Friday, January 9, 2009

Narayan Rane plays the game

For a little while back then, in those terrible days post 26th November, we, the people, held centre stage. Politicians, their hearing deadened by years of accumulated ear-wax, had to call in professional ear-wax removers--there are still some left in the working class areas of this shining city--to 'do the needful'. Ears clear, they heard us calling for their heads. Those heads did not fall instantly. They were screwed on too tight. It is a well-known practice amongst politicians to have mechanics attend to their nuts and bolts every morning and tanners to give them a special treatment that makes their skins look human on the outside while they acquire rhinocerotic qualities on the inside.

So we had our moment back then when we were centre stage, shouting "Enough is enough. We want to be safe. We want change." We got change. The Chief Minister resigned with bad grace. The Home Minister resigned without ever understanding why people found his reaction about small ills befalling big cities so shocking. He thought the statement had a nice balance about it--bade bade sheher in the first half, balanced by chhote chhote hadse in the second.

What we got in exchange for Vilasrao and R R were Ashok Chavan, of the supposedly clean image, and Chhagan Bhujbal of the supposedly unclean one. Ashok Chavan's image has since been questioned while Bhujbal's image has remained stable.

We the people have now been pushed to where they the politicians think we belong--off-stage, looking on. And what we see on the political stage is the old national game of Changing Hands (with its sub-games such as hand-in-glove, hand-in-hand, hand-in-pocket etc). This is how the game is played. The players stand in pairs holding hands. When the whistle goes each one quickly lets go of the hand he is holding and snatches one that looks stronger. But the man with the stronger hand had earlier held this one's hand and wishes to have a different hand experience so he snatches his hand out of player 1s to attach himself to player 3. This upsets player 4 who had not only hoped to hold player 3's hand but also to sneak his spare hand into player 1's hand without the referee noticing and thus emerge winner. Left without any hand to hold, the player who thought he would be the winner is out. Yes. He's out.

Narayan Rane is out. And he is sulking. I recall an old children's rhyme that was meant to put sulkers in a good mood. It went (translation from Marathi mine with certain liberties taken to overcome problems that are too complex to go into here) "Pussy cat is sulking, sitting in a nook. There comes her husband, she giggles khukhukkhuk." Versions of this rhyme are now being chanted to Narayanrao but he has still not gone beyond the first "khuk" which he hopes will be interpreted by the media as a contemptuous cough rather than the beginning of a giggle.

Expectedly, nobody is chanting any rhymes to us. Our time is over. We ensured that it would be, because we thought changing ministers was the answer to our problems. That change had a cathartic effect. A catharsis brings about temporary relief accompanied by loss of accumulated steam. Had we retained some of that steam, we could have used it to push for a sustained public debate on our electoral system. If that can be changed, much will change. Else everything remains essentially the same.

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