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Sai's Take: A political Mahabharatam

May 08, 2019 14:16 IST
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Is there a likeness between the characters from Ved Vyas's timeless epic and those prancing about on the political proscenium?
Saisuresh Sivaswamy finds out.

A scene from the Mahabharata

With Priyanka Gandhi characterising Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi as Duryodhana and Bharatiya Janata Party national President Amit Anilchandra Shah hitting back by saying that the nation will know who Arjun is on May 23, characters from India's greatest epic are being bandied about in election season.

Is there a likeness between the characters from Ved Vyas's timeless epic and those prancing about on the political proscenium? Let me see...

Blinded by love?

Did the blind king's over-indulgence towards the Kauravas ultimately lead to the bloody denouement on the battlefield of Kurukshetra?

As king, could he have upheld Dharma with a firmer hand than he did, ensuring that he did not remain a helpless bystander as the siblings fought a bloody war to the end?

Could the Election Commission of India be considered guilty of a similar charge -- of not doing what is within its powers to ensure a level playing field, of not enforcing compliance with the Queensberry rules?


Pater familias

Doomed to forego the throne for himself, Bhishma it is who makes Hastinapura the impregnable fortress it becomes.

Yet, for all his military prowess and moral fibre, he is unable to prevent the cataclysmic events that unfold in the royal court, nor is he able to opt out of a battle his heart doesn't lie in, spending his last days on a bed of arrows.

The arc is similar to that of Lal Kishenchand Advani, the man who built up the BJP into the election war machine it is today, but who could never get the top job for himself.

In the autumn of his life the pater familias of the Sangh Parivar knows things are awry, but is helpless in preventing them.

Focus, focus, focus

Everyone likes to believe they have focus like the legendary archer, but the fact is that very few actually hit the target.

One man has shown himself worthy of comparison, by the manner in which he has executed his party's election plans from 2014.

Amit Anilchandra Shah may not have referred to himself when he responded to Priyanka Vadra's jibe at the prime minister, but the BJP's electoral record under him shows that he can be compared to Arjun.

Strong man

It is no secret that it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that adds muscle to the BJP's outreach. The saffron party's electoral fortunes depend on the extent of enthusiasm, the mobilisation mounted by the RSS.

In 2014, the RSS threw itself heart and soul behind Modi's prime ministerial campaign, and has since been solidly behind this government.

RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat's contribution to the BJP's electoral fortunes -- contrasted with the lacklustre campaign by his predecessor K S Sudarshan for the NDA in 2004 -- make him a clear choice as Bhim.

Voice of morality

Yudhistra is the upholder of Dharma, the man who does not lie.

Aeons after Ved Vyas immortalised him in the epic, Yudhistra remains the gold standard for morality in public life.

Rather like former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh who, years after demitting office, remains the voice of righteousness and probity.

Of course, even the great Yudhistra has his Ashwathama Hataha moment, showing that no man is blemishless.

The charioteer

In the epic, as the two sides gird up their loins, a key question facing them was: On whose side will Krishna fight?

The Lord offers them a choice: His entire army, or just himself stripped of divinity. The Kauravas opt for numbers; the Pandavas for quality.

And as a mere mortal, Krishna guides the course of war with his strategy.

There is such a man who, sans any grass-roots support or a political base qualifying as an army (which forces him to take the Rajya Sabha route), remains the prime minister's key advisor, strategist, and confidant.

If NDA 3 assumes office, how will Arun Jaitley be rewarded for his valuable inputs?

Hell hath no fury

Thank god no one shares Draupadi's traumatic experience as queen in exile or the humiliation in royal court, for which she swore she will not tie her hair till she was avenged.

But the rage and determination to see a dynasty fall is very much evident in Rahul Gandhi's challenger in Amethi.

Smriti Irani couldn't fulfill her wish in 2014, will she do so this time rond?

Sai's Take

Long-lost brother

The Mahabharatam is ultimately a story of family ties -- some vibrant, some torn asunder. And of the latter, it is the story of Karna that is the most evocative.

Born into a royal family but abandoned as a child, he finds respect and prestige in the enemy camp, for which he remains a loyal soldier, even fighting his real siblings.

Shades from the life of the member of Parliament from Sultanpur, now shifted to Pilibhit?

Varun Gandhi's presence in the BJP camp is a telling story on the rifts within contemporary India's first family.

Mother Superior

In the epic Kunti shepherds her five sons (and attempts to shepherd her first-born too, but without luck) through vicissitudes.

It was she who tells her son Arjun, who returns with the bride he won in a swayamvar, to share the prize equally with his brothers -- none of which apply to Sonia Gandhi.

But the same maternal love and affection you can see in the way she has allowed her first-born to step in as Congress president after her, and make a dash for the top job not once, but twice.

She is very much the wind beneath Rahul Gandhi's sails, ensuring that things go as per the grand plan.

To clarify,saying this doesn't automatically make her son a Pandava.

Arnab Uvacha

Every major event needs a narrator. And for 18 days, Sanjaya, conferred with divya-drishti, conveys the story of the war to the blind king Dhritarashtra.

Rather like how India's most vocal television anchor spins the story of the great battle to his loyal viewers.

Just as history is the account by the victor, so are the great tales the voice of the narrator. And the greatest of them all is Arnab Goswami, who enthralls his audience night after night with tales of a great king, a treacherous enemy, a bloody war and a spectacular victory at the end of it all.

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