After the results of the state elections, I interviewed a guy who claimed to be a veteran parliamentarian:
Me: What is your view of the recent state elections?
Alleged MP (wringing his hands): Terrible, simply terrible.
Me: Ah, you must be from the Congress?
MP (angrily): This is no time to talk of petty political affiliations. We have on our hands a crisis of historic proportions. We’re talking of a possible hung Parliament.
Me: How hung?
MP (apologetically): I don’t know Chinese.
Me: I mean, how can Parliament be hung?
MP: Look at what’s happening in the Delhi assembly. The BJP says it doesn’t have the people’s mandate to govern because it doesn’t have a majority. AAP says it will neither give nor take support from others. Have you thought of what will happen in Parliament if all parties started thinking the same way?
Me: We’ll have a hung Parliament?
MP (gloomily): Well hung.
Me: But you’ll have to admit there’s something in what they’re saying.
MP: They should all be hung. It’s the sheer unnaturalness that disturbs me. Do you know we’re giving up some of the most hallowed traditions of Indian politics? What happens to wheeling-dealing? To horse-trading? Parliament won’t function.
Me: Well, it hasn’t been doing all that much, has it?
MP: You don’t understand. Politicians not wanting power is deviant behaviour, it’s like the police not wanting hafta, it’s like khap panchayats turning gay, it’s like Modi singing Italian arias. It’s abnormal.
Me: What do you think has happened?
MP: I think it’s a contagious disease, with AAP at its epicentre. It’s probably one of those psychosomatic disorders, like A.D.D, or attention deficit disorder. This is E.D.D, or electoral deficit disorder.
MP: What’s O.D.D?
Me: I meant it’s odd.
MP: Oh. The Brits call it electile dysfunction. The really odd thing is that even young politicians are victims.
Me: Well, look on the bright side---no government, no big scams.
MP: Oh yeah? If there are no scams, what’ll happen to your nightly televised debates? TRPs will plunge.
Me (throwing up my hands): Oh my God, what will people do for entertainment? How will the media survive? The horror! The horror!
MP: Don’t take it so hard. You can always target Pakistan. And there’s cricket.
Me (sighing with relief): Oh, I forgot we’ll have the excitement of elections every six months. We’ll have permanent election coverage, what fun. Not to speak of all that free booze you guys hand out.
MP: My finances won’t stand the strain. You never know, in their current self-sacrificing mood, politicians might turn down lucrative money-making rackets, refuse to profit from mining leases, say no to corporate funding, look askance at hanky-panky. The returns on political investment will go down. Politicians across the world will laugh at us. Nobody will want to be a legislator. Democracy will be in danger.
Me: Oh come on. I’m sure robust opportunism will ultimately prevail.
MP (sobbing): What have we to look forward to? They’ll even take away the red beacons on our cars. What’s the point of serving the people?
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal