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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2862

Lowering Politics

By Tushar Charan - Syndicate Features

Even by the not so high standards of Indian politics the spate of recent utterances and verbal exchanges by some of the leading practitioners of the art must be viewed as a new low. An unabashed caste leader of western UP who hold sway over ‘farmers’ of his community makes a ‘casteist’ remark against the Dalit chief minister of UP, who, rightly, orders his arrest. But the chief minister’s preoccupation is the Congress ‘Yuvraj’ (prince) who has been poaching on her Dalit constituency. She trumps him by telling her Dalit followers not to come under his spell because he goes in for ‘purification’—special soap and all-- after he meets them and eats with them.

Then enters a ‘Sanyasin’ keen to come out of a political wilderness brought about by self. She does one better in targeting the Congress prince, parting with an astounding bit of information. Thanks to this holy woman the country now knows why the said Congress prince has remained a bachelor. He finds that India is a land of Dalits and being blue-blooded he would not take an Indian bride to be his life partner. The good ‘Sanyasin’ also disclosed that the prince has a girlfriend from Venezuela, though last heard he had fallen for a Colombian lass. But a ‘Sanyasin’, supposedly more attuned to the spiritual than the material world, cannot be expected to be good at Lain American geography; or may be she is better informed on such matters.

The lampooning of the Congress prince by his rival may be politically justified. But it is difficult to believe, as some have suggested, that it is borne out of a fear that if not challenged by rivals he can galvanise his party into a formidable force before the next round of elections. He has so far shown no such potential. His rivals overlook the fact that the Indian masses can be a little unpredictable sometimes and are not impressed by outlandish and tripe ‘disclosures’ of the kind that the two women leaders have made about the prince.

Many salacious revelations about rival political figures will surface in the coming months as the country prepares for the next round of parliamentary election. That will require regular scanning of all the political trivia that is seen fit to print by the market-oriented media that has declared hard news an obsolete term. The definition of ‘news’ has undergone a complete transformation in recent years. Anything that is not sensational or titillating is not fit to be printed--and most certainly not fit to be aired.

It is not true that the advent of private TV channels alone is responsible for this metamorphosis. It began much earlier when the print media had no competition from the audio-visual media. Anyone who entered public life by displaying a zeal for trifling established reputations and conventions was sure to be catapulted into the status of star politician. Irreverence was and remains a short cut to fame.

Take the ‘Kisan’ (farmer) leader from western UP. He hit the headlines—and stayed there for long—after he brought his hordes and spread them all over the manicured lawns of Indian Gate in Delhi for days on end. From a popular spot for evening strolls and week-end picnics India Gate lawns were converted into a vast camping ground for the angry ‘Kisans’ many of whom identified as ‘Kulaks’, not the poor farmers that constitute the bulk of Indian population.

The media hailed the birth of a new ‘Kisan Neta’ (leader) on the lawns of India Gate. He had shown his worth as one who can shake the capital and hold it to ransom. After according him an elevated political status it became necessary that stories of his minions habitually ill-treating their less fortunate fellow ‘Kisans’ should be relegated into the obscure corners of newspapers. His open espousal of caste-based politics was taken as nothing more than a passing aberration.

The loose outpourings of the enraged chief minister should not come as a surprise. Her late mentor was widely applauded in the media for speaking up for the downtrodden in India by hurling invectives on the so-called custodians of the ‘Manuvadis’ caste hierarchy. He once famously slapped a TV journalist for asking him an ‘impertinent’ question. His constant ‘message’ to his followers was that the ‘Manuvadis’ had to be taught a lesson. His followers must take revenge for centuries of their repression by the high caste ‘Manuvadis’.

There were some protests, but only feeble, as he launched himself relentlessly into preaching the politics of hate. As the unquestioned heir to the legacy of that scourge of the ‘Manuvadis’ the barbs aimed at the Congress prince and other political rivals by the UP chief minister are to be accepted as an expression of a resurgent community that had lived under the caste yoke for thousands of years.

Her astounding feat has been the great social engineering of bringing the upper castes, especially the Brahmins, and Muslims into the folds of her party. Whether it is actually true is not necessary to examine as long as she keeps getting votes. God save her from the day when her party starts slipping. The hitherto knives will be out for her.

There is some irony in the diagnosis offered by the ‘Sanyasin’ about the Congress prince’s bachelorhood. Though a spinster, she had once shocked her ‘Parivar’ (political family) by admitting that she had entertained thoughts of matrimony to a fellow member of the Parivar but her real family’s disapproval forced her to abandon the idea. She has weathered gossip—spread by her own ‘Parivar’-- based on her personal life.

- Syndicate Features -

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