It would be wrong to hold only Prime Minister Narendra Modi responsible for indulging in this practice.
With parliamentary elections around the corner, the “business” that is likely to assume a greater height is that of “selling dreams”. Seriously speaking, there is nothing new about it. Beliefs linked with fortune-tellers, holistic men claiming cure for virtually any kind of physical or emotional ailment, places where “prayers” are supposed to be answered and similar notions have been flourishing here for centuries. Nowadays, charming Bollywood celebrities also guarantee results of products that they claim to use, that is, advertise.
Yes, over the decades, even politicians have become experts at weaving dreams to convince the electorate of promises that their agenda holds for them and the country. Paradoxically, though not all dream-weavers may be credited with total success in this business of weaving dreams, prospects of any abandoning this exercise are as good as non-existent. Rather, it would not be wrong to state that this is one business, which is hardly guided by its failure or success rate.
With respect to failure rate of dream-weaver, in all probability, politicians would rank near the bottom. But if statistical analysis is conducted at a rudimentary level, they’d probably rank near top in indulging in this exercise, particularly when elections are around the corner. Certainly, electoral season is the time when this business may be assumed to be at its peak.
Now it would be wrong to hold only Prime Minister Narendra Modi responsible for indulging in this practice. Indira Gandhi rose to great political heights on the strength of her promising “roti, kapada aur makan” to one and all. Sadly, India still remains home to millions of slum-dwellers. Over the decades, begging has become such a profession that dressing in torn clothes, looking dirty and hungry is the code adhered to those who have taken to this, whether by choice or by force, exercised by business patrons of this profession.
Nevertheless, Indira Gandhi’s “dream plan” struck a positive note among the then Indian electorate because it was probably the first electoral rhetoric in independent India that touched their hearts. The hard reality is that “roti, kapada aur makan” dream is yet to come true for those still living below the poverty line. Rahul Gandhi chose to move beyond rhetoric. He has tried his hand at this drive by eating at dalit homes as a part of his electoral drive. Till date, however, actual success has eluded him.
Undeniably, down the historical lanes, if there is one Indian leader who played an effective role in influencing Indians buy, that is, believe in his dreams to actually implement the same, it was Mahatma Gandhi. The idea of his hunger strikes still sells. His non-cooperation movement to win freedom also sells but not any more in the national interest. Rowdy and chaotic scenes in Parliament and Assemblies do succeed in attracting media attention, but in essence they lead to disruption of duties and services the elected politicians are expected to live up to.
Against this backdrop, Mr Modi’s Mann ki Baat and other plans to convince voters of promises made by him, his party and the government are basically a continuation of type of political rhetoric that has been indulged in over the decades. In fact, the hype raised about Modi wave cannot be delinked from the “dreams” he and his associates have linked with their agenda. Unfortunately, he is confronted with several challenges, which late Indira Gandhi did not face. The latter was not faced with emergence of numerous regional parties. Nor was she confronted with present-day technological devices through which news travels at an amazingly first speed. This implies that in today’s age, political dreams cannot be delinked from a catch-22-like situation. It doesn’t take time to ensure that “news” about political promises reaches voters. However, rivals also don’t take much time in ensuring that they are ready to challenge the same and make their commitments.
It may be noted, not too long ago, issues such as reservation for women, minorities and others used to be considered as fairly politically hot. Women in politics still have great dreams of making it to the top. However, with respect to including more women in Parliament and Assemblies, political dreams seem to have few buyers at practically all levels. Though secular dreams are handed out, in an attempt to win over minorities’ votes, its success rate is decided largely by polarisation of votes along religious, communal and/or secular lines.
Interestingly, despite there being limitations in finding buyers, that is voters, prospects of Indian politicians giving up their electoral mission of selling dreams seems practically impossible. It is one and perhaps only mission that most politicians are experts at — to indulge in selling dreams irrespective of whether buyers are actually there or they are simply day dreaming about the same. They should perhaps consider adding political-discount tag to this drive. It may work for a while. Problems such as inflation, unemployment, terrorism and similar ones still prevail.
Dreams about ending these have never ceased being offered. But their failure rate suggests that they have a “not for sale” tag attached. Well, well, this is it. Whether they sell or not, politically, the business of selling dreams is here to stay!
The writer is a senior journalist. She has come out with two books Ayodhya Without the Communal Stamp and Image and Substance: Modi’s First Year in Office