Why wheat spells doom for Uddhav Thackeray

Politics is anthropology by other means. The hapless Uddhav Thackeray is no hunter-gatherer. His dilemma goes back 12,000 years when around eight million foragers prowled the globe.
Uddhav Thackeray. (Photo | PTI)
Uddhav Thackeray. (Photo | PTI)

Politics is anthropology by other means. The hapless Uddhav Thackeray is no hunter-gatherer. His dilemma goes back 12,000 years when around eight million foragers prowled the globe. They lived on the bounty of primeval forests. They hunted, trapped, or killed animals bigger than them. They tamed a few species such as horses, cattle, sheep, and dogs, and extinguished millions of others with their intrusive footprints.

Gone are the Neanderthals, Denisovans, and the Flores people, presumably wiped out by our victorious species, Homo sapiens. Uddhav’s tragedy is that he and his tribe are being wiped out by India’s greatest political hunter-gatherer today, the BJP. In the Darwinian game, only the most ruthless can endure. The soft-spoken, introvert he is, Uddhav is more comfortable with wildlife photography than exterminating the hostile wildlife relentlessly ravaging his habitat.

His problem, in a metaphorical sense, is wheat. Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari calls agriculture the biggest fraud perpetrated on mankind—a theory guaranteed to enrage the Jai Kisan gestalt. To survive and thrive, political farmers have to cultivate voters, constituents, party men, cadres, and powerful allies whose sole interest is wheat and more wheat. The previous global warming occurred 18,000 years ago when it rained like Noah’s nightmare. The earth became fertile and the Natufians, humans who lived between 12500 BC and 9500 BC began to eat wheat grain.

As time went by, people needed more and more grain, for which they cleared forests to expand their fields. This mass agricultural movement forced people to settle down, build homes and cities, and have possessions. They became slaves of wheat. As populations grew, men went to war for their neighbours’ possessions, wives, and territory. A ruling class was born at the expense of the poor farmer who was dependent on hard work and whimsical weather to produce and sell grain. His efforts kept the elite in their velvet robes. The rulers promoted civilisation in the form of architecture, music, poetry, science, yadda yadda yadda.

Balasaheb Thackeray was a hunter-gatherer, who amassed a huge following by exploiting the Hindu Maratha psyche. He eschewed the chief minister’s chair, knowing very well that he was the supreme chief of his tribe which obeyed only his law and code. In short, he refused to settle down and harvest wheat. His brand of Hindutva did not include cultural imperialism; instead, it was more of a regional political weapon than a nationwide campaign for the supremacy of a specific geographical ethos—the Hindi belt. Uddhav, to his misfortune, left the familial citadel of Matoshree for official Varsha. Rivals like Eknath Shinde, who claimed the original Tiger’s legacy, attacked the Shiv Sena settlement where outsiders were allowed to pitch their tents. And the BJP stormed the citadel by proxy. This is how a dynasty declines. An ideological harvest is appropriated. The loser’s loneliness turns him into a political pauper.

The BJP is foraging for political wheat, and has many wheatfields and granaries in its possession. Man’s hunger for power was nourished by taming the savannah. One day, should the saffron standard fly all over India and the Hindutvapolis stand tall and proud, the rabbit hole will beckon again. The law of karma and the lessons of Nature will reflect in each other as the inevitable cycle of ambition and conquest.

Related Stories

No stories found.

The New Indian Express