(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
One of the most strangely popular hobbies of sports fans is to participate in a fantasy league. A fantasy league is sort of a fan’s wet dream come true. It gives them the one thing that they think will help their team win the game. If only they could choose the players! Yes, the best judge of a team’s strategy is the guy with a beer belly shouting things at the television who has never played a sport in his life.
Such sentiment is not limited to sports fans, though. There is an amateur pundit in all of us. From the day the last vote in the assembly elections was cast, to the day the counting began, the punditrati was busy playing fantasy elections. The news anchors, political analysts and party spokespeople spent three days holding discussions on hypothetical results. Though no party would accept the fact that they would do as badly as the results predicted, the harsh rhetoric of the past few months had been already forgotten and everybody was in a conciliatory mood. Old tropes were being dusted off and called into service again to sugar-coat any future cynical power grab. Each party was ready to work with their sworn opponent, ‘for the good of the people of the country.’ Ah! We are so lucky to be living in a utopia in which our politicians are so patriotic that they don’t let mere principles stand in their way.
The Congress used this time for a soft launch of ‘Operation Don’t Blame Rahul Gandhi.’ Everyone from Rita Bahugana to the ghost of Arjun Singh went around saying that if the Congress did bad in UP the blame was to solely rest on their shoulders. The BJP took turns giving dubious reasons for the absence of Narendra Modi from the campaign trail to having to explain why having 15 contenders for a single post means that everybody in the party is on the same page.
Then, as the election results came in, alliances were being built in the television studio. As the largest party in all the states staked their claim to form the government with Arnab Goswami, common sense conclusions were being presented as an ‘exclusive’ (BREAKING: Water will quench your thirst. Remember, you heard it here first!). The only narrative anyone was paying attention to was the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the new star of Indian politics. Since he is a blank slate in the public imagination, it’s easy to project people’s hopes and aspirations on him. He’s young! He can speak English! He uses an iPad! He caused a tectonic shift in Indian politics as the people of UP rejected a scion of a dynasty for the scion of another dynasty!
However, in six months, everyone will be asking whether Akhilesh is “losing his mojo” when he is unable to clamp down on the law and order problem in UP (because how do you clamp down on the very people whose support you need to stay in power?). And then, in 2014, when some other party gets more seats than the SP in the parliamentary election, everyone will ask whether he was “all hype and no substance.” There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that a government led by Akhilesh will be any different than a government led by his father, but who knows! Maybe Chief Minister Michael Corleone will be the one to take the family business legit.
It was also hilarious to watch the exberts on twitter dance on the grave of Rahul Gandhi’s political career. Because in India, political careers hinge on one victory or one loss! That is why the career of a young, promising MP called Atal Behari Vajpyee was ended in 1984, when his party was routed in the election. Who knows, maybe he could have gone on to become Prime Minister! And has anybody heard from former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha after she lost two consecutive elections? I bet she is planning to go back to acting in movies right about now.
People forget that Indian politics is like the Hotel California. You can check-out any time you like but you can never leave.