Made-in-INDIA dilemma

What happens if the alliance loses the next Maharashtra election

In his secret July 1971 meeting with Zhou Enlai, Henry Kissinger made the Chinese premier choose a Friday to announce Richard Nixon’s forthcoming China visit. Zhou suspected some yankee superstition, but Kissinger said he wanted to give US newsweeklies, which were printed on Friday night, time to cover the news in detail.

Think of it, two of the world’s most powerful men had magazine deadlines in mind while scheduling the Cold War era’s most epoch-making announcement! My tribe of scribes, working in newsweeklies, would give our right arms for such indulgence.

Politicos these days are far less indulgent. Time was when they fixed even routine press meets in a way that theirs didn’t clash with others’. Now? They hardly bother. Look at how the BJP and the opposition put us in a spot last Tuesday. They held two of this year’s most crucial conclaves on the same day, some 2,000 miles apart. Newspaper and channel editors had a tough time deciding how to cover the NDA’s Delhi durbar and the opposition’s Bengaluru jamboree, giving deserving time, space and bytes to both.

Illustration: Bhaskaran Illustration: Bhaskaran

Blame the BJP this time. Mallikarjun Kharge and co had announced their Bengaluru jamboree long ago, and J.P. Nadda and his men had been calling it a conclave of the corrupt. The latter had even boasted that their one Narendra Modi was enough to take on all the Kharges, Pawars, Thackerays, Banerjees, Stalins, Yechurys and others singly or collectively. Then Nadda caught us off guard, calling a Delhi durbar of allies and potential allies on the same day, spoiling our day.

Kharge says Modi’s men called the conclave because they had lost their nerve, and needed allies. Partly true. Since its massive 2019 win, the BJP has been treating allies as liabilities. Why not? The party was getting bills passed, its leader has been getting more fans and followers and also riding high on the world stage. It looked he was poised to get more votes than ever before.

But the party has also been losing allies like the Shiv Sena (UBT), Akali Dal and Janata Dal (U). It hasn’t won many in their place except a faction each of two Maharashtra parties.

In elections, allies are as much assets as they are liabilities. Even the ones who can’t win a seat on their own may still command a few thousand caste or community votes that would have given the winning edge to the BJP’s candidate in the last poll. Now that polls are round the corner, the BJP needs them to make the winning difference again.

Let’s leave Nadda to sort out his issues. Look at what the opposition has done. Taking a leaf out of Modi’s book of acronyms, they named themselves INDIA—Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance. Imagine what happens if the alliance loses the next Maharashtra election. We in the media, poor drudges, would have to give headlines as “INDIA loses Maharashtra”. God help us from such patriots.

Kerala’s Gandhiji experience should have guided these INDIANs. In a fit of adulation for the father of the nation, the state set up a Gandhiji University in 1983. Soon Malayalis woke up to read headlines as, “Inter-university football: Gandhiji beaten by three goals” and “Gandhiji loses the trophy”. Soon wiser counsel prevailed and the varsity was renamed MG. Nobody bothers if MG loses a match by three or thirty goals.

The acronym also suffers from a bad order of adjectives. There are thumb rules in English regarding placing of adjectives in a row. The proper order would have been ‘inclusive developmental,’ not the other way.

We don’t say ‘old good daddy’, do we? We say ‘good old daddy’.