This Thursday, there were two defining moments at the periphery of the real action that captured my attention. The first was when a greatly excited Arnab Goswami shouted out Sunny Leone’s name instead of Sunny Deol’s while declaring a lead of 7,500 votes. The other interesting bit had Chetan Bhagat wielding a metaphor that needed closer analysis than the election itself, when he stated that the Modi wave was not a wave but the sea itself. Instead of maritime similes, I have another analogy based in my very own Bollywood. I would say that the difference between bhakts and liberals is the same as between Aamir and Salman Khan fans. One lot will carefully evaluate the merit of the movie and read reviews before booking tickets, whereas the other is like the Modi fan who will throng the cinema just on the basis of the trailer.
The poll picture is clear now, and the chowkidar, a word that has been used magnificently and put away immediately after the results, has won. There are multiple reasons for the BJP’s stupendous victory ranging from how they navigated caste politics, the alliances they built, their astute management of the media, the nationalism and Hinduism narrative they built to the fact that the oftenrepeated question ‘If not Modi, then who?’ could not be adequately answered.
At a point where opinion polls, exit polls and Vivek Oberoi’s version of the same were being tossed about, I had been conducting a curiosity-driven poll of my own. Everywhere I went, I barraged both employers and employees with a simple question — Who are you going to vote for and why? The answers varied but were primarily in favour of the BJP. Two comments that I thought captured the zeitgeist of the political arena were from disparate people — an investment banker and yes, a real-life watchman. The latter, standing at the gate in his grey uniform, said that the PM reminded him of his tauji and his chacha, strict, reliable men who would get the job done. This identification within a familiar framework seems to have been part of what made people connect with Namo. We have a history of taking popular figures and making them part of our families. If Gandhiji was Bapu and Nehru Chacha, then there have been movies and songs devoted to Modi Kaka as well. It is difficult for the common man to place Rahul Gandhi within this structure. He has come a long way from the Pappu that he was termed earlier in terms of his confidence and oratory skills but they still don’t know what to do with him. He could at best be considered a younger devar or bhanja, but though you may like hanging out with your nephew, it is your chacha and kaka that you would turn to in order to fix your problems. Numerous conversations with people who work in the cities but have families in the village have led to a realisation that they have attributed tangible changes to the Modi government. For instance, their precious mobile phone running on cheap data wasn’t seen as a byproduct of global modernisation but of the government’s Digital India scheme. They also linked the construction of toilets to schemes like Swachh Bharat. This is something that the opposition found difficult to understand, let alone build a campaign around.
The investment banker had different reasons for voting for the BJP. He pointed out the increased ease of starting a business in India and the fact that apparently our GDP, though it has taken a hit, is still the highest among developing countries including China currently. As for the rising unemployment, he blamed it on a rising population. When asked about the growing communal divide or candidates like Pragya Thakur, there was a silence followed by inadequate rationalisation, ‘Oh, that will ease up now that elections are done with.’ This victory is not just based on the cleverness of the chowkidars or the work they put in, but partly on the fact that they presented a completely united front unlike the liberals.
The literal definition of a liberal is someone open to another’s opinions, an inclusive club. But being a liberal these days is akin to wanting to be part of the Green Lantern corps, the superheroes from the DC comic books. But you can’t just put on the green tights and show up for work, you have to be deemed worthy. You must also prove that you have always been woke, even from the time when the word woke was just a variable antonym of sleep. Heated discussions must be circumvented, about which causes are more important and who is worth supporting. There are also other conundrums that must be dealt with, looking up words like conundrum, for example, and crafting well-formulated, grammatically impeccable opinions. God forbid, if there is a spelling error hidden, then members of the same tribe will turn into grammar nazis and tear one of their own to shreds. This usually results in a bunch of intelligent, earnest and well-meaning people, committing to becoming the Green Lanterns of their individual sectors, instead of coming together as a formidable group.
The Chowkidar clubhouse, on the other hand, has no entry fee. Add the prefix to your name, wear the T-shirt and you are a beloved member. You may hear of various accusations like fake liberal within one side, but I have yet to see the right-wing accuse each other of being a fake bhakt. The term simply does not exist. They don’t care. They don’t care about your past. They don’t care if you will switch sides in the future. One could almost say that they live by the words of philosopher Alan Watts “I have realised that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.”
They just clasp hands, marching on, where banging heads against one means taking them all on. This has been one of the right wing’s greatest strength all over the world.
Rahul Gandhi made a remark after a press conference where Namo was present but declined questions. He tweeted sarcastically, ‘Congratulations, Modi Ji. Excellent Press Conference! Showing up is half the battle.’ He probably didn’t realise that he was being prescient. The chowkidars didn’t have to bring anything to the table to win the battle. All they had to do was well, just show up and no other group could match their collective, unified numbers.
The pen is meant to be mightier than the sword but against a brick wall, it can only leave traces of graffiti behind, hoping it is read and we are all wiser the next time around.
Now, what I would suggest we all do, is grab a front row seat and watch another iteration of the upcoming Bharat, both the Salman Bhai version as well as our modified 2.0 one.