Bharat Jodo, elephants & staying power

Eighteen months to go for one of the, pardon the cliche, grandest spectacles on earth of what we will be celebrating on Thursday — the International Day of Democracy.

Published: 14th September 2022 06:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th September 2022 12:49 PM   |  A+A-

Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra at Palayam in Thiruvananthapuram | Vincent Pulickal

Express News Service

KOCHI: 18 months to go for one of the, pardon the cliche, grandest spectacles on earth of what we will be celebrating on Thursday — the International Day of Democracy. And the poll pother has begun in India. Parties and regional satraps are busy revisiting and resetting strategies for the 2024 general election. The usual suspects — Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal, Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Sharad Pawar, Chandrasekhar Rao, et al. — are gingering up the scene to the right measure. Asaduddin Owaisi, meanwhile, is doing his bit of stirring by calling for a khichdi government at the Centre.

Coming up soon would be terms such as “consensus candidate”, “dark horse”, “all vs BJP”, etc.
 The biggest mover, as well as shaker over the past few days, has been the Congress, which is all gung-ho over the 3,570-km Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi.

“The elephant has woken up,” party stalwart Jairam Ramesh said. Analysts and fellow travellers, however, believe the party is yet to acknowledge the elephant in its room.The poor crown prince has been pilloried and pummelled on social media ever since the start of the yatra. And the Congress has been taking fire even from friendly outposts and media war rooms. The CPM, which usually refrains from directly targeting Rahul, tweeted a Rahul caricature wondering why the Congress is spending 18 days in Kerala, and just two in Uttar Pradesh.

While the BJP and Narendra Modi have been tom-tomming the resonant idea of ‘New India’, the grand old party is struggling to sell its and Rahul’s umpteenth ‘new avatar’. And, to be frank, photos of the yatra leader hugging supporters or sharing tea, biscuits and bhaji posted ad nauseam borders on what new-gen social media pundits call ‘cringe’.

“The Congress is still fighting the battles of 2014,” remarks a political observer.   Add to that controversies such as Rahul’s publicised meeting with a Kanyakumari parish priest, who was booked and is out on bail for alleged hate speech, hurting religious sentiments and saying, “Bharat Mata… Bhoomi Devi causes scabies. We wear footwear so that Bharat Mata can’t contaminate us”. Great start to Bharat Jodo!

But, in Indian politics, all these don’t really matter. What matters is how the end game is played. And Rahul, literally, has miles to go with his yatra. I wish some pastor reminds him about going the extra mile, said to be adapted from Jesus Christ’s commandment in the Sermon on the Mount: “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

It is such efforts to ‘go extra miles’ that keep democracy healthy, vibrant. The show must go on. Democracy, after all, is the “worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, in the imperialist Winston Churchill’s words.

According to Britannica, the term democracy “is derived from the Greek dēmokratia, which was coined from dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century BCE to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens”.

It would be interesting to see which way the Indian dēmos will sway in the coming days. Keen followers of politics are already rubbing their hands in anticipation of the exciting days ahead in the world’s largest democracy. And, in the end, it all boils down to one word: power. Nothing, perhaps, has seduced man more than power. Even the most humble human around wields immense power in his fingertip on D-Day. Even a silly social media troll believes he is an integral part of a larger power centre. That’s the enchanting beauty of democracy.   

Interestingly, the word ‘power’ has Indian roots. It is traced to Anglo-French usage of pouair or povoir, which came from colloquial or Vulgar Latin potere. This was derived from the Classic Latin potis, which meant “able, capable”. And potis is said to have been a variant of Sanskrit patih, which means “lord or master” (husband, too, in subsequent use).

Okay, time for me to be a good patih and do some dishes at home. Have a powerful week ahead!
Power breakfast (interchangeable with lunch):

“1. A high-powered business meeting conducted during a breakfast meal
2. Any breakfast-time meal that is considered especially nutritious and energy-rich.”
More power to someone: “Used to encourage someone or express approval of their actions.”
All power to your elbow: “May you find success in your activity or pursuit.”
On a power trip: “Engaged in exerting an excessive degree of control or authority over others, especially as a means of inflating or bolstering one’s ego or self-worth.”
Drunk with power: “To become consumed with notions of one’s self-importance and apt to exercise one’s authority in a domineering, arrogant, and reckless way.” (cliché)
Power dressing: “The practice of dressing in a style intended to show that one holds an important position in business, politics, etc.”

Soft power: “The ability of a nation or other political entity to reach a desired outcome by non-violent methods (such as diplomacy, negotiation, foreign aid, etc.) and without the use or threat of force (i.e. military action).”

Do one a power of good: “To be very beneficial to one.”

Power play: “An action, behaviour, or strategy intended to assert, enhance, or exaggerate one’s power, authority, or influence.”

 Tip the balance of power: “To alter the balance of a situation such that one side or element has more power or a greater advantage than the other.”

Pulling power: “The ability or power to draw people in, as by having particularly unique, interesting, famous, desirable, etc., qualities or characteristics.”

Staying power: “The ability to remain relevant, influential, profitable, or successful in the future.”
Absolute power corrupts absolutely: “One who holds unchecked power or authority is likely to become corrupt or abuse one’s position. This phrase is usually attributed to 19th-century historian Lord Acton.”
Speak truth to power: “To speak out against the people or bodies in power to demand justice, equality, social change, etc.”

People power: “A political power, pressure, or force that comes from the collective will of a society’s population.”


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