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Item Girl, IQ & new political idiom

Chetna Keer, Hindustan Times   November 19, 2012
First Published: 11:04 IST(19/11/2012) | Last Updated: 11:06 IST(19/11/2012)

This seems to be the season of unparalleled parallels. Seeing that comparisons are rolling off politically incorrect gullets faster than the runs from Cheteshwar Pujara or Yuvraj Singh's bats, spinning similes seems the smartest way to hog the headlines this season. With all kinds of political parallels doing the rounds   charitable or uncharitable, historical or hysterical, underworld or underhand   our foot-in-the-mouth politicians sure have been taking their pick from parallels that can really prick.

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Bollywood being the muse for many a metaphor, there are some popular practitioners of the Bollywood-based brand of the political simile. Among them is the supremo known for spelling out Rabri with as much regularity as rustic rhetoric: Lalu Prasad Yadav. Credited with coining the 'roads-as-smooth-as-Dream Girl Hema Malini's cheeks' simile for our political vocabulary, Lalu can certainly be called the brand ambassador for the Bollywood-inspired modern metaphor.

Bada Packet Chhota Dhamaka
It is thus Bollywood that Congress simile specialist Digvijaya Singh, too, has chosen as his muse. It's another matter that his tinsel town muse has failed to amuse. And he has invited a Rs. 50-crore defamation suit that looks hard to defuse.

In labelling India Against Corruption (IAC) leader Arvind Kejriwal as the Rakhi Sawant of the political stage, on the grounds that "both try and expose but with no substance," Digvijaya can certainly be credited with gifting our political vocabulary a metaphor it thus far lacked: Item Boy of Indian politics. The Rakhi simili suggests that Kejriwal is scripting for the political stage a twist of what Rakhi staged for the small screen: "Chhota Packet Bada Dhamaka".

In spouting this simile, Digvijaya has thus unwittingly imparted to our prudish political vocabulary what "Munni Badnaam Hui" imbued to the ubiquitous Zandu balm: oodles of oomph.

It's another matter that more than raising the simile's sexy quotient, the Rakhi comparison has raised a concern: Whose is the greater insult? Kejriwal's, for being likened to an Item Girl whose literacy levels are more about proportionately enhanced cosmetic assets than about disproportionately amassed real-estate assets, or Rakhi's, for being compared to a novice who knows not the art of neckline dropping and endeavours to entice eyeballs only by virtue of name dropping?

Once Upon a Time in Bhopal
Then, there are the historical parallels that recently found a vocal practitioner in BJP bigwig Nitin Gadkari. For, the historical figure that became the muse for Gadkari's simile during a recent visit to Bhopal was none other than the legendary social reformer from India's rich past: Swami Vivekananda. In likening fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim's IQ level to that of a legendary leader like Vivekananda, Gadkari resorted to a tried-and-tested formula for spinning similes and snatching the spotlight   The more iconic the subject of the simile, the more headline hogging is the "figure" of speech.

And sure enough, in comparing the underworld don who even inspired Bollywood flick Once Upon a Time in Mumbai to a figure as venerated as Vivekananda, Gadkari scripted a new IQ (Insult Quotient) for the political metaphor through his show 'Once Upon a Time in Bhopal'.

Needless to say, Gadkari is not the pioneer for the history-inspired brand of political parallels, for others before him have committed much impropriety in the name of piety. Who can forget the instance of the Father of the Constitution BR Ambedkar being likened to nothing less than the Prophet himself!

Or there are instances when our leaders have made the political simile travel not just back into the annals of history but also across the seas. For, simile specialist Digvijaya had earlier equated the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) to the Nazis, quipping that "The RSS, in the garb of its nationalist ideology, is targeting Muslims the same way Nazis targeted Jews in the 1930s." Leave alone the RSS, even Israel had not taken too kindly to his political parallel.

Braun Identity
That historical figures are a much-preferred muse for politicians drawing parallels is but obvious from the potshots our netas' western counterparts take at their political opponents.

For, Dick Harpootlian, the colorful chief of the South Carolina Democratic Party, had once invoked a figure no less famous than Adolf Hitler's mistress Eva Braun for directing digs at South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

"She (Nikki) was down in the bunker a la Eva Braun," Harpootlian had quipped about Nikki, referring to the Republican South Carolina Governor's participation in a news conference at Charlotte, where the Democrats were then holding their national convention. The simile had been inspired from the historical fact of Braun having committed suicide in a bunker along with Hitler when the Allied forces were zeroing in on them during World War 2.

Never mind if he raised the hackles of Republican rivals, Dick attained what a lesser comparison would have failed to achieve for him: immortality in the political Dick-tionary!

And so, in invoking the Dream Girl or Item Girl of Bollywood, Lalu, Digvijaya & Co have merely shown that they don't lag behind any Tom, Dick & Allegory.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based columnist

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