Love is the new sword

Seems the Congress has got its big campaign idea for 2019 all figured out—abki baar, pyaar hi pyaar. Love seems to be the big idea they are zooming into, thus hoping to reposition the BJP and force a simple binary upon the public. The BJP is hate, and the Congress is love. Who are you gonna pick?

It is an audacious idea, very timely, with roots deep in our religious texts, our freedom struggle and our blatantly melodramatic movies. And, with ‘true love’s first hug’ they have certainly gotten off to a flying start. The gesture was both an eyeball grabber and a ball grabber, it made headlines and went viral with a vengeance. In a country with 22 official languages and short attention spans, symbolism is a powerful, even vital weapon, and the Congress finally seems to have understood that. The BJP is frantically trying to play down #thehug, but the fact remains that this is the most dramatic and successfully theatrical the Congress has been since Sonia Gandhi ‘sacrificed the post of prime minister at the prompting of the inner voice of her conscience’. In the very short term, at least, it looks like #thehug has captured public imagination, and has dented Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impregnable, untouchable aura. I have not seen him look so rattled since Karan Thapar made him drink water by daring to treat him like an entirely ordinary mortal back in 2007.

Illustration: Bhaskaran

And, yes, we are all a bit weary of having the nichli jaat card and the tea-seller’s son card being pulled out at us on a regular basis, and we are maybe ready to stop with the attacks on minorities, women and the press, especially as these have not been balanced out with the progress we were promised.

And, so, maybe we are ready for love.

But, this is not a Disney Princess movie, and so, ‘true love’ will not be enough. It runs the risk of being seen as soft, weak and metrosexual, and not muscular enough to do the heavy lifting required to lift India out of the morass we are currently in. The derisive retorts the BJP can trot out just write themselves (love will not create jobs, love will not defeat Pakistan etc.)

What the country needs is ‘tough love’. Remember that Munnabhai’s jaadu ki jappis had so much impact simply because he was a bhai, and he and Circuit could back up those sweet, disarming jaapis with some pretty hard punches whenever they had to.

The Congress will have to somehow make us believe that it can deliver ‘tough love’—law enforcement, education, jobs, infrastructure, healthcare, firm governance, and smoothly functioning civic bodies, all served up with lots of inclusive, hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner love. That is the big idea that needs to be cracked and that is the only one that could successfully slay the saffron dragon. Let us just hope Rahul is the right prince for the job.

While on the subject of love, I cannot avoid mentioning the big Romeo and Juliet-esque release of the week, Dhadak—which I have not seen yet—but, is based on the Marathi super hit Sairat, which I have. And, while I loved Sairat—so raw, and pure, and soaring and full of the frisson and headiness of first love—I did wonder what kind of message a film like Sairat (or for that matter Dhadak) leave young viewers with? Won’t the violent, hopeless endings of both films serve as a sort of Grimm, cautionary tale to young people? Ki girls and boys, look for love and marriage within your caste and class boundaries, or you could end up facing the same deathly fate that the couples in both films did.

Chauhan is an author and advertising professional.