What a let-down! There we were, smacking our lips in anticipation and rubbing our hands in glee at the prospect of lots of horse-trading and shady deals and all set to welcome the fixers with bulging suitcases. And then suddenly the party was called off. Deve Gowda cancelled his trip to Delhi, Jayalalithaa won’t be throwing her tantrums and Mayawati won’t be riding to the Capital on her elephant after all. It’s awfully disappointing.
After a colourful election featuring weight-lifting , name-calling and the fervent stoking of fake passions, the outcome has been an anti-climax. Even worse, we won’t be seeing some of our favourite ministers in action. Anbumani Ramadoss, why hast thou forsaken us? Arjun Singh, we feel orphaned without you. After the economic recession, what we have now is a political depression.
True, the spectacle of Lalu, Mulayam, Mayawati et al making a beeline to offer unconditional support for the Congress did redeem matters a wee bit. In fact, this business of offering support was becoming so contagious that I was worried that the BJP too may be tempted to offer it. Who would then be left to stage walk-outs in Parliament? Who would rush to the well of the House and shout down the Speaker? Our time-honoured traditions were in imminent danger of dying an ignominious death. Thankfully, though, better sense has prevailed. Even better, it’s possible that Murli Manohar Joshi might become leader of the Opposition. Wasn’t he the one who wanted to introduce astrology as a subject in our universities? He’s the right man for the job.
We also have the consolation of Kapil Sibal’s poetry. Anybody who can write that T20 is “instant stroke play/without any foreplay” has plenty of potential. The MP from the Dodoland People’s Front also sounded promising till someone told me it’s the Bodoland People’s Front. But these people are amateurs, certainly not up to the high standards set by a Deve Gowda.
Since time immemorial, it has been the duty of the government to provide not just bread, but also circuses to the people. Man does not live by subsidised rice alone. What is the point of having politicians if they do not entertain us? Yet even Pranab Mukherjee, from whom great things were expected, has stopped speaking in Hindi. True, it will be interesting to watch how Saint Manmohan casts out the demon of recession and stills the economic storm with one hand while healing the sick, feeding the poor and sending stocks skyward with the other. And we are all agog to see him turning water into wine and walk on water. But politics would be dull if we didn’t have the tantrums, the bitching and backbiting, the bluster and the faux drama.
In fact, at one point things were looking so bleak that the only alternative was to migrate to the UK, where the populace is currently being entertained in grand style by their MPs. It turns out that the politicos have been fiddling their expenses, with reimbursements being claimed for toilet seats, dog food, electrical massage chairs, a home cinema system, tampons, false mortgage claims and so on. The British public is having a whale of a time, dredging up the sordid details and being shocked and indignant about them.
But then Karunanidhi came riding to the rescue, with a whole posse of relatives in tow, all angling for cabinet berths. The wrangling, the squabbling and the posturing that followed have restored my faith in Indian democracy. With such an auspicious beginning, the DMK promises to provide a great circus act. I’m also banking heavily on Mamata Banerjee. She is a lady of great histrionic talent and has on previous occasions sobbed and thrown files at the Speaker, knotted a shawl into a noose and threatened to hang herself, flung a shawl at Ram Vilas Paswan and grabbed Amar Singh by the collar. She must better that record.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint.