Iconism as the new political mantra

  • Khushwant Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Aug 10, 2014 11:41 IST

Last week in a London bar, a fellow journalist asked me casually what the governments should be like. My impromptu reply was: “Like icons, which people follow, love, admire and think of as a symbol of veneration.”

I didn’t realise fully what it meant but the thought has stayed with me ever since and kept throwing more questions such as why can’t a government aim at leading by example actually? What stops it? Is it that no one ever thought that iconism can become a new model of governance and political nomenclature? Can it replace the standard government types such as capitalism, communism, socialism fascism, etc?

These thoughts led to the mother of all questions: “Is the idea of iconism as a government model farfetched, idiotic and ridiculous?” A maverick thinker like me believes that the governments do have the potential to emulate Hollywood characters such as Superman, Spiderman or even our own desi Krrish. Isn’t this what people expect of an elected body? Don’t all of us at a certain level live in the hope that, one day, our government will swoop like a superhero and pick up people in a jiffy to save them from calamity and harm?

If the politicians and bureaucrats use their powers and privileges well, there is no reason why they can’t save the country. So, the government does have the potential to be Superman, if it has the will to get its act together; and the leaders do seem to believe they can, when they come to seek votes.

For a second, consider the government as an individual. Think about all the powers it has: to create, destroy, and educate; to give livelihood, health, safety, and nutrition. Put these together and what you get is superhuman abilities, the kind only our fictional superheroes (whom we adore) possess.

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that the people voted for Narendra Modi thinking he had some secret powers that needed only the kryptonite of Prime Minister’s Office to unlock the Superman in him. Didn’t the ‘achhe din’ campaign of the BJP pitch its prime ministerial candidate as a superhero?

My simple premise is that regimes can transform into icons that people are proud to follow. Why the governments choose to be otherwise baffles me, since the path is so simple. With their enormous capabilities, the governments can triumph over suffering, hunger, recession, and conflict? They can be on the superhero posters in homes and on teenagers’ arms as tattoos.

Looking around, I don’t find even one super policy decision of successive governments (even in my home state, Punjab) that I can call iconic. If anyone does, please email me. The governments that don’t unlock their potential or use it to only further personal interests suffer and make their people also suffer with them.

Prime Minister Modi is soon heading to the US. It’ll not be a bad idea to stitch some Superman costumes for self and allies and get iconism rolling. And if he desires to be swadeshi, a Chacha Chaudhary garb also sounds fine.

Loving Chacha

Growing up, one of my most favourite comic-book characters was Chacha Chaudhary. So ingrained was the image in my mind that at times I wondered why my chacha, or for that matter all chachas, did not resemble him. Until Wednesday, I did not know who the creator of that strip was. It was only when the news of his passing away went viral on Facebook statuses that I became aware. RIP, Pran Kumar Sharma.

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