Magazine from a newsstand?
D.C. (unfazed) Forget all that crap. What did Sharada Joshi say?
P.S. Even if you had been here, you would not have read a piece of
vernacular prose, and it was a male satirist Sharad, not Sharada, which is a female name, you dope!
C.S. Will you stop picking on him and come to the point?
P.S. Joshi wrote that the slogan “Garibi Hatao” was a literary gem. It was an imperative verb. Someone was ordering somebody else to do something. In this case Indiraji was telling the people of India to get rid of their poverty.
C.S. The implicit reproach was that if poverty continued to plague
the poor, it was due to their own inaction and not because of any failure of the Government.
D.C. (laughs) Ho ho ho! That Imperative Verb angle is rich. Sharada Joshi must have been a genius. (laughs uproariously).
P.S (mock sternly) Sharad Joshi.
D.C. (mock apologetic) Oh I am so sorry. Sharad Joshi, of course.
C.S. Then came the Emergency and the subsequent fall of Indira Gandhi. We had the Janata Party coming to power. They had seen how Indira had won the 1971 elections on the anti-poverty platform.
P.S. Of course, they had to move away from Nehru and Indira. So they went back to Gandhi. In his autobiography, Gandhi had spoken eloquently of John Ruskin and his Christian philosophy of Unto this Last. D.C. Yes, one had heard, even in Washington, of the Rajasthan, Himachal and a few other State Governments plumping for what they called the Antodaya Programme, in which the Gram Sabha was required to identify the poorest families of the village and then some project was designed for them.
P.S.Antyodaya Programme, not antodaya programme, (Deputy Chairman makes a grimace) All this historical analysis does not bring us any closer to the solution of our today’s problem. We have to find a slogan for the next elections.
D.C. Solutions will also come. But not without a cup of hot coffee. You know, P.K., over the years I have found that the best coffee is the one served in PM’s House. I had actually come for that.
P.S. I am so sorry! Cabsec had also put in his requisition. (Picks upthe phone a little angrily) God knows why Raghu has gone to sleep (shouts into the phone) What then, Raghu? Shall we have the coffee today?
(Enter Raghunathan, P.A. to Principal Secretary, with tousled hair and disheveled look)
Raghunathan (highly apologetic) He has not served coffee here, Sir? We were served coffee ten minutes ago and one thought that they should have served here first. Apparently they got the impression that …….
P.S. (sternly) I am not interested in the reasons. Go and get it now.
(Thus rebuked, Raghunathan leaves the room precipitately).
C.S. Come on, P.K. don’t take it so seriously. Raghu is not to blame. It is so obviously the Head Bearer’s fault.
P.S. (to D.C.) See? The Cabinet Secretary has held the enquiry and fixed the responsibility also. He has shifted the blame to the lowest rung possible. So predictable!
C.S. What to do? That is how we are all trained. If it is the Commissioner of Police who is responsible, suspend the Sub-Inspector. Contain the damage, contain the damage, somehow!
(The coffee arrives, the Head Bearer a trifle apologetic. There is silence while coffee is poured and handed over.)
D.C. (taking a huge sip sibilantly) Oh superb, fantastic! (almostreverentially) What coffee? It is surely a spiritual experience. (Looking up at the ceiling) It is coming, it is coming!
P.S. What, already?
D.C. (triumphantly) Yes, Sir. The slogan has come.
C.S. What, what?
D.C. It is what the Crown Prince instinctively chose in the 2009 elections. Hamari sarkar aam aadmi ki sarkar!
P.S. But I thought you were opposed to aam aadmi on the ground that it could not be quantified.
D.C. You are right. Our whole mindset was conditioned by the World Bank thinking. All their economists believed in measurability. But my experience in India showed that affluence cannot be measured merely in Rupees.
C.S. He is right. India is the country that invented the zero. If you fix anything as the measure of the poverty line, some mathematician will prove that you have regressed.
P.S. That is so true. See, what a fiasco we had on the number of families who had crossed the poverty line. Far from making progress, we seemed to have deteriorated!
D.C. That is the time we started playing with the definition of the poverty line itself. First it was based on food intake, then we raised it to 32 rupees, then brought it down to 28 rupees. But whatever we did, the economists found that our standards had come down.
C.S. At last we concluded that poverty was too measurable and dangerous a concept. We thought of many synonyms like hoi polloi, peasants, marginal farmers, agricultural labourers, landless labourers, unorganized labour, lower middle class, proletariat, working class and so and so forth. But they either had a pejorative connotation or would not fit into the political lexicon.
D.C. (smiling an enigmatic smile) That is the time the Crown Prince started talking about the common man. At first, I wondered who this common man was. When I asked him about it, he said, “Aam aadmi” and would not elucidate it any further.
P.S. I quizzed him further. All he would say was that “aam aadmi” was everyone who was not a “khaas aadmi”.
D.C.That was a very clever way of avoiding a straightforward definition. Didn’t you tell him that?
P.S. You bet I did. But he had been coached well by someone. He said that there was no definition of a “non-cognizable offence” in the Code of Criminal Procedure. It had merely been said that any offence that was not “cognizable” would be treated as “non-cognizable.”
D.C. ( clapping his hands) My, my, my! That is dashed smart. Obviously, Rahul Baba is growing up. And who is this clever Dronacharya who has been coaching him incognito. Didn’t you find out?
P.S. Well I tried, but he didn’t let on. He went on to explain that NGO also had no defining feature except that it was not a Govt. organization.
C.S. (smiling broadly) He had obviously not heard of GONGOs yet. The so-called Govt. Owned NGOs.
P.S. Apparently not. Whoever it was, any Dronacharya who could teach an absentee pupil the art of shutting up a barking dog by letting fly a shower of arrows, without spilling a drop of blood, was worth cultivating. I have even now not been able to guess.
C.S. (briskly) Okay. Let us cut out the polemics. And who then was a “khaas aadmi”?
P.S. He said that everyone in India was trying to become a “khaasaadmi”. All VVIPs were, of course. Similarly, all VIPs. And even all “IPs”.
D.C. He also insisted that all anti-poverty programmes were for the benefit of the aam aadmi.That was for me personally a very illuminating statement. It showed that the Crown Prince had come of age.
P.S. Shall we then inform the P.M. that our consensus is for aamaadmi?
D.C. Do you doubt it still? Ask the Cabsec. I would trust his horse sense any day.
P.S. What you say, Sam? Are you for it?
C.S. Yeah, sure I do. It fulfils my four-fold test. It is simple. It seems to mean something profound. No one knows what it means. It cannot be quantified or measured.
P.S. (on phone) Raghu, find out if P.M. will receive us now. Oh he has, has he?
(To the others) He has been expecting us. Let us go!
(We land straight into the sets of India at 9 news bulletin of The Truth And The Only Truth TTA- TOT Channel)
Raj Darbari;(briskly) Good Evening, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the India at 9 News Bulletin being broadcast from TTA-TOT headquarters at New Delhi, India.
Our top story today is the announcement by the Vice President of the UPA that the UPA will fight the elections in 2014 on the Aam Aadmi platform.
In order to discuss the ramifications of this announcement, we have with us a panel of Thakur Sab Dishaon Mein Uchhal Singh from the Congress Party, Sarvatra Kankar Prasad of the BJP, Arvind Karishmawala of the Aam Aadmi Party, Peetaram Bachury of the CPI (M), G Two Raja of the DMK, Alu Prasad of the RJD,. Bhramawati of the BSP, Vasant Yadav of the UJD, Kshamata Didi of Trinamul Congress and Shri Ganana Shastry, noted psephologist.
To start the debate I first call upon Arvind Karishmawala to explain how he feels about the very name of his party being hijacked so blatantly by the grandmother of all political parties in India.
Arvind Karishmawala ( with characteristic smugness) This is only for starters, they will borrow so many other things from us, as we go along.
Thakur Sab Dishaon mein Uchhal Singh (interrupting) Sorry to interrupt.( He does notsound at all contrite) The Congress Party has been in existence for 128 years, Mr. Karishmawala would be lucky if his party survives that many months. The Congress was, as usual, the first to campaign for the aam aadmi. Our youth leader has been personally talking about him since 2009.
Raj Darbari: All right. If we concede that you invented the phrase, have you ever bothered to define who an aam aadmi is?
Thakur Sab Dishaon Mein Uchhal Singh: That is the first thing we did. The youth leader clarified that the aam aadmi is the one who has no connection with the system that exploits everyone. He is unique in that he does not even wish to be connected. He said that India cannot progress unless a person succeeds on the basis of what he knows, not whom he knows.
Karishmawala: The first thing I did on starting this new party was to define the aam aadmi. The aam aadmi is an ordinary person with ordinary desires. Aam aadmi wants free education and health care. If he is a farmer, he wants a system that calculates his costs of production accurately and fixes the procurement price in a way that the farmer earns something and is not driven to suicide because of recurring losses year after year.
Raj Darbari: All right, let us see what the BJP which leads the NDA alliance thinks of the aam aadmi.
Prasad :( glibly) On the aam aadmi you will find all of us united. We all wish him well. Why did the BJP oppose FDI in retail tooth and nail? Because we thought that the big malls would not pay a reasonable price to the farmers. We also felt that the neighborhood Mom and Pop retail shops would go out of business.
Bachury (his voice dripping with sarcasm): The BJP’s concern about the retail and wholesale traders is well known. It has always been a party of shopkeepers.
Prasad: If we had been a party of shopkeepers, we would not have captured power and retained power at the Centre and the States.
Bachury: (smiling broadly) If the British whom Napoleon called a nation of shopkeepers could rule a vast empire for centuries, why not the BJP?
Prasad: We have provided a positive definition of aam aadmi too. Anyone who has a stake in the system, but does not have an effective say is an aam aadmi. The term includes members of the unorganized sector and marginalized sections of society.
Bachury: That is as vague a definition as possibly can be. The CPI (M) has a limpid definition. Peasants, agricultural labourers and members of the lower middle class, whose family income falls below the poverty line as defined by the Government from time to time, would be an aam aadmi. Can anything be more precise? No scope for hera pheri.
Raj Darbari: Aluji, what are your views on the subject? Even the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and the Harvard University held special training sessions of their management graduates with you, after you claimed to have turned the Indian Railways around.
Alu Prasad: Our eggheads recognize local talent only after Western intellectuals have showered praise on them. Or else yog would not have to be reborn as Yogaa for being accorded appreciation.
Raj Darbari, my definition of aam aadmi is a man who lives in a village which has neither roads nor electricity nor water nor school nor dispensary. He should go into the fields, lota in hand, determined to personally add natural manure to the soil. He should take a bath not more frequently than once a month, when the fire brigade van comes to the village for a community bath where children of all castes take part. Every couple should add at least one cricket team to the world population.
Raj Darbari: Thank you, Aluji. These are all fresh ideas. Hopefully the UPA alliance will keep these considerations in view. Now, Bhramawatiji, will you throw some light?
Bhramawati: You would have noticed that all other parties want to limit the benefit of Government schemes to the Savarnas, members of the so-called higher castes. Bahujan Samaj Party would like the term aam aadmi to be limited only to the Harijans and Girijans.
Raj Darbari: And you, Kshamataji?
(The camera pans around the vacant space where Kshamata Didi was seated so far. Her seat is vacant)
Bhramawati: I think Kshamata Didi left in some haste. She mumbled about some other engagement. Perhaps she felt offended at the order in which she had been placed as a panelist.
Raj Darbari: Can we have Mr. G Two Raja of the DMK?
Yechury: Mr. Raja had to leave in a tearing hurry as he received an urgent SMS from the President of his party that he had been replaced as party spokesman by Ranimozhi. But Madam Ranimozhi is still at Chennai Airport, waiting to board a flight. She might be delayed for this programme.
Raj Darbari: Such things do happen. Let us then hear Vasant Yadav Ji.
Vasant Yadav: The UJD is all for the aam aadmi. Our main emphasis is on secularism. We would like to include the minorities, specially the Muslims, as aam aadmi to receive the benefits of special Govt. programmes.These may be provided irrespective of the income.
Raj Darbari: Thank you, Mr. Yadav. Why, if one may ask, do you wish benefits of govt. programmes to reach minority households irrespective of income?
Vasant Yadav:Minorities, especially Muslims, fall in a distinct category, as they have been systematically discriminated against for centuries. For example, their loyalty to the mother country is always suspect and they are not ordinarily welcome in the uniformed forces.
Sarvatra Kankar Prasad (with a sedate smile): All this is merely window dressing. Why don’t they say up front that they would like the Muslim vote to fall into their lap in the form of a vote bank?
Vasant Yadav: There is no such consideration. These are facts of history.
(Both shout at each other. Pandemonium)
Raj Darbari (with a broad smile): Hon’ble Members, please address the Chair. It will be better if we stop shouting at each other. Hon’ble Members, nothing is being recorded.
(The warring Members gradually subside into silence)
Now I request Sriyut Ganana Shastri, noted psephologist to provide his learned inputs.
Sriyut Ganana Shastri (with a faint smile): The history of the common man is much older than 2009 when the Congress Party used aam aadmi as a slogan for the first time. The common man was actually invented by the noted cartoonist R.K.Laxman who started his daily cartoon “You said it” in 1951 on the front page of the Times of India. Gradually the persona of the common man evolved into the now world- famous figure of a middle-aged man in a check shirt and crumpled dhoti, with his hair and glasses askew and a perpetually puzzled look, who was a silent witness to all that was happening in this country.
Raj Darbari: Yes, the silent witness part is what we have all seen in the past. But the recent upheavals by the youth of the country, whether as a crusade against corruption or a rage against the gang rape and murder of a brave heart in Delhi have changed the mood of the common man. If Laxman had been still active as a cartoonist, he might have given an audible, stentorian voice to the aam aadmi.
Let us now go to some viewers for their comments on the UPA’s announcement today.
(Camera pans to a viewer in Mumbai)
Interviewer: How would you define the common man?
Viewer: To my mind, the common man is the man in the street.
Interviewer: Man walking in the street, running in the street with stones and brickbats in his hands, sitting with a begging bowl in the street or trying to sleep in the street under a flyover on a cold December night, are these all pictures of the aam aadmi?
Viewer: All of them, as they would fall under different levels of penury. Certainly, the man sleeping in the street without a roof on his head must get top priority.
(Camera focuses on a drinking water scheme, where there is a crowd of villagers, with scant access to clean drinking water)
Interviewer: Are you short of water only or do you have other difficulties and problems also?
Villager: There are so many problems. We don’t have a road connecting us to the regulated market. There is a school but the teachers do not attend classes. Medical insurance is still unknown to the saadharan vyakti.
Interviewer to a plumpish lady in a small town: How do you respond to the phrase “mango man in a banana republic” coined by an important person? Does it illuminate your condition in any way?
Viewer: (smiling) Well, it is good if some of us are lucky enough to find humour in a situation of malnutrition, starvation and hunger.
Interviewer: Don’t you think it as an apt description of your unimportance, your marginalization in the present context?
Viewer: On the contrary. How many of us can afford to live in a banana republic, when the mandi price of an individual, emaciated banana in Delhi is 7 rupees. The mango proper is much worse; even the lowliest species is unaffordable.
Raj Darbari: Well, we can check out this story in a minute. Our correspondent visited an elementary school run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. Here is a student of Class II trying to learn the Hindi alphabet.
Correspondent (To child): Bete, अ,आ,इ,ई सुनाओ
Child: अ से अमरुद, आ से आम.
Interviewer: तुमने अमरुद और आम खाए हैं न?
Child: कहाँ ,अंकल. दूर से देखे भर हैं.
Raj Darbari: See? They have not tasted even the lowly guava, not to speak of the high and mighty mango.
Ganana Shastri: You must have interviewed college students too. How deep is their knowledge?
Raj Darbari: See for yourselves.
(Camera pans out to college campus.)
Lady interviewer: (To a passing girl): You are a student of M.A. in Economics. Tell me, how would you recognize a common man?
Girl: What is the big deal, Mam? The common man can be recognized in a jiffy. She has no ability to influence others politically or financially. She is used to suffering the misdeeds of the high and mighty.
Lady interviewer: Can you give us some synonyms, so that we understand the concept well?
Girl (with exuberance): Oh sure! Let us see. How about common person ,nobody, nonentity, cipher, everyman, man in the street, plebian, rustic, peasant , Joe in the Street, man of the masses and so on?
Raj Darbari (from the student) Is a common man the same as a garib aadmi?
Student: (with a discomfited air): It should, should it not? But one has heard our leaders use it in a very flexible way. It seems to include the neo-rich, or at least some of them. Also the middle classes or more appropriately the lower middle classes. It seems to be a populist platform, in which anyone not having roti, kapda aurmakaan in sufficient measure can be provided with these.
Raj Darbari: Thank you for your candour. We move back to the studios. Now, honourable members of the panel, we are running out of time. You can make one last comment. Mr. Prasad.
Sarvatra Kankar Prasad: (with irony pouring from each phrase) The NDA feels that, like everything else, this is a clever ploy to divert the attention of the voters from the misdeeds and corrupt practices of its leaders. When the Govt. tried the norms fixed by the World Bank, they found that the number of families whose family income exceeded the poverty line increased rather than going down. This was a failure of the anti-poverty programmes.
Sab Dishaon Mein Uchhal Singh: (Unfazed) This was a numerical failure. For the UPA, this kind of assessment based on mere arithmetic was not important. What we needed was a qualitative assessment. A few chintan shivirs later, the situation became clear. A one-dimensional attack on income levels alone would not do. We had to attack the basic underlying causes of poverty, penury, malnutrition, absence of food, clothing and shelter, the lack of access to basic amenities like a road leading to an urban area, employment, housing, etc.
That is why we launched a combined onslaught on the negative factors. The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana for rural roads, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme
for employment, Indira Aawas Yojana for rural housing, and so on and so forth. The list is virtually endless.
Raj Darbari: We have run out of time. We shall listen to the list some other time. In fact, we shall be listening to nothing else, till the date of the poll.
With this we come to the end of the programme “India at 9”. Thank you
(A Class in Futurology in progress. Prof. Murmur Gappopadhyaya addresses the class in Indian Institute of Tittle-tattle. The students are equipped with tape recorders.)
Prof : Students! Welcome to this new course on Futurology in I.I.T-T being held in cyberspace. As you know, Govt. is very keen on a no detention policy in education. It started with an innocuous no-detention in primary classes, which gradually went up to Tenth class and now covers the entire curriculum, up to and including Ph.D. and D.Litt.
We do not wish to subject our students to any kind of stress, nor do we desire that they fail and get into depression or attempt suicide. However, you are not allowed to go to sleep in the class, either with your eyes open or shut.
So when I ask you a question, you have to click your tape-recorder, only to show that you are conscious and wide-awake. It does not indicate that you have grasped or understood the concept or the theory. If unwittingly, you happen to understand, please indicate it with your vocal chords. Is that clear?
Students: Clear, Sir.
Prof. We do not tell you which year we are in at the moment, whether we are talking of the past that has already happened, or the future which is still waiting to happen.
It is my statutory responsibility to inform you that this course is being conducted under the Cyber Courses Act recognized by the UNESCO and all universities approved by it. The qualification earned hereunder does not entitle you to a job as a qualified Futurologist. Is that understood?
Students: (click the tape-recorders in unison).
Prof.(with surprising amiability ) Well then I shall proceed. The General Elections in India planned to be held in 2014 were actually held on schedule. All the parties exerted their best to win.
The UPA went to polls with the anointed Crown Prince as their declared Prime Ministerial candidate. The Congress was able to muster support from Kshamata Banerji, Nirish Kumar and Bhramawati, besides AIADMK, National Conference etc. Shared Power tried to stage a revolt, but a scandal surfacing at the right time, put paid to his ambitions.
The NDA brought together some of the smaller parties, but it could not unite behind one charismatic leader. Narendra Toady had the charisma, but he was not city bred and was too much of a rustic to catch the imagination of the Generation Next. Sukshama Swaraj was too roly-poly Bharat Desh ki Nari to fit the bill. Kaitley’s following was limited to Delhi. Murli Manohar Doshi was too identified with the RSS, Ladvani too old.
Student 1: What about the Third Front?
Prof.: The Left parties tried to forge a third front with the help of Samajwadi Party and DMK, but it had no leader having an all India image.
Friends, politics is a lot like films. You have to have at least one face that sells, one of the Khans for example.
Student 2: Then the story does not matter?
Prof: The story also matters, but a macho hero or sexy heroine matters a lot more.
Student 3: And what about the theme like the welfare of humanity, the struggle between good and evil? Isn’t that where the cast of thousands counts. The aam aadmi with whom the average viewer identifies himself?
Prof. That is a myth some directors try to propagate. But the average cinegoer does not like to identify himself with an extra whom no one notices. Everyone wants to be like the hero--- handsome, a singer, a dancer, a Formula One racer, a horseman, a warrior proficient in any weapon, and above all a romantic who wins over the beautiful princess with sweet nothings on moonlit nights. Who wants to be just an aam aadmi?
Student 3: Obviously, none.
Prof: Tell me, who won the 2014 elections?
Students: (click their tape-recorders loudly).
Prof. (shouts) To this question, I demand an answer, not a bloody click!
Student 1: You said that we were discussing not the reality, but alternative scenarios. In the scenario you just described, the winner must have been the Crown Prince. He is so obviously the nearest the UPA had to resemble the desired Khans. No one else fits. He is drop-dead handsome, like a hero or an eminent model who has arrived. Although he is not yet married, he would be a hundred times if he wanted to.
Prof. That is what all the psephologists predicted. They gave him a three fourths majority, like his father before him, and although he did not have the advantage of an assassinated mother, he had almost everything else.
Student 3: You might have heard the humorous ditty on the internet about the elections?
Prof. Which one? There were so many.
Student 3 (singing with aplomb, other students join him):
Rama killed Ravana. Both start with ‘R’
Krishna killed Kamsa. Both start with ‘K’.
Obama killed Osama. Both start with ‘O’.
Corruption killed Congress. Both start with ‘C’
Toady killed The Youth Leader. Both start with ‘T’. Prof. This is neither psephology nor futurology. It is wish fulfillment, by a Toady acolyte. Imagine, can corruption kill parties, when all parties thrive on black money? If this ditty was to be taken seriously, even then only an ‘R’ could defeat the UPA’s Prince. The only ‘R’ the NDA had to offer was Rajnath Bingh.
Student 2: But how did the Prince get the aam aadmi to put the stamp on his election symbol?
Prof. He remembered his father’s oft-quoted statement that the man in the village got only 15 paise in a rupee. The rest was gobbled by the various vested interests. He concentrated his attention on how to reach all the hundred paise to the aam aadmi, or as many of the hundred paise as could be managed.
Student 1: How did he succeed where so many had faltered in the past?
Prof: His master-stroke was the Aadhar Card. Everyone got an Aadhar Card. Some got two or three, but everyone had to have at least one. This card was linked with the banks. All Govt. assistance was released to the beneficiaries by electronic transfer, directly into their bank accounts. So there was no question of any pilferage. Simple! (Smiles a beatific smile).
Student 2: How did he ingratiate himself into their good graces?
Prof. Simple. In urban areas he traveled by the University special, the Metro and the suburban train and mixed with the students without any security surrounding him. In the rural areas, he sat on the charpoys with them, broke bread with them and slept overnight in the huts of the so-called “lower castes”.
He declared himself opposed to professional student leaders who pretended to be youthful even when they had crossed the age of 35 years. No one had the temerity to ask him about his own age.
He announced that dynasty would not be a consideration in the distribution of tickets and followed this principle in say ten percent cases. No one had the guts to question him about his qualifications for the various posts he held.
Student 3: How did the UPA deal with the Lok Pal Bill?
Prof: Through discussion in Chintan Shivirs, inter-party conclaves and the Standing Committee of Parliament, but the various parties could not arrive at a consensus. So the draft Bill just lapsed.
Student 1: Did Anna Pazare not pose a problem?
Prof: (breezily) Providentially, he met with a road accident just a day before he was to sit on a fast unto death. And Karishmawala was persuaded to drink a glass of orange juice on the 7th day of his fast.
Student 1: Did the Government relax its hegemony over the CBI?
Prof. It proclaimed the CBI’s autonomy by issuing a gazette notification, but continued to appoint the director and other senior officers unilaterally.
Student 2 : How did it deal with the Dynasty issue?
Prof.: (with a wicked leer on his face) Oh, it was so cutely managed, you won’t believe it.The Govt. got a Presidential reference made to the Supreme Court of India. That Court held that no citizen of India could be disentitled from holding any office merely on the ground of his dynasty. Nor could belonging to a dynasty be made a necessary precondition to the holding of a post. All parties being interested in clarifying the related issues, it was child’s play for The Indian Dynastic Succession Act being passed by a unanimous show of hands.
Student 3: (an impish gleam in his eyes) Sorry to take you back a little, Professor. Was the UPA able to take 100% grant to the beneficiaries?
Prof. (stammering a little) To be frank…well. No…not exactly.
Student 3: Can we say in what percentage of cases was 100% achieved nearly or substantially?
Prof: The exact data is not yet available. You see, the following snags were encountered:
Aadhar cards could not be completed in time for the elections.
Some cards had to be rejected because there was no power, or computer was down or fingerprints did not match or iris did not match etc.
Bank employees went on strike demanding an Aadhar Card allowance.
Initially, money was released liberally, as the elections were fast approaching or end of financial year was approaching and so on. As the entitlements started pouring in and were lesser in amount, entries had to be written back. Bankers insisted on a cash refund, while the beneficiaries demanded temporary adjustment entries or loans.
All along, the bank employees had felt that they were distributing largesse among undeserving people. As the election cacophony grew, their regional offices started leaning on them and they were compelled to make payments. So they did what had to be done and charged their normal informal commission.
Once the system got on track, everything was normal and everyone was happy.
Student 1 (not relenting one little bit) : So did they take an informal survey on how much juice the aam aadmi was able to squeeze from the system now?
Prof. (reluctantly) Well yes…The Crown Prince insisted. And believe it or not, the figure was the same bloody old fifteen percent. Can you beat it? It is almost like Ricardo’s Iron Law of Wages, which was the philosophical-statistical underpinning of the communist ideology, as if it was an irrevocable law, divinely ordained!
Student 2 (voice dripping with sarcasm): Would it be improper, Sir, to take 85% as the historically proven legitimate administrative expenses of managing the various aam aadmi schemes?
Student 1: 85% appears too high.
Student 3: Not if you consider the large number of beneficiaries and the petty amounts involved in each case.
Prof. So what really changed? Everything seems to be the same.
Student 3: Well, we have a new Prime Minister and a youthful one too.
Prof. Did I say that? I only said that the youth leader had won the 2014 elections.
Student 2: Does that not mean…?
Prof. Not necessarily.As things turned out, the NDA went to polls with Sukshma Swaraj as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Before the poll, she went on a whirlwind tour of the country, threatening to shave off her hair in case the Italian Mafia was voted to power. When the UPA won, she promptly went to a hair dresser. It turned out that a bald Sukshma looked cute and modern like the Bollywood actress Persis Khambatta rather than the Chhinnamastika she had conjured up for her countrymen. She looked almost Italian herself.
Student 1: So what happened?
Prof: The UPA leaders were deep in discussion with the President in Rashtrapati Bhavan when the news broke. Instead of mass protests, the Indian masses responded with hysterical laughter.. It suddenly occurred to the ever-diffident Crown Prince that Mommy was still around. So he persuaded her to don the mantle herself. He would be content to be Minister for Youth Affairs. And that is how it was.
Student 3: So the ditty has been proved right after all.
Congress created Corruption, both start with C
Sonika beat Sukshma. Both start with S.
Prof: And the aamaadmi…?
Student 3: (smiling) He is no worse than before. He has an Aadhar card, a bank account and still takes home his fifteen percent!!!
(The students click their tape recorders in unison)
(6696 words. Last edited by the author on 20th April, 2013)