From Modi to Lalu, pity dominates poll campaigns | columns | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 18, 2017-Wednesday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

From Modi to Lalu, pity dominates poll campaigns

Like in all matters that involve seduction, earning votes, too, is not only about getting the proverbial girl, but also about fobbing off other predatory suitors. Indrajit Hazra writes.

columns Updated: Oct 27, 2013 02:11 IST
Indrajit Hazra

The idea of 'pity sex- engaging in sexual intercourse out of sympathy for the other person - is neither bizarre nor without a certain logic.

In the 2009 non-fictional 'thriller' Why Women Have Sex, clinical psychologist Cindy Meston and evolutionary psychologist David Buss, both at the University of Austin in Texas, identify 237 different reasons why women have sex. So as a heterosexual man, you really have no excuse for idling.

The book is largely based on their 2007 research paper titled 'Why Humans Have Sex' that involved 203 men and 241 women between the ages of 17 and 52 filling up a detailed questionnaire about why they engage in sexual intercourse.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, right on top of the list was the not-unheard-of reason of "being attracted to the person". This was common to both men and women and was followed by the two anecdotally popular reasons for bonking: to "experience physical pleasure" (No 2 for women and No 3 for men) and to "feel good" (No 3 for women and No 2 for men). Having sex with someone because one felt sorry for him or her didn't feature in the Top 50.

But it did feature as the 203rd and 214th most popular reason for women and men respectively according to the study. Which isn't that bad considering that for women, this falls a notch above 'My friends pressured me into it', while for men, it's a notch below "I wanted to gain access to that person's friend".

For reasons that have to do with the publishing business, Meston and Buss's book sticks to the ladies. "Women," the sex-obsessed authors write in their book, "for the most part, are the ones who give soup to the sick, cookies to the elderly and... sex to the forlorn."

Which, if you think about it, sounds almost exactly like an election manifesto. Which also makes me throw aside this laborious foreplay and finally cut to the chase: how effective is this business of 'pity' as an electoral wooing strategy?

Promises and performance are the legitimate stuff that political parties showcase before elections in a bid to woo voters. If promises are not followed up by performance, there is enough evidence to suggest that a considerable number of voters, even after the declarations of love and the free candlelight dinner schemes, get into dominatrix gear and dole out some punishment.

And like in all matters that involve seduction, earning votes, too, is not only about getting the proverbial girl, but also about fobbing off other predatory suitors. So how on earth can one do this over and over again when promises start sounding like Mother's Day cards on Valentine's Day and performance anxiety is top of the mind?

Which is where playing the 'pity card' comes in.

Take one of the key contenders in the 2014 general elections. After setting himself up as the deliverer that Swami Vivekananda had ordered for the country on Flipkart, Narendra Modi may have realised lately that his sheer alpha maleness may not be enough to get the job done.

So there's a concerted effort underway now to project him as a man who was once a sweeper at the Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation Canteen and whose origins are humbler than any Indian prime minister to date.

But if Modi's sales pitch conjures up years of hardship and genuine pride in defying all the odds in a semi-feudal society were the odds usually stack up against anyone from a 'humble background' like runs on a flat cricket pitch, then there's another political party that's hoping to encash pity points.

Lalu Prasad may not have tales of his mum, Marachhiya Devi, crying from time to time when overwhelmed by emotions, or have any anecdotes about members of his family being murdered to share.

But by uttering the very un-Lalu line, "Sir, I am innocent", from Ranchi's Birsa Munda Central Jail over video-link to the special CBI judge before being sentenced for corruption and stripped of his MP-ship, the former Bihar chief minister could trigger a 'Poor thing' mini-wave that benefits his party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal - and, more tellingly, the BJP - at the cost of Nitish Kumar's ruling Janata Dal (United).

Considering that such pity tactics work only when the one being wooed has run out of options such as 'I want to intensify my relationship' (Reason No 30 for women to have sex), or 'I want to experiment with new experiences' (Reason No 47 for men), it's certainly worth a shot. But for pity-mongering to translate into real success, the electorate, with its many desires and many kinks, has to be desperate. And I mean really desperate.