THE GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS
It was just the other day that the Prime Minister I K Gujral bemoaned the lack of time to complete his agenda. Seven months is indeed a very short stint to achieve anything of consequence; the PM’s chair would hardly have creaked a few times. With rug-pullers on the prowl and with old men in hurry breathing down the neck, and having to check with the newspapers daily to know if you are still the Prime Minister, even that short tenure can turn out to be a very harrowing experience. Time, the great healer has no doubt, been very unkind, causing many a wound to this gentle politician from the Akalis’ Punjab.
It now appears that time continues to haunt Gujral even in his capacity as caretaker Prime Minister. What was intended as a massive launch of the UF’s poll campaign now portends to become a nightmare for the already beleaguered outfit, as the Prime Minister squarely stands accused of violating the poll code. His mistake was to go beyond the 10 p.m., deadline set by the Election Commission by, which time political parties are expected to wind up their campaign for the day. Gujral ended his speech at 10.20 p.m.
That the Prime Minister was on the threshold of inviting the EC’s attention was obvious from the frantic activity on stage as leader after leader kept reminding him to stop the speech. But all such warnings fell on deaf ears as the PM continued well beyond the deadline and finally when he finished, it was too late. It is even reported that the PM glanced at his watch but strangely found no reason to be alarmed.
Chief Minister Karunanidhi has now come out with an explanation that would put even an errant schoolboy to shame. Yes, you guessed it right. He has claimed that the PM took only about five minutes extra and not half an hour as alleged. So while the Indian Standard Time said it was 10:20 the PM’s watch should have shown 10.05. Though still beyond the EC deadline five minutes is pardonable, we are told. Schoolboys would vouch for it. But so far we have no inkling of the mind of the headmaster.
Our reporter claims that the panic on the stage owing to the PM’s indiscretion prevailed for a good twenty minutes which means the watches of some of those on stage did reflect the true time that warranted pressing the panic switch. The CM however claims that Gujral was just about five minutes beyond 10 p.m. suggesting that there was something wrong with his watch too. So it was not just the PM’s watch that was running slow, we should infer. All said, it is no doubt a minor indiscretion considering the more blatant violations indulged in by several other politicians.
The mystery of the wrong watches however can turn out to be a very revealing episode if one were to discern a trait of the UF that has already cost the nation heavy. In the UF it is not the watches alone that disagree. Its constituents revel in speaking in different voices on any given issue, unmindful of the ridicule they invite upon themselves and the nation. Like an orchestra gone haywire with each instrument playing to a different rhythm, the United Front constituted a united affront on the sensibilities of the people.
This assortment of disparate elements who had presided over the fate of the country for 18 painful months stands squarely responsible for pushing the polity and the economy to the brink, not to speak of the all pervading anarchy in all spheres of activity. True, it was the Congress that murdered the UF, not once but twice, but then the UF itself was a terminally ill patient, with an irrevocable tryst with doom, and begging for mercy killing.
It is these ‘dead’ weights, whose buffoonery ended in a tragedy, who are now awaiting resurrection in the polls to come. We are sure the voters will have no use for watches that are out of sync with the times.
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