In the IPL you have a player being bought by a franchise, then telling the press that he has always wanted to play for that franchise. Till next year, when he’s let go and picked up by another, and he repeats the exact same line for the next franchise. In reality shows, you have once-stars and wish-I-could-be-stars fighting in a semi-scripted stage, with narratives of broken relationships and personal mistrust adding spice to the often synthetic conflicts. What ratings gold would it be to combine the two, and I’m sure every TV executive has had this idea, and now it has come to fruition, in the form of the Bengal elections.
If space was the final frontier for Captain Kirk, Bengal is for BJP. Elections will be held in eight phases, for the sake of law and order, and the last thing I remember that happened in eight phases in Bengal was sit-down dinners during weddings. The stakes are high and so is the drama.
There’s the mega-actor, whose versatility in roles from high art to bargain-basement is matched only by his allegiance to political parties, swinging from one political extreme to the other. There are angry workers, weeping on television, anguished at being denied a ticket, wondering what they did wrong, joining the other party within hours. There’re family feuds straight from a Sopranos episode. Bahubalis, who were physically attacking each other a year ago, now share the same stage. Friends are enemies and enemies are friends. The once-accused-as-corrupt are now welcomed as crusaders, and the once-crusaders are dubbed corrupt. Actors and cricketers suddenly discover their deep desire to serve the people, do a photo-op where they raise the party flag, and immediately get assembly tickets, while political operatives who for years have worked on the ground, raising black flags or getting hit by police batons, find themselves in the position of senior engineers in the corporate world, individual contributors told they will never make “management”.
Plato’s critique of democracy was that if you let everyone vote, then the ones who’ll win are those that are only popular, leading to leaders that have neither the ability nor the desire to lead. As politics in Bengal becomes an extension of “influencer marketing”, with even the pretence of beliefs, policy and ideology being thrown to the winds, somewhere Plato must be smiling.
And watching intently, while reaching for “telebhaja”.
This article is intended to bring a smile to your face. Any connection to events and characters in real life is coincidental.
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