February 05, 2005

To judges with sense

Two politicians the Indian middle-class -- me included -- love to hate: Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife, Rabri Devi, of Bihar. To this middle-class, these two stand for everything that we see as wrong with our politics. The corruption, nepotism, favouritism, indifference to development -- and finally, even the assumption that they are stupid country bumpkins who are incompetent to run anything, let alone a major state: Lalu and Rabri, we think, stand for all that.

Right on all counts, except the last. Lalu and Rabri are many things, but what they decidedly are not is stupid. I've always felt that Lalu is our country's shrewdest politician, keenly aware that his political fortunes are not determined by the contempt of the middle-class and the bloggerati, but by his constituency in Bihar. He knows better than most just how to win elections there; and even now, when exit polls show Lalu trailing in the current Bihar Assembly elections, I'm willing to bet that the final results will return him and Rabri to power.

I've also always felt that with the supercilious contempt we like to throw at Lalu ("scum of the earth" and "burden on the earth" are two more earthy epithets I've run across), we not only underestimate him, we also underestimate his voters. We undermine any chance of ever getting rid of him. Because Lalu laughs at our contempt, and then uses it to win his next election.

But there are also times when people, anxious to damn the pair with everything at hand, throw stuff at them that only ends up as egg on their own faces. Most recently, there was the widely-circulated photograph of Lalu and Rabri on a couch. This was taken, the circulaters told us righteously, during the singing of the national anthem. That the couple were sitting, they told us more righteously still, showed their immense disrespect for the anthem and our country.

And this resulted in a positive flood of righteous -- always righteous -- invective: Lalu and Rabri should be "flogged in public", no they should be "stoned to death in public", it is "the height of arrogance", it "kills my soul", it shows L&R's "ignorance and shame" -- on and on. One of these invective-mongers took off on another tangent. Disrespect for the national anthem was rampant, he said: witness the time he found a gathering singing the anthem before their function, witness how they sang it with only two "Jaya He"s in the penultimate line, not three! Horrors!

And naturally, somebody in Indore thought it fit to take this to court. (L&R on the couch, not the two Jaya He's -- though who knows, maybe someone is trying that as well). Today's news is that a magistrate called Narendra Jain threw out the case, pointing out two things.

One: sitting during the playing of the national anthem is not prima facie a crime.

Two: the photograph does not establish that the national anthem was even being sung at the time.

Join me in being grateful that our judiciary, at any rate, still has people with sense.

And the fellows who not only specialise in unfounded insinuation, but like to pretend that respect comes from merely standing; not only that, but are outraged by two instead of three; not only that, but call for people who don't stand to be stoned?

Well, pay no attention to them. Just like Lalu and Rabri don't.


The Tobacconist said...

You said it Sr. !!
He is easily the shrewdest clown in town. I have almost given up being outraged!! I feel he is picked on while the rest of the lot get away with murder .. literally!
The fact that I don't see my countrymen outraged after everything that happened at Godhra and all the scandals everywhere, tells me somewhere within us we have made peace with the "scum" around us. :)
Love reading your pieces.

Sanketh (class of 2004)

Dilip D'Souza said...


You say: Believe me, our electorate is capable of orchestrating such a unbelievable act.Couldn't agree more. After all, we did elect one Vajpayee to PM, one Modi to CM, one Sajjan Kumar and one Tytler to MP, need I go on?

You're right: by being amused by him, we play right into his hands. He's not complaining!

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ullekh, you're right on the button. Lalu wasn't what destroyed Bihar; yet he also had the chance to lift Bihar and he instead sank it further into the grime.

And kidding or not, you really won't have to beat my brains out because I'll tell you right here right now what I admire about Lalu, and not in secret: his political savvy. Politicians, in the end, have got to be politicians, and Lalu is a masterful one.