THOSE OF A certain vintage may recall that one of the most popular brands of cooking oil until the turn of the century was called DALDA. The hydrogenated oil was so popular that it became a generic name for any cooking oil which was not pure ghee or clarified butter. However, sensing its declining popularity, the marquee multinational which manufactured it sold the brand for a song. And ever since, the new buyers have failed to revive it, though it is said to be still around. Ask any marketing guru how hard it is to revive a brand once it loses its mojo.
This somewhat lengthy preface may hold a lesson for those who have devised a new name for the old wine and put it in a new bottle called I.N.D.I.A. Without the dots, it is likely to be conflated with India, that is Bharat, whereas in reality, I.N.D.I.A is the same late lamented UPA. Just like DALDA cannot hope to regain its pole position among all the hydrogenated oils sold in the country, it is hardly likely that anyone can conceive of UPA 2, albeit under a new garb, endearing itself to the voters anytime soon—especially when the alternative is still attractive. Grant this much political maturity to the voter, he can see through a con when it is meant to be one.
IN THE THREE-DAY-LONG debate on the no-trust motion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi recalled how Jawaharlal Nehru in his address to the nation amidst the Chinese onslaught on the border in 1962 had virtually abandoned the people of the Northeast, leaving them to their own devices. When the people panicked over the clear and present danger of the Chinese soldiers stomping all over their homes and hearths, Nehru added to their misery, saying, “My heart goes to the people of Assam.” Silence would have been better than that awful confession of failure to protect the people of the Northeast.
But what Modi did not recall that day in Lok Sabha, or was not aware of, was the fact that following a widespread backlash against Nehru’s ill-conceived confession of cowardice, his daughter, Indira Gandhi, on becoming prime minister, sought to erase that shameful sentence from the record of his address to the nation. It was years later that the mandarins of the Ministry of External Affairs would deem it fit to restore the original text of his address.
AND THEY COMPLAIN about the coarsening of the political discourse. Should you have any doubt about who leads in dumbing down the political give-and-take, spare a moment to hear what Randeep Singh Surjewala, the favourite courtier at the 10 Janpath durbar, had to tell the good people of Haryana. Addressing a rally the other day in Kaithal, he, inter alia, pronounced that anyone who votes for BJP or supports the party is a rakshas, loosely translated as devil or monster. And he went on to thunder that “from the land of the Mahabharata” he curses anyone who votes for BJP.
So, there you have the frustration and bitterness stemming from a sense of growing irrelevance in the national polity, which Modi still dominates like a colossus, expressing itself in a rather unfortunate case of incivility and uncouthness. It is the same Surjewala who had failed to win his own Assembly seat from Haryana, his sole qualification being his proximity to Rahul Gandhi.
Therefore, they had to get him into Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan, not Haryana, where simultaneously a seat was available as well. The reason was the fear of sabotage by former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, the only grassroots Jat leader the party has in the state. Hooda virtually runs the Haryana Congress free from any central interference, leaving the wannabe leaders like Surjewala to seek shelter in other Congress-run states.
THE USUAL secularist-liberal activists have relieved themselves of their frustration, defending NewsClick, the controversial website supposedly funded by the Chinese, as per a New York Times exposé. But they haven’t had a word to say about the persecution of Barjinder Singh Hamdard, the doyen of Punjabi journalism, or Ramaji Rao, the founder-editor of the Eenadu group of papers, at the hands of the Punjab and Andhra governments, respectively. Why, because, Hamdard and Rao are homegrown publishers while NewsClick is a suspected Chinese-funded outfit?