Historical and geographical blunders, and then those of the political kind
The Congress is gleefully rubbing hands. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has done it again. He has proved beyond reasonable doubt that his grasp over Indian history is, to put it mildly, shaky. He confuses Taxila with Nalanda, Chandragupta Maurya with his namesake of the Gupta Dynasty, and now horror of horrors—Shyamji Krishna Varma with Shyama Prasad Mookerjee! The celebrations, we think, are a bit premature.
Before we turn to the problem of ‘remedial history classes’ for our leaders, the arrogance of the arrogant aristocratic wolves in democratic sheep’s skin has to be addressed. Digvijaya Singh aka Diggy Raja, who has obviously had a privileged education at a ‘public school’ fit enough for princelings, has utilised this lapse to snidely run down shishu mandirs (where the poor Gujarat chief minister was schooled) for ‘the quality of education’ they provide. Sad commentary on the mindset of the members of feudal ruling class that presides over our destinies more than six decades after Independence. Not so long ago, another Congress worthy had commented insultingly on a colleague’s Plebian collage suggesting—only half jocularly—the inadequacy of his intellectual equipment and English linguistic skills. No one in the government is inclined to retrospect who is responsible for the abysmal quality of school education in the country and the sad state of government-run schools where the ruled are condemned to send their progeny. The mansabdar flunkies, however, dare not whisper even in mumbled slang the many faux pas committed by their own supreme leader.
Those ‘born to rule’—scions of major or minor dynasties—needn’t have any academic qualifications; all others must keep clearing various hurdles arbitrarily placed on an uneven playing field. ‘The Game’ keeps changing and goalpost is constantly on the move.
First things first. What we are witnessing is a no-holds-barred contest between irreconcilable political opponents. The ideology of ‘secularism’ as defined by the Congress and UPA versus ‘communalism’ as manifested in Hindutva interpreted by the BJP, led aggressively by Modi, is just one dimension of this ‘winner takes all’ contest. ‘Democracy’ versus ‘Fascism’ is another aspect that is hyped almost all the time. The voters weigh their options as they make up their minds watching daily bouts between ‘Feku’ and ‘Pappu’ in the soap opera-like episodes. No one believes or has the time to take seriously the suggestion that candidates for the top job in the country should take crash courses in the manner of aspirants preparing for GS paper in preliminaries of Civil Service Examinations.
The learned Prime Minister, we dare say, has contributed the most to erosion of public faith in value of education and knowledge. Look how deftly he has shipwrecked the economy when at the helm. The ‘best and brightest’ he has surrounded himself with—with much greater flair and impeccable international credentials and flawless accents—have only exposed themselves as obnoxious ostriches totally out of touch with Indian reality. Be it the measure of poverty in the land or remedies to curb the spiralling price rice, their incompetence is astounding. Ensconced in their air-conditioned offices and homes, they look down on the ill-bred, uneducated as good as illiterate smelly sons of the soil.
Little do they realise that the millions restless for change aren’t interested in the latest breakthroughs in historical research or even history as documented in primary school textbooks. For that matter, they are not in the least interested in lessons in geography, economics or physics. Those who live ordinary, deprived lives full of insecurity, vulnerability to systemic violence and suffer from apathy of this government don’t require lessons in social dynamics, identity politics. Caste and community, religion and region are ‘negotiated’ everyday in the battle for survival that the weak have to wage.
Whether it is Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi, the country isn’t appointing a primary school teacher specialising in history or physics. The candidate isn’t going to be given bonus marks for English language skills either. What is going to tilt the scales is the image. One whom the people perceive as honest, experienced and efficient, will have more than the proverbial edge. Wretched and uncouth they may be, but the unlettered aren’t mindless. They haven’t stopped asking questions about corruption and correlating scams and scandals to price rise. They aren’t going to be distracted with slips of tongue—accidental, Freudian or intended.
Let’s not forget that once the Congress pounced on Modi’s historical and geographical blunders, he immediately tore into the PM’s speech launching a retaliatory fusillade with heavy artillery booming loud, echoing Partition and recent Chinese incursions blending history and geography in a single jarring lesson.