All kinds of explanations have been given by political analysts for the spectacular and unexpected triumph of Mayawati at the recently held state elections in Uttar Pradesh without getting to the bottom of the truth.
She has little charisma of the kind Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi had; nor the oratory of Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Subhash Ghising who can hold vast audiences spellbound with the magic words. She is not a cunning politician who can outsmart leaders of other political parties while negotiating with them.
She is a simple school teacher who was picked up by Kanshi Ram to be his heir as leader of the Dalits. Her earlier triumphs in the political arena were achieved under his tutelage. Her previous chief ministerships of Uttar Pradesh were based on negotiating alliances with other political parties. This time without the guidance of Kanshi Ram, she did it on her own — and did better than he could have envisaged. I am of the opinion, for whatever it is worth, that she stumbled on the right formula to gain political power. Her victory should be a lesson to all other parties. I will spell out what I mean in greater detail.
India is a multi-religious, multi-lingual and caste-ridden society. If we mean to keep it together, we must not support parties that are religiously exclusive, and per force divisive or based on language or castes. Our people have come to sense this and are gradually turning their backs against them. Constant harping on Hindutva and the Ram Mandir no longer excite Hindu sentiment. That explains the debacle of the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena and the RSS as political entities. The Muslim League and the different Muslim Jamats count for little amongst the Muslims. Akali Sikhs have been, and will remain, restricted to Punjab and can come to power only when allied to the Hindu BJP with which it has nothing in common besides the lust for power. Their future prospects will remain bleak no matter how many filmstars or TV personalities they may muster up during elections. Electors will come to see them but not vote.
The downfall of the Samajwadi Party despite support given by megastars like Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya and the manipulations of Amar Singh can be ascribed to maladministration and inability to misuse muscle power as they were able to in previous elections. I do not see its reemerging as a political force.
The Congress Party's poor showing did surprise me. I thought it would do better than it did. However, it would be a mistake to write it off. The names of the Nehrus and Gandhis still have an emotional appeal. Salman Khurshid is an able leader with a vision for the future. I have a gut feeling that if Mayawati fritters away the goodwill that she has earned by squandering money on pointless projects as she did during her previous tenures as chief minister, the party that will emerge as the main opposition to her will not be Samajwadi or the BJP but the Congress under the guidance of Sonia Gandhi.
The primrose path
Why is following the straight and narrow path of rectitude so dull while straying from it so exciting? The problem is as old as time. In the Mahabharat, Duryodhan put the dilemma to Shri Krishna and Vidur: Jaanaami dharmam na cha me pravriti. Jaanaami adharmam na che navriti. (I know what is prescribed by dharma but I am not drawn to it and I know what is not righteousness, but I can't get away from it).
Centuries later Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869) said much the same as Duryodhan: Jaanta hoon sawaab-e-taat-o-zuhad. Par tabeeyat idhar nahin aatee. (I know the benefits of prayer and good deeds but my inclinations are not in that direction).
I suspect the reason why so many of us find the strictly righteous path boring is that it largely consists of don'ts like those of the commandments of the Old Testament: Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife. Thou shalt not steal another's property etc.
Life becomes more interesting if a few ammendments were made in these draconian laws of behaviour. Example: Thou may covet thy neighbour's wife if she is willing. Thou may not tell lies on oath but in thine day-to-day dealings with people thou may tell small lies like expressing pleasure on meeting a person you hate or telling a plain-looking girl she looks like Aishwarya Rai. Thou must not steal but mayest borrow a book or two from thy friend and forget to return them. Thou must not commit murder but thou may kill the reputation of a person thou hatest by spreading mischievous gossip about him or her. Thou must not get drunk but thou mayest take a sip or two of thy favourite libation to feel life is worth living.
Party with a difference
We're a party with a difference. And this difference is our distinction. Otherwise, who could ever think of doing what we have so proudly done! Who could have, for example, killed people in cold blood. And an election won, destroyed a four hundred-year-old monument and claimed victory for his religion? We're a party with a difference because we top the list of MPs caught in connection with cash-for-query. And the first to be booked in the country for human trafficking
is an honourable MP from our party. We're a party with a difference because we alone could admit to the killing of Kausar Bi and because Jinnah's secularism is our discovery. And finally, which other party has a leader of the moral stature of Narendra Modi?
(Contributed by Kuldip Salil, Delhi)