Sunday, April 12, 2009

Congress' McCain moment

Of the two non-uncertainties in life, death is widely known to be one, besides taxes. Ageing is that irreversible process that takes us, and always will, towards this certainty, sometimes in a flash, at other times with an excruciating delay. However you may like it, and most don't, there's no known escape. 

Mortals have always resigned to the inescapable fact that death presents. Movement and ideologies, on the contrary, have chosen to pretend otherwise. There's no movement or interest group, especially political ones with short term goals, that hasn't faced the existential dilemma that success, or failure, presents. Having subsisted on the lucre that political patronage invariably brings to its protagonists, shuttering down becomes highly unpalatable. 

It is in this context that we must see the kerkuffle over Congress' relevance kickstarted by Modi's shrewd statement. And an equally shrewd, but insincere, diversion by Congress by trying to make it an issue about aged. How else do you explain the hysterical response of a party that gladly laps up any description of itself as the Grand Old Party (GOP), a label that American Republican party is widely known by, but throws a fit when called 'budhiya.' Why is it that what sounds grand in English becomes execrable when spoken in the vernacular?

Budhiya, in colloquial Hindi, means an old woman. It can be used perfectly respectably while mentioning one. But, in a country this young, being on the wrong side of age-gap isn't always pleasant. Budhiya also implicity carries the notion of being weak, helpless, and needy. Drawing attention to the weakness of current Prime Minister and the Congress party that props him has been a persistent theme of the opposition, BJP's campaign. While utilizing the relative young age of the dynasty's scion has been Congress'. What Modi achieved through his statement was to keep with his party's message, while scoring a bonus run on his opponent's turf. That's quite canny.

Age is usually an asset in politics, what with its conflation with experience and that proverbial old hand. During the US presidential election the GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain, tried to present himself as tried and tested on account of his long political experience. But in country full of young and middle-aged increasingly worried about their present and future, he was easily outmanuevered by a young and suave opponent in Obama. Besides McCain never had the charisma of one of his party predecessor, Ronald Reagan, who wittily brushed off concerns about his age in a debate with Jimmy Carter. 

It seems that the ersatz GOP of India, otherwise presented as the default ruling party by a pliant media, too, is void of any Ronald Regan. Through some clumsy handling it just underwent its very own McCain moment.

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