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Non-statutory warning

If you happen to have a pre-determined preference for any specific political outfit in India, you read this only at your own risk and peril. You may get miffed at some parts of this piece, albeit written with malice towards none.

 

Come election time, and the denizens of India forget all their miseries and have a rollicking time. With the biggest festival of democracy on its way, the pampering they receive makes them hopeful of their future yet again. Freebies, sackfuls of the green stuff and tissue restoratives of all kinds are made available in abundant measure. Dreams of the next round of good and secure days get dished out with much aplomb.

Politicos who have an eye on their power and pelf get busy computing their likely ‘returns on investment’ in a high risk game. The media barons enjoy supreme bliss at all the moolah they rake in, thanks to their TRP ratings reaching stratospheric levels. Almost all sectors of the economy experience a boom, what with hassled leaders nipping around all corners of the country.

One can readily spot a Roderick Spode who continues to hone his oratorical skills while peddling his deep commitment to the Cause. The gullible public dreads the day he invokes Shakespeare at the beginning of any of his speeches, addressing them as ‘Friends, countrymen….’ A team of devoted followers ensure that those in opposition keep getting hauled over coals over their acts of omission and commission, the latter term specifically alluding to some alleged scams in the past.

Aunt Dahlia can be seen quietly tucking into the lavish spreads of Anatole, while keeping an indulgent eye on the career moves of Bonzo. The latter, having learnt his lessons well from the Market Snodsbury Grammar School speech of Gussie, keeps pointing accusatory fingers at those of the other party. To boost his electoral prospects, his sister Angela Travers also pitches in. The jury is still out if she runs the risk of being bitten by any sharks – political or otherwise – on one of her river cruises.

The revolutionary pals who fail to recognize the new-age challenges facing their outdated ideology have their share of the fun by beating up policemen, burning buildings and vehicles, smashing shop-windows, and resorting to pressure tactics to get the clueless citizenry to cast their vote in favour of their party.

When the self-assured stuffed-frog charisma of an A B Filmer starts waning, his family members get deployed to keep the power closer to his saggy bosom. Likewise, the morally dubious character of several of the candidates can be seen to be built along the lines of either a Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe or an Edward Cootes. Many of them have criminal cases pending against them for crimes which exclude the pinching of an Empress of Blandings. The never-say-die spirit of several John Bickersdykes keeps the public guessing as to which political party they might end up joining next.

There is no dearth of aspirants who could beat Smooth Lizzie at her own game. Targeting the constituency of those who toil down the stairs – under-butlers, housekeepers, scullery maids, footmen, and the like – tall promises get dished out with much fervour.

Some of the candidates are cast in the mould of either a Ginger or a Stilton. They happen to be reluctant politicians, upon whom political ambition has been thrust by a no-nonsense family member.

Quite a few lion-tamers built along the lines of Rev Aubrey Upjohn can be seen carefully guarding their speeches, lest they get pinched by the opposition camp, leaving them literally speechless at public gatherings.

What boggles the mind of a lay voter is the kind of melange of politicos on the offer on the opposite side. If one were to devour the exploits of Bertie Wooster, Lord Emsworth, Rupert Psmith, Bingo Little, Madeline Bassett, Stiffy Byng and Aunt Agatha in rapid succession, one could be excused for experiencing a similar swimming sensation in the old cerebrum.

The not-so-pale parabola of joy

As the General Drama unfolds, the conduct of the country’s election watchdogs comes under the kind of severe scrutiny which would put a professional newt-fancier to shame. They keep burning the proverbial midnight oil to keep a track of the blatant violations of its Model Wooster Code, which is observed more in breach than in adherence. At times, where opposition parties are concerned, a Sam Goldwyn kind of aggressive approach is taken to address violations. As to the ruling dispensation, a Poppet like deferential approach often becomes the oportet actio.

Even the likes of Sir Watkyn Bassett, who might have by now risen to the highest echelons of judiciary, are not spared the trauma of being dragged into some controversy or the other, thereby distracting them from dishing out harsh sentences without the option.

Some specific shades of this parabola of joy are as under:

The Eulalie Effect

When the colours of an opponents’ underwear get mentioned as part of a political discourse.

The Angry Swan Syndrome

If the public is behaving like an irate swan, and it is raining accusations on several other fronts, it makes sense to climb to a safer roof top and take cover under the umbrella of a different issue altogether.

The Juice of an Orange Factor

Those who entertain thoughts of civil disobedience in any form routinely get pampered with patchwork incentives which are in the nature of the juice of an orange. These ensure that while fundamental issues do not get resolved, short-term solutions with a transient feel-good effect get worked upon. Rebellion is kept at bay.

Unfortunately, many Indians still survive only on a handful of rice and could indulge in acts of civil disobedience. However, since the Father of the Nation is no longer around, a leadership vacuum of his style – fans may recall that he never sat down to a good juicy steak and follow it up with roly-poly pudding and a spot of Stilton, as advised by one of the Hollywood producers – ensures that our political Dream Merchants may breathe easy.

The Peggy Rebuttal

If a voter cannot unnerve a speaker by simply staring and giggling at him, the option of watching the person land in a whirring helicopter, collecting one’s quota of freebies and leaving the place before the speech begins is always open.

The Gladys Spell

Empathizing with the vulnerable sections of the society and offering them protection from the Angus McAllisters of poverty, illness and unemployment just before the drum rolls start beating. This enables the Lord Emsworths of our times to make their ancestors singularly proud of them.

The Stiffy Byng Approach

In order to keep the opposition leaders on tenterhooks, central investigating agencies get unleashed upon them, much like a bunch of Bartholomews pouncing upon their next human prey. Supercilious gazes and raids apart, they keep sniffing with much alacrity at the latter, often making them climb up their cupboards storing some dark secrets , and then pull these up after them when they have done so.

The Psmith Skillset

In order to bring home the gravy in the form of political power, gangsters in the mould of Bat Jarvis get befriended. They even get encouraged to contest elections and romp home to the highest law-making body of the land.

The Schnellenhamer Track

Movie moghuls are encouraged to dish out flicks which support the ruling party’s agenda, leaving them relishing their place under the sun and also laughing all the way to their banks.

The Rosie M Banks Approach

Authors, editors, content creators and intellectual coves of all hues get hired to tom-tom the achievements of the political party sponsoring their outpourings.

Apparently apolitical interviews to adoring movie stars get used to showcase the softer side of political stars.

The Ashe Marson Effect

When politicos routinely display their exercising skills in prominent public spaces for the entire world to see, the cabmen, the waiters, the chambermaids, the proprietors of the fast food joints nearby, street cleaners, children and cats stop laughing after some time.

The Captain Bradbury Approach

Love for their motherland makes some of the candidates take this approach. It involves invoking the armed forces, the nuclear weapons and such other strong arm tactics which one would prefer to see in a street brawl instead.

The Chivalry Challenge

When the game of naming and shaming one of the female candidates starts, all notions of chivalry vanish. A competition as to who can stoop lower starts in right earnest. A wager on the outcome could remind one of the betting records set by The Great Sermon Handicap.

The Bobby Wickham Technique

Taking a leaf out of the conduct of Bobby Wickham who pitted John Hamilton Potter and Clifford Gandle against each other so as to secure her spinsterhood, politicos have already perfected the art of dividing the society along religion and caste fault lines, thereby securing their respective vote banks.

The Alfred Mulliner Magic Trick

When data becomes a liability, either suppress it, or hire some smart statisticians who might perform the magic of concocting another version which could be unleashed on the unsuspecting public.

If votes are getting recorded in some contraptions of an electronic kind, hire experts to find out the feasibility of tinkering with the same.

The Digital Sharks

These are the unsung digital warriors who have learnt their art of being conscientious from The Efficient Baxter. They keep churning out all kinds of stuff: The Flattering and Deceiving kind, as also the Outright Derogatory kind. Hundreds of millions of voters who are glued to their smart screens take these for gospel truths and unwittingly decide the destiny of the country, handing over the reins to a government they deserve!

The Amusement Quotient

Gullible denizens can be excused for believing that all politicians are as different as chalk and cheese. Nothing could be more misleading. Their means might appear to be different, but their goals are not. Irrespective of their affiliation, they chase the goal of grabbing and retaining power. If they cannot be kings, they aspire to be king-makers.

They live in a fish bowl. Whatever they say or do should appeal to their constituents. Their private lives have to bear the strictest investigation. Their sources of funds have to be kept under wraps. When it comes to their misdemeanours, the media has to be kept at an arm’s length.

With each election, the level of the political discourse keeps deteriorating. But the Amusement Quotient keeps improving, bringing much-needed succour to the Common Man facing the harsh slings and arrows of Life.

(Illustration on top courtesy Suvarna Sanyal, a retired banker who has an eye and an ear for all there is to see, listen to and laugh at in this world.

Caricature of Mahatma Gandhi  by R K Laxman)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/how-about-promoting-election-tourism

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/delightful-characters-of-the-canine-kind-in-plumsville)

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ashokbhatia

World over, one activity which keeps ordinary citizens delightfully preoccupied is that of exercising their right toelection voting choose the government they deserve. Travel to any continent, and one is apt to find a set of either countries or states which have either held an election, or are gearing up for the same.

Indians had their share of the fun in 2014 itself. Citizens of Zambia and Italy enjoyed casting a vote earlier this year. So did the denizens of Israel, UK, Poland, Mexico, Turkey and Singapore. Those who live in Portugal have just cast their votes. The ones who inhabit Egypt, Switzerland and Canada are just relishing the build-up of election rhetoric in their respective countries. Citizens of Myanmar, Spain and US are surely looking forward to the experience.

The Amusement Quotient

The process of holding aloft some core democratic values is not bereft of its entertainment value. Hapless citizens…

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World over, one activity which keeps ordinary citizens delightfully preoccupied is that of exercising their right toelection voting choose the government they deserve. Travel to any continent, and one is apt to find a set of either countries or states which have either held an election, or are gearing up for the same.

Indians had their share of the fun in 2014 itself. Citizens of Zambia and Italy enjoyed casting a vote earlier this year. So did the denizens of Israel, UK, Poland, Mexico, Turkey and Singapore. Those who live in Portugal have just cast their votes. The ones who inhabit Egypt, Switzerland and Canada are just relishing the build-up of election rhetoric in their respective countries. Citizens of Myanmar, Spain and US are surely looking forward to the experience.

The Amusement Quotient

The process of holding aloft some core democratic values is not bereft of its entertainment value. Hapless citizens who struggle to etch out a living on a day-to-day basis surely deserve as much humour in their lives as they can manage to get. One source of amusement comprises the empty rhetoric and inane promises which get made in almost all the election speeches. Yet another is the tendency of blaming the previous regimes for all the current troubles.

Then we have the ‘simple harmonic motion’ proclivity of politicians who keep changing their loyalties, much like the delicately nurtured whoPGW Garfieldand_friends keep getting in and out of different dresses when taking a saunter down the ramp. Once a war of words starts, Newton’s Third Law of Motion kicks in. Much heat gets generated, but no light.

Some contestants are themselves so very colourful that the speeches rolling off their glib tongues provide enough merriment to last a few weeks at least. It does not really matter which ideology or political party they happen to represent. Their Amusement Quotient (AQ) remains unaffected. The jury though is still out whether a high AQ score translates into a high vote share as well.

Of goodies without tears

Election times not only provide succor to the souls which are perennially tormented by the harsh slings and arrows of life. Often, there is a ready supply of cash and goodies. Free transport to and from exotic locales is readily available. So are free lunches, for a change. The speed at which liquor flows could put a rivulet to shame.

Elections provide great chances of making a great deal of noise. Not to forget the chance of smashing shop-windows and burning vehicles; the sheer excitement of either beating up policemen or pinching their helmets.

Add to this the unique opportunity of throwing rotten apples, tomatoes and eggs at candidates who propound a view which happens to be contrary to that of the voters. No wonder citizens of countries which hold frequent elections end up getting international recognition in such areas as archery and shooting.

Politicians in the Wodehouse mould

Those familiar with the works of P G Wodehouse would fondly recall the select few characters therein having politicalRoderickSpode inclinations – voluntarily or otherwise. Roderick Spode, Comrade Bingo’s revolutionary pals, the Heralds of the Red Dawn, the Hon’ble A. B. Filmer, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, Mr. John Bickersdyke, Bertie’s pal Ginger and Stilton Cheesewright would readily spring to their minds.

When they look around the present set of politicians who keep huffing and puffing at frequent intervals, they are apt to be able to identify some unique traits of the Wodehousean characters in most of them.

The deep commitment to the Cause of a Spode. The revolutionary pals who fail to recognize the new-age challenges facing their outdated ideology. The self-assured stuffed-frog charisma of a Filmer. The morally dubious character of a Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe. The never-say-die spirit of a John Bickersdyke. The reluctant politicians in the mould of either a Ginger or a Stilton, on whom political ambition has been thrust by a no-nonsense girl friend.

Carbon credits, humour and mythology – the Indian scenario

The largest democratic exercise anywhere in the world takes place in India. The general elections in 2014 have beenIndia Parliament House quickly followed by state assembly polls. Earlier in 2015, Delhi chose a new government. It is now Bihar’s turn. States like Assam, Kerala, Pondicherry, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu follow in 2016.

In large states, campaigns and rallies based on 3-D holographic techniques are now more of a norm than an exception. Political parties using these can surely claim ‘carbon credits’ for adopting greener practices.

Indian elections have more than their share of humour and spectacle, much like elections elsewhere. Some politicians display their salty wit while some make do with their smiling sarcasm. Some go around chest-thumping and rattling off their achievements whereas some others thrive on their quiet dignity and a Monalisque enigma.

The great mythological epics of India provide an excellent resource base to contestants. Their complicated storylines and character lists provide unique opportunities for allusions and allegories to be drawn, thereby providing a divine touch to the worst of invectives which are routinely hurled at each other. Indian politicians’ mastery over mythology needs to be commended. Publishers of kids’ literature based on these epics surely laugh all the way to their banks.

The potential of Election Tourism

India has the good fortune of having a few state elections every year, the general elections being the blockbusterTaj offerings every five years. Invariably, the sheer magnitude of the exercise leads to staggered multi-phase elections, which offer a unique business opportunity – to those in the hospitality and tourism sector, and also to the government by buoying up its foreign exchange earnings.

India already boasts of Cultural Tourism, Business Tourism, Medical Tourism, Religious Tourism, Spiritual Tourism and the Goa kind of tourism. Time, perhaps, to tweak the Incredible India panoply and include Election Tourism as one of its key verticals.

Some incredible benefits

Consider the following advantages of such an initiative:
• A global platform for all our politicos to display their theatrical and oratory skills.Angelina_Jolie_2_June_2014_
• Rebranding India – from a land of snake-charmers and elephants to a digital-savvy country, what with innovative 3-D holographic campaigns, mobile applications and the works.
• Global promotion of the kind of mud-slinging which goes on, in the name of campaigning.
• A unique exposure to India’s rich mythology and epics.
• Improvement in the country’s foreign exchange reserves, with its attendant benefits for the Indian economy.
• Boost to several sectors of the economy, like travel, tourism and hospitality; the spill-over effect on other sectors.
• Boost to investments from Swiss Finishing Schools which would make a beeline to set up coaching centers in India, aimed at grooming our politicos.
• Political parties could augment their inflows by auctioning the rights to campaign amongst international celebrities. Imagine the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore getting roped in to make selective appearances at public meetings and shoring up the electoral prospects of some parties.
• Some movie moghuls from Hollywood could even get tempted to persuade Julia Roberts to appear in a movieMadrid_-_Congreso_de_Diputados entitled ‘Eat, Pray and Vote’, thereby improving the prospects of even smaller political parties to make a mark.

An exciting global outlook

Once India provides a lead along these lines, several other countries would follow suit. Their GDPs would register a healthy increase. Unemployment rates would dip. Politicos of all hues will get a global platform to showcase their marketing abilities. In the not so distant a future, global auctions could take place, enrolling the campaigning services of international celebrities. Coffers of the parent country they hail from would start getting filled up faster.

Spain, which ranked first among 141 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism CompetitiveHillary_Clinton Index, has an immediate opportunity coming up by way of a general election planned on December 20, 2015. Imagine the delight of a tourist who, while visiting the Plaza Mayor, the Teide National Park and the Museo del Prado, gets invited to a witness an election rally on one of her quieter evenings!

USA plans to hold its next Presidential election on November 8, 2016. There is enough time for tourism agencies to whip up some special packages which, besides offering a trip to the Niagra Falls and the Grand Canyon, include a contributory dinner with, say, Hillary Clinton!

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles. If Spain takes a lead, it is likely that the United Nations World Tourism Organization, headquartered in Madrid, would soon move to recognize Election Tourism as a responsible, sustainable and universally accessible activity.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/politicos-in-plumsville-part-1

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/politicos-in-plumsville-part-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/invitation-to-a-swearing-in-ceremony-at-blandings-castle)

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