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As Outlook celebrates its 21st anniversary, we were busy looking at the exciting, and at times ominous, possibilities in the world of science, fiction, ideology, religion, society and much else. But the events that overtook us this week were constantly forcing us to look back, actually to look over our shoulders. The dark forces that lurk in the shadowy world where power, politics and pelf meet have almost succeeded in deposing the young chief minister of the most populous state of the country. Even as we go to the press, we do not know whether Akhilesh Yadav will survive the trials of filial intrigues or not. He may falter; he may fall. More than his failure as an individual, the shenanigans of the Yadava clan depict the failure of our politics.
All of a sudden, the narrative has changed from a discourse on ideology, wealth creation, jobs and growth to that of the many wives of a politician and their children, their ambitions and the conspiracies they hatch to grab and smash. Though the Ram Lila season is over, there is now prime-time Ramlila of the Ramanand Sagar variety, with Kaikeyi and Manthara playing to full glory and gallery in Lucknow. The Shakuni Mama (chacha in this case) from Mahabharata is also part of Lucknow’s Ramayana troupe, like an instance of literary anachronism or a mixed metaphor.
Apart from the debacle in the 1962 Sino-Indian war, the only dart in the quiver of anti-Congress political formations to aim at Jawaharlal Nehru was his blind love for his daughter, whom he made the president of the Indian National Congress in 1959, when she was just 42. The Marxists, the socialists and the Hindutva ideologues had all long savagely mauled the Nehru-Gandhi family for its dynastic politics. Now, they all seem to be flattering the Nehru-Gandhis by imitating them, by getting their children, nephews, grandchildren and in-laws into positions of power.
Is this the future of our politics? Will the petty squabbles of chhoti bahu and badi bahu determine the polemics of Uttar Pradesh? Well, the answer is all there to be read. Forget about its political or economic ideology, the Samajwadi Party doesn’t even stand for the Yadav caste any longer. It is merely a vehicle to fulfil a family’s endless desire for the good things in life.
The week also saw an unprecedented upheaval at the country’s biggest business behemoth. But unlike the drama in Uttar Pradesh, Ratan Tata’s return is reassuring because it is only to find a more suitable successor. Succession is often tricky. Like families, corporates too can make mistakes. The best way to correct itself would be to take a U-turn and go back to the boardroom. And that is what the Tatas have done. The very fact that Cyrus Mistry was democratically voted out with no director supporting him (two of them merely abstained) proves that Ratan Tata was right. Numbers need to be heeded. But unfortunately, our politicians are the ones who defy the logic of numbers clinging on to feudal trappings of patriarchy.