Hallucination is the best medicine

Hallucination is the best medicine

By M.J. Akbar | 11 March, 2012
Captain Amarinder Singh with Congress leaders addresses the media after the party’s defeat in Punjab on Tuesday. PTI

There is one colourful aspect of elections that has been sadly neglected in the coverage of this vibrant game called democracy. This is the Post Campaign Trauma Syndrome, or PCTS, as it is known among experts. Needless to point out, this afflicts only losers, since winners are simply too busy celebrating to have time for analysis. Angst is for losers. But here is what winners miss: the sudden flowering of creativity. Defeat is a splendid tonic for imagination, taking the also-ran towards the realms of if, but and into that wide, wide world of the infinite alibi.

In some, albeit rare, instances PCTS displays different symptoms. There can even be — although this may sound particularly difficult to believe, given that we are discussing politics — a sudden descent into silence. Examine, for instance, the BJP's reaction to the results of Uttarakhand. No one has anything to say, because to say anything would evoke such a spread of bathos as to shift attention from where the BJP wants us to go, to Punjab and Goa. The BJP was defeated in Uttarakhand by the BJP. Its leader, Major General B.C. Khanduri, who resurrected a party killed by corruption and complacence, was sabotaged by his BJP predecessor Romesh Pokhriyal. Pokhriyal sent his henchmen to defeat Khanduri, which they did successfully even as all around them BJP candidates won because of Khanduri. The general, an honourable officer, knows how to face the enemy in front. When he joined politics he should have taken special courses in back-stabbing. He did not. That one seat also made the vital difference in numbers, since it edged Congress ahead and into office. Will the BJP do anything about this scandal? Probably not.

It would have been fun if BJP spokesmen had tried to offer explanations for Uttarakhand. That would have tested the fertility of their poetic licence.

The Congress has by far the finest talent for alibis. If alibis were the principal requirement of electoral victory, Congress would be in power for eternity.

Other parties were not smitten by similar reticence. Mayawati does not include poetic licence within her talents and if she has any, is loath to waste it on journalists. She gave a press conference that was depressingly matter of fact. She pointed out that she had not been erased from the electoral map of UP, as Lalu Prasad Yadav had been from Bihar. She had a point: she may have won only 80 seats but she came second in 208. Uttar Pradesh has become a two-horse race, and BSP is around for the next battle.

The Congress has by far the finest talent for alibis. If alibis were the principal requirement of electoral victory, Congress would be in power for eternity. Congress is quick. Others may labour over the finer points of logic, and debate whether one element might not turn counterproductive. But Congress has no qualms. It shoots from the hip with speed and conviction, and if the ammunition is only a sequence of blanks, no problem: the primary purpose, of making noise, has been served, for television loves noise with an owner's possessiveness.

Dropcap OnThe Congress rationale for its stunning defeat in Punjab was that the breakaway Akali Dal of Manpreet Badal had taken away its vote in 23 constituencies. Ahem. Did Manpreet take the Congress vote or Akali supporters? Who encouraged Manpreet when he turned prodigal? The Congress had begun laughing all the way to Chandigarh the moment the Akali ruling family split, confident that Manpreet would lop off the Akali base, making a Congress victory easier. Sukhbir Badal has won despite a split, not because of it. He could even argue that his margins would have been greater if the party had been united.

Congress explanations for the massacre in UP have to be, I suppose, even more ludicrous. You need a large dose of hallucination to defend the indefensible. Congress leaders have begun to adopt a long face while intoning that it was not their leader Rahul Gandhi's fault; the infrastructure on the ground was missing. Really? Rahul Gandhi must have mislaid the infrastructure in all of two years then, since in 2009 the Congress won 22 Lok Sabha seats, with a lead in 96 Assembly segments. The other excuse is that the choice of candidates was poor. Who chose the candidates? Akhilesh Yadav did not select Congress candidates. Rahul Gandhi did. Rahul Gandhi was given total control of all aspects of the UP campaign, and a full repertoire of media accompaniment to trumpet his imminent arrival on the centre-stage of national and international affairs. The simple fact is that the Congress lost around seven per cent of its vote, largely because Muslims deserted the party, and that sent it back into the 20-30 seat band. If it wants to recover it must recognise facts.

It is axiomatic that you have to be dumb in order to be dumbfounded, but political parties are not run by dumb people. They only pretend to be dumb, in the hope that the people are too dumb to see through the artifice. It is a hopeless hope.


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