Whoever messes with us will be decimated. This is our slogan. Mamata Banerjee. The election circus is over as is the ceremonial formality of swearing in those inducted into the new NDA cabinet of ministers. The 50 odd worthies, some odder than others, comprised just the first tranche, their portfolios announced soon after. The cabinet can be expanded at the PM’s pleasure.
Those glued to their television sets to view the ceremony were treatedto the sashaying of celebrity guests from various fields of endeavor. Foreign dignitaries attending were light of weight, mostly from neighbouring nations. Pakistan was a conspicuous absentee. The function itself dragged on tediously with a parade of would be ministers repeating the same words of oath, either in Hindi or English and once in Bengali, while the Prime Minister looked on with avuncular pride. The volley of oaths was to come later.
As always on such occasions when you can never please all, a bit of grumbling and muttering is par for the course. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an important ally of the NDA, hid his disappointment at not being given adequate representation in the newly formed cabinet but swore allegiance to the NDA. Given Nitish Kumar’s history one can only say, ‘watch this space.’ Another traditionally uneasy ally, the Shiv Sena, seemed to take its lot in its stride, perhaps in hopes of pre-election promises to be fulfilled. Uddhav Thackeray’s phlegmatic visage was not revealing much. He will make an excellent poker player.
As for the opposition, licking their wounds after the carnage, a different kind of swearing is becoming palpable. Gradually at first, but rapidly gaining momentum. Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India’s de facto royal family, after locking himself up in what seemed a sulking fit, emerged all Rafale guns blazing. A ‘pride of lions’ he described his party as, vowing not to give a day’s peace to the BJP. He swore ‘to fight hatred, cowardice and anger with love and compassion.’ This from a man who made Chowkidar chor hai a brand positioning plank to attack the BJP, only for the plank to swing back and give him a nasty nosebleed.
Still and all, a feisty Congress party is crucial if the opposition are to keep the treasury benches in Parliament honest. Even Rahul Gandhi’s dove-like postures appeared back-handed and cut no ice, ‘Whatever happens, I will only respond with love.’ Flashback to the notorious floor crossing hug! Best-selling author Chetan Bhagat, calling for Rahul Gandhi’s removal said ‘the message the Indian people have given the Congress is clear. It is time to change, and change has to happen at the top.’ Your words fell on stony ground, Chetan.
Speaking of feisty, the word fits the redoubtable Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee like a glove. She appears to be forever ready to rain blows on anyone who comes anywhere close to her with anything other than craven obsequies. Consider the spate of recent incidents in Bengal. After the election results were declared she went briefly quiet but came out swinging, as is her wont.
Confronting BJP supporters in Bengal chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans, she took a bellicose posture threatening them with dire consequences. The Trinamool Congress suffered body blows at BJP’s hands at the polls, but Didi could have displayed a bit more decorum in public, clearly not her strongest suit. The BJP foot soldiers have since shrewdly added ‘Jai Maa Kali’ to their sloganeering. Meanwhile, the erstwhile behemoth, the CPI (M) have been reduced to a tragic footnote.
Oh, how have the mighty fallen! Yogendra Yadav, the mincingly-spoken politician and social scientist, having left AAP to form his own outfit Swaraj Abhiyan, expressed the view that those who vote for the BJP are idiots, and he fondly hoped the BJP will be decimated after the elections. Ah well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I daresay he intended to be ironical, but in India we are literal-minded and don’t do irony. Yadav has had to face flak for his ill-chosen remarks. Speaking of AAP, their articulate candidate from Delhi, Atishi Marlena shed crocodile tears accusing former World Cup winning batsman turned BJP candidate, Gautam Gambhir of spreading unspeakable rumours besmirching her reputation. Gambhir threatened to move the courts for defamation, brushed aside Atishi at the hustings, and we heard no more. As a batsman, Gambhir was a fine sweeper and he swept aside Atishi with her own party’s broom. A telling symbolism. And where is the chief honcho of AAP, the secretive Arvind Kejriwal? Shades of Baroness Orczy’s ‘damned elusive Pimpernel.’
One can understand his wanting to fly under the radar after the electoral rout, but we fully expect him to come out flailing. Predictably Asaduddin Owaisi, representing the Muslims, lost no time in expressing his deep reservations about the BJP and its intentions. Eyes closed, he proceeded to lambast the BJP barely hours after the swearing in. Perhaps Mr. Owaisi should open his eyes and face reality, and stop to smell the roses.
Lest we forget, some members of the ruling alliance are no saints either, notwithstanding the saffron garb. A BJP MLA from Naroda in Gujarat was caught on camera slapping and kicking a woman. He pathetically tried to make amends by calling the victim his sister, persuading her to tie a rakhi for a photo op.
One wonders why the abused ‘sister’ agreed to this farce. Junior minister G. Kishan Reddy dubbed Hyderabad ‘a haven for terrorist activities’, a comment which earned him a rap on the knuckles from Home Minister Amit Shah. Likewise Giriraj Singh, who questioned his allies attending Iftar on Id. To say nothing of Pragya Thakur singing Nathuram Godse’s praises, which had even the PM smouldering. With motormouths like these…….! In sum, the best course for the opposition would be to accept the vox populi gracefully and try to be a constructive conscience keeper to the NDA. Too much to ask?...