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The Joy Of The Democratic Experience
The 2014 national elections to the lower house of the Indian parliament verily constituted a war of epic proportions. There were two warring sides with battle lines clearly drawn. No alliance or coalition was considered unholy. No strategy was unthinkable nor any tactic a taboo. "Winner Takes All!" was the battle cry. No weapon in the armory was spared. It was a free-for-all scenario. There were no friendly competitors. Every participant in the clash of the titans belonged, with nary an exception, to one side or the other, deliberately or by force of circumstances. "You are either with us or with them," was how the combatants were constantly reminded by the warring factions. There was no neutral territory. No combatant from outside the respective pale of the two warring factions lived to tell his tale. And 'now or never' was the bottom line.
Mr.Narendra Modi and Mr.Rahul Gandhi
One of the two sides was led by a prince while the other by a commoner, a mere overgrown tea boy. The prince had the queen herself to nudge him with all the royal grace to the centre stage, with countless cheerleaders and vassals bursting into paeans of glory of the prince and the royal family. He had all the right credentials in the war of supremacy. To start with, he had the right name inasmuch as he shared his cognomen with the Father of the Nation. He was modest enough to shy away from claiming the throne for himself and yet humble enough to say that he would not say no to the crown of thorns if it were to be thrust upon him by the people. He had politics in his DNA. He was conscious (and he wouldn't let you forget it for a moment!) of the supreme sacrifices made by his forefathers for the nation. Power to him was poison which he would, however, unflinchingly partake if only to empower the women of the country or end corruption in politics and public life; bolster secularism and wipe out the last dredge of communalism!
The prince even had a surprise ace up his sleeve which he dramatically whipped out at the very last stages of the polls to devastating effect - a charming young troubleshooter, someone refreshingly different from your typical mealy-mouthed charge sheeter of a nerdy politician. All she had to do was to look demure, dispense a coy smile and, at times, a silvery laughter, flail her willowy arms at the gawking villagers of the prince's pocket borough and wave her well-manicured hands with the by-now-famous royal grace. But she was capable of taking pot-shots at the prince's adversaries too, mind you. Like feigning ignorance of the identity of the prince's rival (talk of the psychological tactic of dashing your opponent's ego to smithereens!) or pin the badge of ignominy of practising 'gutter politics' on the 56-inch chest of that tormentor of the poor prince with the effortless ease of the Queen of England, bestowing knighthood on a meritorious somebody! Someone who was fiercely proud of her lineage and took equal pride in calling her campaign part of a war of ideologies. How she fought, perched on a jeep with all the poise and posture of a picture perfect princess! To crown all her campaigning capability and political credentials, she even dressed up like a leader of a bygone era who happened to be a warrior queen of her own clan!
On the other side, you had a lacklustre commoner (a very common one, at that!) who had nothing to boast of except a 56-inch chest and some oft-repeated track record of providing water, roads and electricity to the people in his state. He did not even come from the family of a member of the nobility, let alone the royalty itself. Did he go to the right school or college? No. What was his vocation before he dared enter politics? He was a mere tea boy, wasn't he? Shameful, to say the least. His personal life was the subject of many a slander like he had left his wife alone; and had left the side of his mother to live on his own when he should have clung to her like a limpet and made the most of his family connection and made one and all empathize for his being the champion of family values! And to think that he took all the rigors of electioneering on himself and, thereby the moral responsibility for the eventual outcome of the war, offering to go back to his original vocation of tea-making in the event of failure in the election! Such a bad strategist! Not a patch on the scion of a glorious dynasty! In short, not at all a man born to rule!
With such a clear demarcation of the battle lines and ideological orientation of the gladiators, the electorate had a whale of a time. They had the thrill of their life. The first-time- voters were especially enthralled like never before. They were either going to elect a national leader with a pan India appeal that comes by but once a century or defeat a polarising figure of a communal and procrustean mould of ideological rigidity. They had never had it so good. Your vote was as good as that of the next person, irrespective of whether you had an education or not, how well-heeled in the society you were or otherwise, what community or religion you belonged to and so on. The voters were all assiduously wooed, by the candidates who contested the elections, with the fervour of a suitor madly in love with his fair lady whose face had launched a thousand ships. The electorate were subsumed by the awash of the fever of democracy. Nobody was complaining about how all their time was being taken by the campaigns of the gladiators in the arena of election. They enjoyed every moment of it. In fact, they couldn't have enough of it. They lapped up every last drop of their election soup and polished off their bowl dry. There were no electoral niceties attached to the process. No candidate was too big or too little for them to talk about or comment on. You liked some one? Why, he was your hero! You thought some guy was not your type or not to your liking? Bury him in his political grave, and mercilessly at that, I say! You were God! Nothing like being able to play God. The politician may rule us tomorrow, but we shall show him what we are capable of today, buster! Today its me, tomorrow you! For tomorrow never comes, does it?
Life After The Event
With the dust and din of the elections having settled and the event itself behind them, the politicians have gone back to playing their little games of scheming and plotting and intermittently interjecting, "I told you," or "I did forewarn you, didn't I?" with a robust chuckle. On their part, the people have got back to the grind of the life of here and now. They draw sustenance from discussions on topics like how this year's scorching summer is the most severe in living memory, how horrendously has the law and order situation been worsening year after year and how the 'common man's party' has ended up earning the sobriquet of the 'conman party'. They are neither disheartened nor demoralized by the harsh realities of life. For they have tasted the elixir of democracy and experienced catharsis! They are waiting for the next round of elections for more!
© 2014 Kalyanaraman Raman