'We the people' caught between King Stork and King Logs?

Congress and co worry that Modi may turn tyrant if he gets his 400-plus

Once upon an Aesopean time, an army of frogs living in a well thought they needed a king. They prayed to Jove, the king of gods, to send them one. Jove flung a log into their midst. The kupamandukas, terrified by the splash, scampered behind the rocks, but soon found the log to be harmless. In no time they were climbing and dancing over their king.

Soon enough, they got tired of their lifeless king. They asked Jove to send them one who had life and vigour. This time Jove sent them a stork. He ate them all up.

If you listen to our political pundits, you would think we are caught between a King Stork and several King Logs. The BJP intellectuals (pardon the oxymoron) would have us believe that if the INDIA alliance wins this election, they would rule as King Logs—a new one every year, as Narendra Modi has been mocking. Those kings would look the other way when ‘others’ claim our family wealth, when terrorists strike, and would do nothing to boost economic growth.

The Congress intellectuals (pardon the oxymoron) would like us to think Modi would turn into a King Stork if he gets a big win. He would scrap the Constitution, curtail liberties, arrest professors, exile poets, raid merchants, jail leaders, and give India’s wealth to his tycoon friends.

Illustration: Deni Lal Illustration: Deni Lal

Caught between the two, what should “we the people”, who gave to ourselves a Constitution, do? Press the NOTA button? Sorry, NOTA can’t make governments. So, hold on.

Truth be told, the Log-Stork binary has been there in India’s electoral narrative ever since Modi stormed into the national scene in 2014. He had come in then scoffing at Manmohan Singh as a King Log—one who “wrote love letters” to Nawaz Sharif, was too weak to fight terrorists, and had looked the other way when political colleagues were carting away our coal reserves and downloading our 2G spectrum for a song. On its part, the Congress had then accused Modi of showing King Stork traits—having let Gujaratis massacre Gujaratis, let trigger-happy cops kill outlaws in cold blood, and helped crony capitalists to fatten themselves.

This columnist had used the same Aesopean allegory to describe the voters’ dilemma then too. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Congress and co are now worried that Modi could actually turn a constitutional stork if he gets his 400-plus. He would turn a tyrant, they say, who would use the legislative majority to rejig the Constitution, or scrap it and get a new one.

Ironic it may sound, it was Modi’s own men who started the talk. First his handpicked intellectuals did a little loud thinking that got a bit too loud. Then as the polls approached, party MP Anantkumar Hegde called for a 400-seat target so as to amend the Constitution. Soon every party MP and his elder brother, every aspiring MP and his younger brother, and everyone who had flashed a saffron flag or shouted the Jai Shri Ram slogan was talking about it.

It was then that the opposition sensed danger, and an opportunity. They turned the message around, reposted it to the dalit millions who swear by Constitution-maker B.R. Ambedkar, saying the Modi-ki-guarantees in the BJP manifesto would replace the constitutional guarantees of school seats, scholarships and job quotas. In no time, the BJP sensed danger, cried “shantam-paapam, tauba-tauba,” and stopped talking of 400.

Now, another problem. Many among the upper castes had thought, though without basis, that it was a matter of time before Modi and co scrapped the quotas lock, stock and barrel. Who would they vote now —Log or Stork?