The March of April Fools

Poll time would undoubtedly qualify as the peak fooling season. Providence too adds its bit because the electoral process often coincides with April, a month that begins on All Fools Day. So, with the nation now on the threshold of another great democratic overhaul, the fooling spree has begun in right earnest. The voter would emerge as the final fool for sure, but this being parley time, the primary players in the fooling arena now are the politicos and parties, all vying to form fail-safe alliances. But not very fool-safe though; the parade of fools and foolers (pardon the writers’ licence) is verily on view with roles changing often too. Today’s smart ones could be tomorrow’s fools and vice versa. There’s surely a level fooling field!

The PMK and its maverick maruththuvar aiyya would win hands down in the game of making asses out of political partners. In an unbelievable (and dont believe it, please) display of ‘inner party democracy’, the party has decided to go with the AIADMK, what with over 2000 members of the its General Council voting in favour of J against only about 100 for K. Well, well, it looks even rationalists can be taken for a ride. The maruththuvar would now take the right turn to Poes Garden after driving down Dr Radhakrishnan Saalai from Gemini Junction. The point is it could have easily been the left turn to Gopalapuram too till the last minute, and it may still happen, post poll. In the Ramadoss Roulette, the victims rotate.

The conscientious son, Anbumani, after a healthy stint of almost five years in the cabinet has promised to resign. Actually he need not. For there is no UPA to quit from. Ask Lalu. He has not alighted from his ministerial perch even though his party has fallen out with the Cong. Neither has Ram Vilas Paswan who had cast his own lot with Lalu to defy the mighty Cong. Or may be the two think it is the Cong that has quit the UPA. In any case, the UPA and the Government are not the same and you can be part of one without being in the other. For the present, the Bihari duo have left the Cong with cow dung on its face by dividing the State among themselves and offering a paltry three out of forty to the Grand Old Party! Or is it Grand Old F… no, we’ll leave it at that!

The Cong may be at the receiving end of such familiar pranks from Mulayam, Amar & Co too in UP, but it is not totally without its own bag of tricks. Here is that party’s own Sardar joke: M Singh will be the PM-to-be, so says Sonia to an accompanying aye from son Rahul. ‘None can hold a candle to him’, she has announced. Of course! Has not MSingh proved his worth, or rather the lack of it, as the premier puppet, pliable and perennially at the service of the family? Who else can be more reliable? And the loyal vassal has already delivered his thanksgiving by describing Sonia as a ‘guardian angel’. Guardian for whom? Manmohan for one, but can we forget Quattrochchi, whom the angel guarded with missionery zeal? Only fools will rejoice at this mutual flattery! Unfortunately, that’s quite a number. But Rahul’s foolery takes the cake. In his view, the LTTE is persona non grata for killing his father, but Thirumavalavan is an indispensable companion despite the latter’s blatant espousal of the ‘killer’ Tigers’ cause! We wonder in what way Rahul is better than cousin Varun!

The BJP specialises in getting fooled. Navin Patnaik pulled a fast one first and since then ally after ally have been either deserting it or imposing stiffer conditions. The party that claims to have mastered the coalition formula much ahead of the Cong is now almost friendless. The only hope for the party is a good individual showing so that allies flock post polls when self-interest will replace secularism as the prime mover. And what has the party to offer if that’s to be achieved? The usual worn-out gag, at best: An 80-plus Advani and the age-old Ram temple issue! LKA is too familiar if not frail and fails to enthuse the average voter who is looking for strong and vibrant leadership that will deliver both economic stability and national security. And many still may dream of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya, but even the die-hard parivar refuses to trust both Advani and BJP to deliver on that promise. The track record is that while those leaders have rode Ram’s rath to power and have had their coronations, Ram himself remains in eternal exile!

The Third Front is a fool’s paradise. Its constituents just fool around with one another till elections and go their own ways later. This much touted non-Cong, non-BJP alternative ironically cannot survive without either Cong or BJP, even if it were to stake a claim. And the pack of cards collapses the moment either of the parties rock the table. Historically, there has been a Third Front either before polls or in power. The Third Front has never been in the opposition, as a single united entity. The reason is that its constituents, having held together only by the prospect of power, wither away post polls and join the ruling group with nary a footprint to prove it ever existed. But there’s a silver lining to them: Every short-lived TF rule, be it the Janata hotch-potch or National Front or United Front, has been succeeded by regimes that lasted or almost lasted their full terms. So, it’s possible that the TF may afterall fool, er, fill the vacuum that will likely emerge in May and pave the way for the inevitable mid-term poll. But with the dwindling individual strengths of the Cong and BJP are not UPA and NDA really Third Fronts themselves? Now, that is a recipe for an overdose of fooling!

Ever read those fooling manuals called election manifestos? They are invariably reprints of earlier ones because promises have remained promises from Election No.1. Has Garibi ever been Hatoed? But forget emancipating the poor, even the relatively better off are being converted into beggars. Assurances of cheap rice and free TVs are becoming a national epidemic as politicos squander public funds to further their own prospects. But no Election Commission has bothered to take exception to these on-record bribery that by all standards break all model codes. But then, after Thirumangalam, it looks the EC is the easiest to fool. And now we have Navin Chawla too!

It is not that only politicos are engaged in the pastime of outwitting others. The IPL had the last laugh by moving to South Africa. The media for its part is gearing for the fooling season with its own fool’s exercises, passing off as opinion polls. Though tentative now, the act would gain momentum as blind guesses get broken as hard news. That brings us to the final fool alluded to in para 1, the terminal victim of all the fooling by all and sundry. Can the voter fool his tormentors? Well, he can fool some of them, albeit temporarily, but not all of them all the time because it’s only the same characters who are in circulation. So choose the ‘fooler’ you hate most and dont vote for him! And prepare to be taken for a ride by the others you have let off! q

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Jawahar T R