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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 23, June 8, 2024

‘Shehzadas’ triumph over Shah and Shahenshah | Faraz Ahmad

Saturday 8 June 2024, by Faraz Ahmad

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During the just concluded two-and-a-half-month-long election campaign, ending 30 May, the star campaigner of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his second in command Amit Shah kept calling out derisively leading Opposition campaigners Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav ‘Shehzadas’ implying that they are there in politics by virtue of their pedigree and not on personal merit as politicians. Modi, of course avoided pejoratively addressing similarly Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray or Dravida Munnetra Kazhgam (DMK) party head and Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin, not to forget Naveen Patnaik from Odisha, even though they too are second generation leaders whose fathers established the political ground in their respective regions. In view of the possibility of approaching at some point of time any one or all of them separately or collectively to desert the rival political INDIA alliance and hitch their boats to Modi’s fishing trawler.

Modi’s frequent diatribe against ‘dynasty’ implied that whereas he, the son of the soil, struggled from the lowest rung to climb up to occupy the highest chair in the country, his opponents were strutting around the political arena by virtue of entitlement.

But none can deny credit to Rahul Gandhi’s countrywide Bharat Jodo and then Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra for turning tables on Modi and shattering his dream of 400 paar by challenging the venomous hate discourse in the country spread by Modi-Shah and the BJP and appealing instead for love, peace and constitutional propriety,

Tejaswi Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar and Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh (UP) have all along been fighting BJP’s majoritarianism for several decades now.

While Rahul did create a national mood to challenge the hate politics of Modi and Amit Shah, he alone could have never achieved this success.

The grit, the determination, the courage and the spirit of accommodation that Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav in UP and Tejaswi Yadav in Bihar and Jharkhand demonstrated in these four months long gruelling campaign made Shah and Shahenshah fall from their high horses, notwithstanding their bombast.

From the days Modi became Gujarat chief minister in the later part of 2001 he fancied being addressed as Saheb by his colleagues and the one who never failed to address him Saheb in public or private, Amit Shah rose in the ranks to occupy the second most important position in Modi’s scheme of things. But once this Gujarat satrap became the Prime Minister in 2014, it was like an unimaginable conquest and then the troll army Modi created on the digital media and millions of his bhakts oft described him as ‘Shahnshah’ meaning the Emperor presumably inspired by an Amitabh Bachchan movie of the same name. They won’t call him Samrat. He probably did not fancy a Samrat for it might remind him of Samrat Ashoka, presumably because like any Sanghi he too secretly nursed a grievance against Ashoka the Great, who spread Buddhism far beyond the Indian shores.

Returning to the theme of this write up the Shah and Shahenshah rode rough shod over India for a decade and if ever anyone dared cross their path like Rahul Gandhi, or Mahua Moitra or Arvind Kejriwal or Sanjay Singh (both of AAP) were not just thrown out of Parliament but sent to jail too in some cases.

But the BJP’s inability to even win the requisite 272 seats in the Lok Sabha to secure its majority, as it had maintained through these last ten years, show how the ‘Shahzadas’ pricked the Shahenshah’s 400 paar balloon.

Modi bhakts have often publicly derided Rahul as ‘Pappu’ Amit Shah would mockingly call him Rahul baba, in public meetings as immature. Nobody believed that Modi riding the supposed Hindutva wave could be pushed to the periphery in the Hindi heartland of all the places. That the cow land would abandon “Jo Ram ko laye hain” and root for ‘Shehzadas’, was something Modi and his bhakts never imagined. Sadly for Modi in the eyes of many these ‘Shehzadas’ are the three heroes of the 2024 elections, proving all the sceptics wrong.

Never mind all the bluster, Shahenshah and Shah either don’t understand or simply turn a blind eye to the reality of Indian politics—the charisma of pedigree. And mind you, it is not restricted to India alone. It is an international phenomenon. It might sound sacrilegious. Upon Nehru’s death Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded him in office. But soon after the bond of fellowship and trust that Nehru built so assiduously among the linguistic and religious minorities started showing signs of strain. Indira’s ascendance to power soon after renewed that bond, though later on, particularly after returning to power in 1980 she seemed to have become too paranoid and started going against her political instincts.

Upon Rajiv’s assassination the Congress party repeatedly offered Sonia the mantle and every time she refused. Then Narasimha Rao led the country, 1991-96 but failed to inspire confidence in the people.

The Congress party virtually dragged Sonia Gandhi from her kitchen to don the mantle of Congress leadership and she successfully steered the party for more than a decade, though she never became the Prime Minister.

In Bihar for instance, once Lalu Prasad was embroiled in fraud fodder cases conjured up by Sushil Modi-Ravi Shankar Prasad duo, his wife Rabri Devi again was pulled out of her kitchen and she successfully ran the state for eight years. The RJD contested the last Assembly elections in 2020 under Tejaswi’s leadership and won the maximum number of seats between the three main contenders, namely RJD, JD-U and BJP. Shows Tejaswi’s acceptance in Bihar is much higher than that of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Even in this parliamentary election, while the RJD under Tejaswi won only four seats, it scored the highest voting percentage. While the BJP currently ruling Bihar under JD-U leader Nitish Kumar with added Modi’s vigorous campaign got only 20.4 % votes, and JD-U even less 18.4 %, Tejaswi garnered 22.1% for the RJD.

Similarly in Uttar Pradesh in 2019 parliamentary polls while the BJP secured 49.98% votes, the SP which contested that election with the BSP then secured only 18.11% and the Congress which contested the UP elections separately secured only 6.36%

In 2024 the two ‘Shehzadas’ brought down the double or rather triple engine BJP train comprising of Shah, Shahenshah and the pretender ascetic wearing saffron, from 49.8% to 41.4%. On the other hand, SP votes under Akhilesh jumped to 33.6% and the Congress led by Rahul too showed a remarkable recovery in the voting percentage to 9.5%. Proves Shah and Sheahneshah together are no match to the ‘Shehzadas’, notwithstanding all the chest beating of Modi’s invincibility. Of course, Karunanidhi’s Shehzada M.K. Stalin put to nought all the high-profile campaign, big claims and false halo of Shah and Shahenshah of conquering the Dravid land as well for all the meditation at the Vivekanand rock in Kanyakumari.

Ironically the only Shehzada whom the Shahenshah succeeded in defeating was Naveen Patnaik in Odisha, not for any other reason, than the people of Odisha getting tired of seeing the same face for quarter of a century and no Congress leader, worth the name having emerged there in all these years.

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