(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
As India’s favorite insane asylum outpatient, Mamta Banerjee celebrated the first year of her reign of terror and darkness, the kind folks at Sardesai TV had a bright idea. They decided to stop shouting for a couple of minutes and hold a Q & A session with the newish overlord of West Bengal. And then, in a scenario which even a casual viewer of a badly plotted sitcom could foresee, during the session, the minute someone asked her a real question, Ms. Banerjee not only refused to offer an answer, but for good measure called the person asking the question a maoist (as you do!) and then walked out. It takes real talent to share a stage with Sagarika Ghose and still come out looking like the crazy one, but, if anyone can accomplish this arduous task, then it’s the Commie Crusher of Calcutta. This is what happens when you surround yourself with yes-men and don’t allow any contradictory opinion to even wander near your frontal lobe. Maybe if she left the padded room they keep her in once in a while there would be hope that maybe one day she would have a tiny grip on reality?
It seems that delusion is an important part of public life in this country.
Perhaps it is why human tub of lard and Information and Broadcasting minister Kapil Sibal was able to stand on the ‘sacred’ floor of parliament and be able to claim, with a straight face, that India is perhaps more liberal than even America or Western Europe. So liberal it hurts! So liberal that we ban books without reading them. So liberal that we send the most number of takedown notices to Google. So liberal that we deny visas to foreign journalists who are critical of our policies. Maybe he actually does believe the constant obfuscation he offers in lieu of real answers?
Although that was nothing compared to the travesty that was the ‘celebration’ of the three years in government of the second iteration of the UPA. That is like throwing a party to commemorate that drunken night three years ago when you had a one night stand with a random person and they gave you syphilis. Though no one was surprised because this government has turned tone-deafness into an art form. Not only have they spent each excruciating day in the past three years muddling from one crisis to the next, they are so barren that every time some wayward ally threatens to pull the rug from beneath their feet, a small part of you kind of wants them to go ahead with their threat so that this mass of diseased puss pretending to govern the country for the past few years can finally be put out of its misery. Only a deluded party would look at the drubbing it received in the assembly elections held in the country’s biggest state and try to convince itself that it was not a repudiation of its policies; that it would have won the elections had it not been for infighting. That it decided to stay the course is a testament to the long distance relationship between reality and the leaders of the Congress party.
Of course, if we had a proper opposition they would capitalize on such brazen incompetence. However, our principal opposition party is made up of a rag-tag bunch of jokers - bereft of any ideas - who cannot even stand the sight of each other yet still persist with the pretension of being a cohesive unit only because of their unmitigated and naked lust for power. An opposition party which continues to offer nothing but empty, unproductive gestures instead of any legitimate debate or any useful policies. The opposition parties in this country are so weak and helpless that they forcibly ceded their space to desi Robin Hood and his merry band of tax evading, expense fudging, and invective throwing minions.
Now, nobody currently embodies the collective delusion of our political class more than P.A. Sangma. A politician who was important for a few minutes in 1996, and is on what many observers would describe – if they want to be really, really kind - as a quixotic quest to be President. In his shamelessness, he has even managed to sell out the very people whose interests he claims to care for. According to Sangma, letting him mangle English words for five years in Rashtrapati Bhavan would right all the wrongs of the past. The profound distance the North East has felt from the mainland, the years of being ignored by the central government, it would all be fixed if they make a guy who even members of his own party aren’t aware of, the President. The most incredulous claim he has made is that a President Sangma would bring down naxalism and hurt the insurgency. Yes, a President Sangma would also find a cure for cancer, fix the imbalanced gender ratio, singlehandedly bring an end to the corruption that ails the country and make it rain cute puppies and edible confetti all the time.
Which brings us back to Mamta Banerjee. She ended her week by leading a protest against the government. This was an act of such bravado that it caused a fissure in the space-time continuum. Even though she is in government both at the centre and the state, she figured that the best plan of action would be to lead a procession against both these entities. Usually she is just judge, jury and executioner; however, this time she was both Chief Minister and the Leader of Opposition. There was even an awkward moment when she, in her capacity as chief minister, called herself, in her capacity as leader of opposition, a maoist.
Somewhere in famous people heaven, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are looking down on her and going “Even we can’t cure this.”