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What Modi can learn from Akhilesh

Narendra Modi can pick up a tip from the Samajwadi Party ramlila.
If he doesn’t want L K Advani as President, he might anoint him Bharatiya Bhishma Pitamah, suggests Sunanda K Datta-Ray.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Clearly, Akhilesh Yadav acquired more than a master’s degree in environmental engineering in Australia.

He also learnt that Australia’s mother country kicks senior politicians whose use-by date has passed upstairs.

India doesn’t have a House of Lords for discards, but the Margdarshak the Samajwadi Party has invented is expected to admire the new Netaji commanding the troops from his impotent eminence.

However, the old Netaji is determined to pedal back if only he can lay hands on the bicycle.

Not for him David Cameron’s famous, ‘I was the future once!’ In fact, Teresa May might be slightly uneasy about Cameron not yet being a safely belted earl.

The mix of mythology, history, folklore, thriller, suspense and superstition that is politics is as exciting as TV.

It reflects a stream of consciousness that is as native (not ‘pure’, that’s Narendra Modi’s prerogative, says Ravi Shankar Prasad) as the Ganga despite pollutants and alien muck.

Foreign bodies have been so thoroughly internalised that Prince Andrew admitted in Calcutta that although the British left behind a bureaucracy, Indians developed it.

John le Carre can’t have had that in mind when claiming in his memoirs that the more chaotic a country, the more intractable its bureaucracy.

Otherwise, Dinanath Batra‘s Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti would have pulped the book as it did Wendy Doniger’s

India that is Bharat that is Uttar Pradesh (or Gujarat) is a village.

Its political arena is a funfair where antiquity haunts modernity and a rustic jadugar mesmerises the masses with his mockery and mimicry of lesser performers.

The plot retells the national epic of the stepmother, who wants to see her son on the throne.

He being more interested in real estate than his father’s estate, she gives a modern twist to mythology and incites an accomplished, ambitious and obliging daughter-in-law to edge out her stepson.

Not to be outdone in being wily, the stepson and his winsome spouse move in next door to ‘protect’ the hapless father.

The stepson now has a Congress Hanuman in his struggle against Dad’s mahamantri, but Dad is a formidable warrior.

His chariot moves in eight directions, flying and landing while battling armies of adversaries.

At heart he is a simple wrestler, who would rather his daughters-in-law kept to the kitchen and the puja room.

‘If all of you want to join politics, who will make the chapatis?’ he cried plaintively, opposing the Women’s Reservation Bill.

‘I am doing exactly that,’ the stepmother can retort virtuously while working relentlessly to prove that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

The Victorian Englishwoman who didn’t want the franchise because any woman worth her salt ensured her husband and son voted as she wanted obviously took her cue from India’s purdah-bound zenana.

This is something that should have been proudly proclaimed by a prime minister, who is transforming India into Bharat single-handedly — well, almost single-handedly — for the likes of Batra are always there to cheer from the sidelines in hopes of rewards of corporate directorships, parliamentary nominations or even ministerial portfolios.

But Modi is too mealy-mouthed by three-quarters. Although Barack Obama was ‘Barack’, the Queen, who treated him to lunch, wasn’t ‘Elizabeth’ as she was for Nelson Mandela.

Nor did he call Britain’s national bard a plagiarist although ancient India’s mastery of ‘genetic science’ enabled Karna to be born outside the womb long before Shakespeare’s Macduff ‘was from his mother’s womb/Untimely ripped.’

Modi’s reference to elephant-headed Ganesha left people wondering what happened to the menagerie of centaurs, mermaids, sphinxes and other hybrid products of our ancestors’ skill in ‘plastic surgery.’

Believers also expected the late P N Oak’s dogmas — the Taj Mahal was a Siva temple called Tejo Mahalaya, Dutch is the language of the daityas — to receive official sanction.

Most remiss of all, although life is Rama’s lila and many think the Samajwadi Party drama is the story of a TV serial, there’s no mention of the Hindu ancients inventing spaceships for Ayodhya’s Maryada Purushottama to whizz round the universe like Modi does round the world.

But Modi can pick up a tip from the Samajwadi ramlila.

If he doesn’t want Lal Krishna Advani as President, he might anoint him Bharatiya Bhishma Pitamah, Bharat’s Fearsome Paternal Grandfather.

Indians love titles; this one has the right Hindutva ring.

It could be the prime minister’s guru dakshina to a wronged veteran before he carries out his threat to pick up his jhola and walk away like the faqir he claims to be.

Source: Rediff