Imagine for a moment that you are the leader of a party with an OBC-Muslim constituency moored in socialism. This party is in power in India’s most populous state, which is also among its most backward. And the son of this leader is the chief minister of the state. Oh, and this leader is never one to shy away from calling the prime minister of the country a pro-rich person presiding over a pro-corporate party. Along comes the 75th birthday of our neta, for that is how even his son refers to him.
His loyalist Azam Khan decides that this event must be celebrated in style. So far, so good. A 75-foot cake is to be cut by the dear leader and he will traverse a short distance on a road flanked by cheering school children and no doubt the faithful in a horse- drawn buggy. Since such buggies are not easily available in showrooms, Mr Khan will import such a contraption from London. You must have seen the Queen sail forth in such a buggy on ceremonial occasions such as weddings and jubilees. Well, our Mulayam Singh Yadav will have nothing less.
Now this would be amusing, but only if the party is paying for all this, which it might well be. But what is not so hilarious is that a man who will perambulate among us in a buggy also harbours ambitions of cobbling together a Third Front of sorts to challenge the Modi juggernaut. And so the usual suspects gather. There is the JD(U) from Bihar, now out in the cold a bit after having broken off with the BJP. There is the RJD, whose once genuinely funny leader appears to have undergone a humourectomy. There is the Indian National Lok Dal (INDL), which has just bitten the dust in Haryana, and that tattered old formation, the JD(S). Honestly, would you even want to waste your time thinking about the possibility that such a formation could rule India again, Modi or no Modi?
But ambition springs eternal in the human breast and more so in those of the perennially sanctimonious and self-appointed interlocutors for the poor. Deve Gowda, who by dint of sheer good fortune became prime minister of India once upon a time, has never been able to get over the fact that he did not get a second shy at the job. When in the saddle, he memorably went for little jaunts with dozens of family members and when in India would famously fall asleep during meetings. His description of himself as a humble farmer was turned into fumble harmer by a clever journalist. Even after his exit, I am reliably informed that he would hold elaborate havans, asking the gods to help him recapture the throne in Delhi. Om Prakash Chautala is labouring under the delusion that he epitomises clean governance even as he made the rounds of campaigning while out on bail. That is a nifty advertisement of good governance if ever I have seen one.
So there you have it. Now this would be truly scary if it were not for the certainty that the voter no longer has any time for this sort of politics. But this does not mean that there cannot be a Third Front. We are a very young country. Why can we not have a party of younger people, with out-of-the-box ideas, who are not necessarily focused on power and pelf? It is not as though India lacks young, bright and qualified people who have on many occasions displayed much greater compassion for the disadvantaged and shown signs of great ability at organisation than their more jaded political representatives. I am talking about the sort of power that could have been represented by AAP if it had not frittered away the advantage. We need a non-cynical alternative to the current style of politics. This would create an electricity in the electoral marketplace that we really need to get a creaky India going again.
Whatever else, I certainly don’t think we need to be treated to the sight of the pro-poor, hah, Mulayam rattling around on the streets of UP in a buggy drawn by a hapless horse. No doubt, the redoubtable Mr Khan got this idea on one of his many study tours of the West. But what he may not have noticed is that such little rides are normally reserved for royalty, even tourists, and not for a man of the masses. A 75-foot cake must also be gratifying to those who don’t get one square meal in the state. And I thought BSP leader Mayawati was overdoing it with her multi-crore garlands and stone elephants and statues.
It is clear that our Third Front aspirants have not understood much from the recent elections. Their brand of poverty politics has no takers. Their politics of entitlement has no takers. Their politics of double standards has no takers. One by one, they are biting the dust in the electoral marketplace.
So my advice to Mulayam and his merry band is, enjoy the cake if you must, though chomping through 75 feet of artery clogging sweetness may be a tall order for our not so healthy Third Front aspirants. As for the buggy ride, well, Queen Elizabeth should know she has competition. And the Sufi music, which will mark the event, could well be enjoyable. But as for the Third Front in its umpteenth avatar, forget it. We will settle for a nibble of the cake and maybe, just maybe, a spin in the buggy.