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  Opinion   Columnists  14 Jun 2024  Shobhaa De | Watch out: India’s #WeToo movement now under way!

Shobhaa De | Watch out: India’s #WeToo movement now under way!

Irreverent, provocative, opinionated... Shobhaa De has been challenging status quo for four decades... and is at her best when she punctures inflated egoes. You can reach her at: @ShobhaaDe(Instagram) and @DeShobhaa(Twitter).
Published : Jun 15, 2024, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Jun 15, 2024, 12:10 am IST

From PR disasters to surprising alliances, Indian politics heats up post-elections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Image)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI Image)

Ufffff … I cannot handle the excessive pyaar-vyaar on parade. Bro love is all well and good, but right now there is an overload of fake political kootchie-cooing going on. Sworn adversaries are hugging, embracing, cuddling, even kissing in public! Itna sara PDA is a bit much. Especially when the actors are sub-standard. Even our natakbaazi movie stars show more restraint when they greet rivals and generously distribute jaadu ki jhappis to enemies. The new-found, forced bonhomie on parade at the swearing-in of Cabinet ministers, please… nobody’s buying into the #WeToo movement. Three PMs for the price of one? A shaky political menage a trois? No, thank you. Just as the strident #MeToo movement collapsed even before it took off in India, this one seems equally doomed. Fortunately, the election results proved one thing unequivocally: our valuable votes spoke louder than words. We won!

The fun is about to begin.

Fasten your seat belts, as the haggling, jockeying and sulking moves from civilised to savage. There are far too many big egotists who have been left out in the cold. And they ain’t keeping mum. Bruised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s snub, mini-revolts are being hatched as rejected netas lick their wounds and plot away. Citizens, on the other hand, are relieved to note there are no major changes in important Cabinet portfolios. There is comfort in continuity.  It’s far safer to deal with known players than novices. Nirmala Sitharaman’s sari wardrobe will be upgraded yet again, as she presents the all-important Budget next month. Let’s hand it to the indefatigable finance minister… she will be creating history, beating Dr Manmohan Singh’s record, by presenting her seventh Budget. Our markets have stabilised and are back on track after a major hiccup. In a city obsessed by dhanda, daily market movements are as closely tracked as bowel movements. Indigestion and gas on Dalal Street lead to uncomfortable bloating across India. Nirmala’s seventh Budget is keenly anticipated since she has already promised “ease of living” as her mantra. Nobody knows what exactly that means, but it sounds upbeat and positive, so it’s fine.

A bland conciliatory mood is dominating drawing room conversations, with hardly any maara maari, gaala-gaalis or aggression. This is most disappointing! Hello! An unlikely public hero emerged this week: RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. His unexpected comments on Manipur caused major ripples, with political watchers interpreting his measured outburst as a timely ticking off -- was Mr Bhagwat explicitly warning the Prime Minister to get real about concerns other than his own divinity? Going forward, will the PM cut back on bombast and focus on hard issues callously neglected by his administration? Jyotiraditya Scindia has a tough challenge ahead of him, as the new minister of development in the northeastern region. An unprecedented civil war has to be contained and the alienated Manipuris have to be reassured that all possible help will be extended to restore peace. Mohan Bhagwat’s sober and far-sighted statements took India by surprise, though insiders claim Mr Bhagwat was driven to speak up thanks to the Prime Minister’s high-handedness. A sharp rap on the knuckles should fix the problem.

A newly-minted, visibly diminished and chastened Narendra Modi is too far a cry from the embedded image we have of a chest-thumping, aggressive leader egging on supporters to assert their Hindutva and all that goes with it. The defeat in Ayodhya provided the best answer. That, along with the lacklustre show across India, must hurt a lot. Ayodhya’s thappad resonated far and wide, but the fear of a backlash remains omnipresent as is evident going by the presence of heavily-armed commandos guarding the temple. Besides, can the PM suddenly change from Alpha to Beta overnight?

Unfortunately for the women of India, once again there is very little space for them in national politics, with just two women in NaMo’s Cabinet. That he has kept Muslims out is a little surprising, given his political astuteness. Surely, this would have been the right moment to demonstrate “parivartan”? Yes, Muslims did not vote for the man who called them “infiltrators”. Deep-rooted prejudice and hate cost the BJP big time. A token Muslim Cabinet minister would have been a strategically shrewd tactic, a smart move. But no! Two women -- naam ke vaaastey. Zero Muslims. 66 crore women represented by a paltry two. And 20 crore Muslims completely ignored. Ummm… as the cliché goes: a leopard does not change its spots. Mewing like a pet pussycat, and hugging old foes, isn’t fooling watchful analysts. Optics alone aren’t enough.

The swiftest and most sickening about-turn has come from the Godi Media -- thank you, Ravish Kumar, for the yummy coinage. All of a sudden, the Cutlery Brigade in Delhi has put aside its spoons and brought out the forks and knives. Chamchas who prostrated themselves in NaMo’s court for ten long years are singing a different tune, little realising they’d lost their credibility and relevance long ago. Sycophants are jumping ship! The floodgates have been thrown open after ten years of abject servility. Criticising the emperor is back in vogue. Alas, nobody gives a damn these days what mighty media houses say through their mouthpieces. They were beaten at their own game by the digital content providers whose numbers, influence and reach had already reduced print giants into pygmies. Even so, it’s pathetic to see the volte face. Prominent names who rode on the coattails of the BJP bosses and blatantly ran down all others are scrambling to get back into the game by sucking up to new political heavyweights -- the same ones they’d viciously targeted and attacked for a decade. Godi-Modi Media needs heavy mattresses to land on. Their spines are missing. Tongues, too.

Talking of heroes, there’s a manufactured dreamboat in town: no, not Taha (Tajdar) Shah. It’s “Bihar ka Lala” Chirag Paswan, 41, the surma-wearing Cabinet minister of food processing industries (strange ministry and stranger designation), who has been declared a “national crush” by admirers. “Hello handsome’’, they post, referring to Chirag as their favourite “Pookie”. Excuse me -- have they not watched the leaked video of the same man, a failed actor, rehearsing his lines during his father’s funeral? Well, we could do with many more pookies in parliament. As of now, Mahua Moitra and Kangana Ranaut are being watched keenly. The “who wore it better” battle begins with these two fiery beauties in Parliament. We are all waiting for the Great Parliament Show to open for a fresh season. Till then, sabsa bada sawaal remains: Kaun Banega Speaker? Any guesses???

Tags: modi 3.0, prime minister narendra modi