Kangana in Mandi, runout in Himachal?

We in Himachal. who keep our ears close to the ground to detect tremors in the Himalayas, had been expecting this for some time, writes Avay Shukla

Kangana puts on her Himachal cap (photo: PTI)
Kangana puts on her Himachal cap (photo: PTI)

Avay Shukla

Seismologists have been predicting an earthquake in the Hindukush Himalayas for quite some time now, and it happened earlier this week. Ms Kangana Ranaut, eminent historian and chronicler of India's Independence, has been given the ticket by BJP to contest the Mandi Lok Sabha seat in Himachal.

This will cause quite a few fault lines and post-quake tremblors in the coming days. The sitting MP from here is another lady, Rani Pratibha Singh, widow of the late six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh. She, being better informed than the chief minister and his intelligence sleuths, had read the writing on the wall and had announced last week that she would not be contesting. This election, therefore, promises to be a dame-changer.

We in Himachal. who keep our ears close to the ground to detect tectonic shifts and tremors in the Himalayas, had been expecting this for some time. Ms Ranaut, of course, had in 2021 denied this eventuality, saying Himachal was not "complex" enough for her special talents and therefore lacked challenges: there was no poverty there, and no crime either — both essential prerequisites for winning elections in India.

Presumably, the state is now complex, poor and crime-ridden enough and its apples ripe for the plucking, what with electoral bonds having introduced it to defections, cross-voting, resort politics and retaliatory disqualifications, all sine qua non of our own version of democracy. And so, in a departure from the Biblical fable, the apple has been offered to Eve, and boy, has she jumped at it!

Make no mistake — Ms Ranaut would be a formidable candidate. She has proved time and again that she is the only man in Bollywood, she has strong opinions and expresses them in even stronger language, she does not let history, logic, common sense or the truth stand in her imperious way. This is one Ranaut who will be difficult to run out; it will take a hit-wicket to send her back to her Pali Hill house in Mumbai.

"The voter does not yet know what the rani of jhansa stands for..." (photo: PTI)
"The voter does not yet know what the rani of jhansa stands for..." (photo: PTI)

She needs nothing more than her oomph to win, she is her own manifesto. She already has a head start in the race: 50 per cent of Himachal's oxygen starved voters — the men — are already in her Gucci bag: any testosterone-deprived male who has the temerity to vote against her will be strung up by the nearest lamp-post, or, since Mandi has no lamp-posts, the nearest deodar tree.

As for the remaining 50 per cent females and 'hussifs', opposing her will be a dicey proposition for them too, their husbands are not likely to be amused, and triple talaqs and quadruple dirty looks would be in order.

The voter does not yet know what the rani of jhansa stands for, other than her theory that India owes its Independence to Mr Modi, not to Nehru, Patel, Mahatma Gandhi et al; never mind that Mr Modi was not even born when that event happened. On the larger canvas of history, what are a couple of years here and there. after all?

We shall, no doubt, learn more history during the course of her campaigning. Which is another cause for concern to me. You see, her constituency includes the high mountains of Mandi, Manali and Lahaul-Spiti, with their glaciers and snow-fields already subject to climate change and warming. My worry is that Ms Ranaut's oomph, in such close proximity to them, might hasten their melting.

I am thinking of writing a letter to the Election Commission, asking that she be directed to stay at least 5 km from any glacier or ice field, in the interest of preserving the ecology of the state. Especially as its rationality will go for a six the moment the lady files her nomination. 

Ranaut with J.P. Nadda (photo: PTI)
Ranaut with J.P. Nadda (photo: PTI)

I whole-heartedly welcome the glamour and straight-talking her entry brings to politics in Himachal, which had become a staid, boring contestation between green caps and maroon ones; it will never be the same again, thank God! But I deplore and roundly condemn the trolling Ms Ranaut has been subjected to: why is it, I wonder, that attractive, outspoken, independent women bring out the worst in the Indian male?

I suspect that, patriarchal ignoramuses that we are, we feel threatened by such ladies. The only cure for such troglodytes is to have more women in politics and public life. Not, mind you, that Ms Ranaut herself is blameless in such matters, or that she has not disrespected women publicly: we still recollect her describing Urmila Matondkar as a "soft porn star", and saying that the anti-CAA protesting women at Shahin Bagh had been purchased for Rs 100 each.

Her language can match that of any meat seller in the murgi mandi in East Delhi, she is no respecter of women (or anyone for that matter), and needs to do a Betadine gargle before she speaks. But none of that justifies social media abuse of a woman, period.

That being said, this is also a moment of reckoning for me personally — how can I continue to rail against the BJP if the Manikarnika lady waltzes into my cottage and asks for my support with that Barbie-girl pahari accent, that wide-eyed, limpid look piercing one's heart like an AK-47 bullet and lobotomising the frontal lobe of the brain instantaneously?

A mouse fixed by the stare of a cobra would have more freedom of action than I would in such circumstances. A man, folks, has to be a man when the chips are down, even though he may be knocking on Mr Parkinson's door or Mr Alzheimer's study. Methinks I'll take myself off to Mr J.P. Nadda's office for some badly needed advice — I'm told it's now pro bono and does not need the prior purchase of any electoral bonds.

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