Politics by blackmail: Eulalie syndrome in Indian public life

By The SATimes News Service

By Saeed Naqvi

If the Gandhi trio stirred themselves into action as a serious opposition, is there a possibility that they would end up in jail? If they were spared despite this affront, it would imply that the Modi outfit has come to the conclusion that the Gandhis are now totally harmless.

Requirements of the media in this regard are helpful to the Narendra Modi establishment in a peculiar way. It keeps the Gandhis in frequent focus with the express purpose of sustaining the delusion that they are still the rallying point for a national opposition.

This salience given to the Gandhis keeps them in the public eye and thereby a massive roadblock in the way of any opposition unity, particularly since the Gandhis and their limping cohorts constantly “emote” an urge to “revive”. They know that such a revival is impossible but the belief serves a purpose indicated above: it obstructs opposition unity. The media is content with the simplicity of the tweedledum versus tweedledee narrative. After all, coalitions and regional diversities are complexities impossible to contain in soundbytes.

In recent times, a story that has wafted out of the Gandhi enclosure is one of differences between them. Sonia Gandhi, with reliable retainers like Ahmad Patel is averse to rocking any boat. Status quo, uncomfortable though it be, is about the best she sees for the brood in the given circumstances. Her listless politics is also a function of her indifferent health.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s status quoism derives from her personal anxieties, family problems and an inability to cope with responsibilities. Ask Kishori Lal Sharma, appointed years ago to nurse the ‘family burroughs’ of Rae Bareli and Amethi and he will guardedly spill the beans. The poor fellow’s Stan Hardy (as in Laurel and Hardy) moustache greyed waiting for Priyanka to address the ‘Congress volunteers’. But Priyanka, like Godot, never showed up.

Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, is being more assertive about beliefs he has long held and which approximate to the line Rajiv Gandhi enunciated at the 1985 Congress Centenary in Mumbai chastising the ‘power brokers’. Is Rahul Gandhi looking for that kind of a platform?

Politics these days is at a standstill because of the lockdown, of course, but also because of what I call the ‘Eulalie’ syndrome. This light hearted diversion comes from Wodehouse. The resourceful Jeeves has come to the assistance of his master, Bertie Wooster, at a particularly challenging moment.

Spode, the Earl of Sidwik, has become a permanent social menace in a country house which is Bertie’s favourite haunt. How to cut down Spode’s bombast? That is Bertie’s challenge. Jeeves provides the panacea. Bertie has to sneak upto Spode and whisper, “I know all about Eulalie.” Bertie follows Jeeves’ advice. The result is electric. Spode becomes white as a sheet and collapses in the chair like a deflated balloon. It turns out that before Spode began to float in London’s high society, he owned a store called Eulalie which sold lingerie known for its bras with bold designs. Eulalie, then is harmless blackmail. But the blackmail which has become the staple in contemporary politics is brutal.

A whisper on the National Herald case or Robert Vadra’s land deals and Sonia Gandhi will begin to resemble Spode after the latter heard the threat made to him, “I know all about Eulalie.”

After the BJP’s stunning victory in UP in 2017, the opposition, armed with data on electoral fraud, sought Sonia Gandhi’s permission to hold a press conference. She refused to get involved in “controversies”.

Just as your eye settles on these facts, India Today thrusts before you its poll results: Modi’s approval ratings are 78 per cent. Like the Priest in Kurosawa’s Rashomon, you walk away nodding your head, “What is the truth?”

(The opinion piece appeared in IANS)

Image courtesy of (File photo)

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