At a glittering ceremony in a five-star hotel in the city, a stream of politicians lined up to receive the ‘Top Fund Manager of the Year’ awards, given to the country’s best money managers by the Association of Mutual Fund Houses of India. Speaking on the occasion, the president of the association said the entire profession was awestruck by the 3000 per cent increase in assets in the last five years shown by Lagadapati Rajagopal, the Congress candidate from Vijaywada. “It’s a remarkable feat, considering the huge fall in the stock markets in the past year,” he added. Several other politicians have also increased their assets manifold, easily beating the record of the professional mutual fund managers. In fact, veteran fund managers say they’re scared they will soon lose their jobs to politicians who fail to win Lok Sabha seats.
One political leader said he had already floated several successful schemes such as the Crony Capitalist Fund, the Shady Fund, the Racket Fund and the highly popular Black to White Swiss Fund. “It’s silly to put your money in fixed deposits or in stocks,” said a prize-winning neta who had earned 300 per cent on his investments, “there are alternative investments which even chartered accountants and MBAs know nothing about.” A wealthy investor waxed eloquent about the Money Laundry scheme, which apparently gave phenomenal returns. But perhaps the biggest endorsement of the prowess of our politicians in being able to generate stratospheric returns was given by legendary investor Warren Buffet, who said that he would devote the rest of his life to studying their techniques, aiming to become, in his words, “the Lagadapati Rajagopal of the US.”
It would be wrong, though, to think that money is all politicians are bothered about. Mayawati, for instance, apart from being a superb politician with excellent fund management skills, also has strong maternal instincts. She recently told Maneka Gandhi that although she does not have children of her own, she feels the pain of crores of sons. Which is why, when a politician taunted a BSP worker by saying, “I have cars, bungalows, hundreds of flunkeys and crores of rupees, what do you have?” the lowly worker could retort, in true Hindi movie style, “I have Mummy Mayawati. And she has cars, bungalows, thousands of flunkeys, huge cakes, mountains of ladoos, bouquets of tulips imported from Holland, kilos of diamonds, crores of rupees and hundreds of statues, which is much more than you have.”
Religion too is an area in which politicians are keenly interested. Varun Gandhi is an outstanding example and news reports say he has been reading the Gita and the Ramayana in jail. Sources say he finds inspiration in the famous scene in the Bhagvad Gita in which Arjuna doesn’t want to fight against his brothers and Krishna tells him that he is merely doing his dharma. “We too have to shoulder the heavy dharma, or is it karma, of fighting our minority brethren,” explained a Varun supporter. But impartial observers say they do not believe Varun’s version that Krishna advised Arjuna, in the original Sanskrit, to “Bash-um up-ah minorities-um”. They say it isn’t Sanskrit at all.
The elections have also showcased the literary genius of several of our politicians. “Their manifestos can honestly be seen as literary gems,” said someone who claimed to be Salman Rushdie. “They can easily compete with the best fairy tales. Hans Christian Andersen would be green with envy,” he added. Meanwhile, the smaller parties have been hard pressed by the competitive populism of the BJP and the Congress in proposing free rice, tax sops and increased spending on social schemes. Free liquor and colour TV sets are old hat and parties have been forced to become more inventive. Sources say the Trinamool Congress proposes to include free ballroom dancing lessons for everyone below the poverty line in their manifesto, while the CPM is promising to teach Sharad Pawar how to dance the tango for free.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint