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Burnt at steak

The Great Leader growled, "My doctors berate me for eating what I should not be eating, and now...

india Updated: Feb 25, 2003 09:38 IST

The Great Leader growled, “My doctors berate me for eating what I should not be eating, and now this fellow accuses me of eating what I’m not eating. Does he think he can Diggy my political grave?”

There was every reason for the Great Leader to lose his fabled appetite. There was already a glut of major issues on his plate, and now he had to worry about matters which were not even on the menu. Instead of warning Uncle Sam against turning Iraq into a Husseini kabab, he had to divert his attention to beef samosas.

He knew this was no small fry. The new scandal could make mincemeat of his impeccable reputation. The Youth Congress had spread poison-pen pamphlets all over Bhopal: Gau hamari mata hai, Atal Behari khata hai! The Chief Minister had feigned ignorance, but doughty Uma Bharti had proved that ‘Diggy’s’ fingerprints were smeared all over this butchering campaign.

The Great Leader was wise and old enough to know that if he didn’t kill off this controversy in one jhatka, it would bleed him white. The very thought made him go weak at his foster knees.

He was also fully aware that some of his own colleagues had been trying to put him to pasture. To send him off to some political panjrapole where he could spend his retirement chewing the cud with other superannuated statesmen, composing poems about calf-love, and ruminating over the mad cows who had locked horns with him. But the Great Leader knew that even his worst party rivals would never dare to taint him with this current controversy. They would all have to bite this bullet together, or face a mutinous electorate.

Moreover, despite Hindutva’s impressive new sweep, and the growing clout of the Parivar, the party still had much use for his non-pseudo-secular image. The NDA allies may have become completely domesticated by the comforts of power, but they would never risk their seats on such an emotive issue. Indeed, on this, they would never kow-tow to the BJP.

Recharged with this knowledge, the Great Leader bellowed, “What does that smoothie CM think of himself. He may be a great stud in his state, but this is quite another kind of beefcake. Does he think he can get away with saffron murder? Does he imagine he can hoist us with our own pet cause? The Congress can never hijack our Hindutva agenda; we’re the ones who’ve put our blood, sweat and yatras into it.”

The Great Leader was furious at his state satraps for not nipping the dangerous pamphlets in the bud. Heads rolled, and the local party office began to resemble an illegal abattoir. How could they have allowed these slogans to insinuate themselves into the public mind?

He knew, as most people did, that go-hatya was an emotional and political tinderbox. The killing of Dalits for skinning a cow was fresh in everyone’s mind, but the Great Leader was old enough to have witnessed the Delhi-wide havoc caused by the anti-cow slaughter campaign of the 1960s. Why, many believed that he had been around even during the similarly ignited riots of the 1860s.

The allegation of selling beef was almost as provocative as that of eating it. The Youth Congress pamphlets had had the temerity to taunt, Gau maas ka kaun vyapari? Atal Behari, Atal Behari. How dare they suggest that beef exports had gone up during NDA rule? The Great Leader fumed. “Doesn’t the Congress know that these are banned? What does Diggy want? That Hans Blix fly in with a UN inspection team, check it out, and certify that we have no stockpiles of items of maas consumption?”

An aide sidled up to him like a stray cow in Safdarjung, and mooed quietly in his ear, ‘Sir, remember the old beef tallow controversy when cow fat was being passed off as vanaspati or even shuddh desi ghee? We could use it to our advantage because that scandal occurred during Congress rule.”

The Great Leader grazed silently on the suggestion for a long while, and then decided that he would save it up for an opportune time. Like dehydrated milk, it would be handy in an emergency. The party had enough stocks of fresh victory to see it through the forthcoming state election, and supplies could easily be rushed to the spot if needed. After all, the Modi’s shop was just round the corner from Madhya Pradesh.

Yes, there was no need to panic. The Opposition would never succeed in milking the BJP line. Gujarat had clearly shown that no one was going to buy the Congress’s watered-down Hindutva. The Great Leader riposted with his trade-mark sarcasm, “It’s a sad time when an ex-Maharajah has to resort to the ploys of a common doodhwala!”

***

Alec Smart said, “What are the cops doing at the Dubai Shopping Festival? Bhai-ing up everything in sight.”

First Published: Feb 23, 2003 00:00 IST