Sometimes when I’m stuck in a traffic jam and all I see are trucks barring the way forward, I have to remind myself that it’s not a Durga Puja or Ganpati immersion day. Those trucks actually contain netas from allegedly secular Opposition parties who are crossing over to the dark side, cheering madly and hurling insults at their former party chiefs. Some for filthy lucre, others to escape harassment from alleged corruption/ criminal cases.
As a responsible citizen who voted for a candidate from one of the allegedly secular parties, I want to rush to the Supreme Court and tell them to cancel my vote for that turncoat because he does not represent my interests anymore. Freeze this turncoat’s career and replace him/her with another person from the same party I voted for. But will anyone listen?
I do not wish to be tried for contempt of court, and I assure you that I’m not being contemptuous but distraught when I say that I have lost faith in the judiciary. Most judges appear to be far more interested in pleasing the powers that be and ignoring citizens.
Turncoat netas apart, there are a fair number of retired bureaucrats too who are being transported to the BJP’s headquarters in smaller tempos. Now, I can understand this perfectly well: when people enter their second childhood, colourful toys and sticky sweeties become extremely attractive again.
Which brings me to a chap I was indifferent to till a couple of weeks ago: When Dr S Jaishankar was appointed Foreign Secretary in 2015, I viewed him through the eyes of any old casual citizen observer who is more concerned about the terrible goings on in the country itself, foreign relations be damned!
Frankly, I didn’t see any standout moments that called for applause in foreign relations with Jaishankar at the helm. Our friendship with Nepal became worse, is all I noted, but I put Nepal’s resentment down to the Dear Leader and our media behaving like attention-seeking, big brotherly fools, glorifying themselves over the horrifying earthquake in Nepal. You have to admit it—India’s behaviour was toe-curlingly embarrassing.
After Jaishankar retired in 2018, he whiled away a year as President, Global Corporate Affairs at Tata Sons. I guess his vital qualification was that he could tell fish knives from steak knives, and also had important contacts across the world. Good for Tata Sons, but pretty small fry for him, I assume. So, no one was astonished that he rushed into the Dear Leader’s arms and hugged and clung to him exactly the way the Dear Leader hugs and clings to world leaders, when he was offered the post of India’s External Affairs Minister in 2019. Yay—he could mingle with the truly powerful people in the world again!
What did astonish me though was that Jaishankar gave up his cloak of neutrality and joined the ruling party. The man I hoped would caution the bigoted leaders of the BJP to stop spewing hatred and punish lynch mobs (even if only because the world was watching, and it would make his job far easier) became one of them. He walked into it with his eyes wide open, at that!
Imagine my horror when I was surfing TV channels and saw Jaishankar dressed as a member of a violent Hindutva mob with a ginormous tikka smeared across his forehead and a saffron scarf draped nattily around his neck. If the news channel hadn’t identified him, I’d never have guessed it really was him! A few days later, I saw a photograph of him in a suit, flaunting a saffron square in his jacket pocket and I sighed wearily. ‘Born again Hindutwadi type,’ is what I muttered darkly to myself. It’s not looking good for India, folks.
As we all know, born again types are worse than the originals. I expect tedious sermons and articles on the ills of secular, inclusive values from him soon. Moan.
I end on a note of deeper gloom: my devious mind tells me that Jaishankar was used as fish bait to lure other bureaucrats to the RSS fold. And my devious mind may well be right. The message the BJP has sent is subliminal, and a sort of ad is playing in our heads: Jaishankar dancing and grinning foolishly like Double Sri while informing us that ever since he surrounded himself with violent bigots, his hair has become thicker and he doesn’t have to chew antacids again.