The Bharatiya Mundan Party
Took The Experience Of Defeat
By Githa Hariharan
15 June, 2004
a leader like Milosevic appeared on national television in October 2000
to make what astonished observers described as a gracious speech conceding
defeat. He thanked those who voted for him and also those who did not.
I congratulate Mr. Kostunica on his victory, he concluded,
and I wish all citizens of Yugoslavia every success in the next
few years. Closer home, I recall a friend who had spent a year
in jail during the Emergency telling me, after the heady electoral defeat
of Indira Gandhi in 1977, that Mrs Gandhi stepped down without any unseemly
fuss. At any rate, she knew how to acknowledge defeat.
But in the elections
of 2004, we witnessed a somewhat different kind of response to defeat
a response that ranged from sulky silence to farcical theatrics.
The Bharatiya Janata Party combine showed us, once again, that they
are unique, even in the way they take an electoral verdict.
Consider what the
BJP leaders did when the electorate showed them the door. Some were
quiet. Very, very quiet. And some others made a great big ruckus. The
quiet route was the option favoured by the seniors of the BJP combine
soon after the election results. These silver-tongued seniors, assigned
to wear the elder-statesmen masks, were suddenly resoundingly silent.
It was left to us to imagine a few possible behind-the-scenes.
For example, in
one scene, the man partial to pretend-poetry made a quick speech on
television that sounded like an old recording. He was then reduced to
silence, possibly by a severe case of telephone fatigue. Those phone
calls to unsuspecting citizens (and those endless, expensive TV advertisements)
had used up all his one-sided eloquence. In another scene, the man partial
to pretend-chariots seemed to watch in sulky silence as his rath, which
he thought ready and gleaming for its victory roll, spluttered its way
into the sunset. He knew there was every possibility that it was heading
home, the yard where used-up junk is taken apart scrap by scrap. In
yet another scene, the man partial to all things gloriously bogus and
abracadabra seemed to have locked himself into a room specially designed
for conducting crazy experiments. Except this time, it was doubtful
whether he was inventing anything. Perhaps he was, with the help of
sundry planetary, lunar and Vedic positions, figuring out where his
recipe (a tablespoon of saffron and a pinch of spiritual values for
a cupful of pure Hindu zeroes) went wrong.
A couple of the
middle-level warriors of the combine also, surprisingly, chose silence
as their reaction to defeat. One the brutish hate-machine
could have been quiet for a good reason. Perhaps he was refurbishing
his speeches and updating them with his post-election analysis. To him
it could well have been as clear as his venom: all those who voted against
the BJP are terrorists. Or foreigners. Or foreign terrorists, the worst
kind. Or terrorizing foreigners, especially the kind from Italy. At
any rate, the general public suspicion was that his silence would be
temporary, because now there were so many more people to push across
the border into the mians arms.
Just as every country-mouse has his counterpart in the town-mouse, the
brutish hate-machine has a cousin in the suave hate-machine. (It must
be said, though, that despite his burden of suaveness, this one hates
just as well as the brute.) Unfortunately, the election results seemed
to have gobbled up a biggish chunk of his suaveness. When he finally
chose to end his post-defeat silence, it was only to
pick on a victim his party had already officially labelled a mere child.
It might well be the first time an election shrank a suave hate-machine
to the size of a garden-variety school-bully, picking on the newest
baby in the classroom. It was almost as if the bully couldn't seem to
decide on the question of Silence versus Ruckus. It's no wonder then
that his attempts to break the big silence just didn't have enough circus
value. That was left to those of the combine (the usual suspects, of
course) who went, with gusto, for Option Two: the big, public ruckus.
Again, it was no
surprise that there was something of a tussle among these attention-getters
for the coveted post of ringmaster. The first aspirant rushed straight
from Tirupati to the centre of the ring to show off his latest trick:
head minus hair. (Now it was the turn of the public to be struck dumb
by the spectacle.) But since this bald-pate didn't have much to say
anymore, he could only hold attention for a moment or two, and he was
soon hopelessly sidelined by the noisiest of ringmaster aspirants. The
new champion of circus antics, a veritable goddess of noise, cracked
her whip (blood-red, like the parting of her hair), and screamed of
hurt sentiments and foreign blood. So inspired was her display of love
for the country and her love for tender sentiments, that she outshone,
effortlessly, the copious tears of love being shed offstage by the election
winners for their reluctant leader. Everyone got caught up in keeping
track of her daily non sequiturs. The question on everyone's lips was,
"Will she do it? Will she put the razor (and not even one blessed
by Tirupati) to her head?"
All this screaming
and threatening must have been infectious. Already incensed by the defeat
and the silence of the elder statesmen, the other circus-folk ran round
the ringmaster, exhorting their speechless leaders to get back to where
they always belonged. (They didn't need to spell out exactly where they
belonged since the public had already had an overdose of their Hindutva
The rest of us,
the long-suffering electorate, nodded our heads from our ringside seats.
No, we were not keeping time to the beat of the scream or the threat
of Hindutva, shaven or unshaven. Just nodding in confirmation of all
our most nasty suspicions. During the election campaign, we were subjected
to epic-length speeches on television, as frequent as the ubiquitous
commercial break, on development. On roads, on progress, on all things
bright and shining. But post-elections, when masks and their newly moderate
rhetoric were no longer of use, we were treated to the real face - or
the real, shining, barren head - of what an irreverent, but precise,
wit has christened the Bharatiya Mundan Party.