It is prediction time. Everybody and their parrot, their god-man and their Nandi bull are prophesying who will score big on May 23. Will an ensemble cast film—a sort of Ocean’s Eleven or Lagaan—win the big day, or will the victor be a single hero movie —starring a white-bearded Munna Bhai and a bald, chubby Circuit?
The predictions vary wildly. Anywhere you turn, somebody or the other is animatedly making their own bhavishyavani based on a mixture of wild hunch, ear-to-the-ground info (chats with Uber drivers are very popular), pseudo-mathematical calculations about the way the numbers add up, travels into the heart of Uttar Pradesh (which generally means one conference in Noida) and plain, old-fashioned wishful thinking.
There is a lot of ‘remember, you heard it here first’ going on on the TV channels. And at social gatherings, people are placing bets left, right and centre. I keep hearing that ‘the soul of the nation is at stake in this election’. But from what I am seeing all around me, there is a whole lot of single malt at stake, too.
Naturally, I, too, have a prediction.
As I hardly ever take Ubers, and never have conferences in Noida, mine is based purely on the body language of our key players in their public interviews and interactions. And my reading tells me that Narendra Modi has lost his mojo, while Rahul Gandhi has finally found his.
After years of public ridicule, and more ignominious flat-on-your-back landings than the first half of a Rambo movie, Rahul appears serenely confident. He has all his policy answers in place, his manifesto on his fingertips, he is disarmingly frank in his answers on the coalition question, and the binary he has been seeking to create, between hate, as characterised by Modi, and love, as characterised by himself, is finally sticking. He smiles, holds eye-contact, interrupts politely yet confidently, makes his point coherently, and uses the name of his interviewer with an insouciance that would warm the cockles of Dale Carnegie’s heart.
His long-suffering cheerleaders, thrilled and grateful that their chosen one is finally leading ably and coherently, are providing support fire with gusto. Of course, they should have gotten their act together six months ago, and they may have to pay a heavy price for that, but at least their act is finally together.
Modi’s graph seems to be moving in the other direction. I first detected a certain wistfulness in his eyes at the end of the January 26 parade this year, when he walked down Rajpath after the president had left, waving to the crowds. It was the look Farooq Sheikh had in his eyes in the ‘dekh lo aaj humko ji bhar ke’ song from Bazaar, when he looks at Supriya Pathak in her wedding finery, knowing he may never see her again.
And it has been downhill all the way since then. We have seen maha-bluster and chest-thumping through Pulwama and Balakot, a gratuitous national broadcast to announce the successful ASAT testing by DRDO, the peculiar Main Bhi Chowkidar campaign, the desperately crowd-appeasing Akshay Kumar interaction, and most recently, the ‘cloudy’ interview, where our prime minister gave off the vibes of a child who has not done his homework trying to bluff his way through an interaction with the strict teacher ma’am. There are hesitations, lip-licks and more dropped eyelashes than in a hero-heroine interaction on a StarPlus daily.
And so, here is my prediction: A new prime minister (may he/she reign for five full years!) with a ragtag Lagaan-like crew in tow. Tumultuous times ahead, basically. Good thing I will have all that single malt to fortify me.