Footloose & cut loose

It is protests galore world over to the accompaniment of dire threats. It looks as if suddenly the entire humanity has lost patience with, well, entire humanity and wants redressal right away. Given such a mass mood the modes of protest and nature of threats too have come into focus. And how they have evolved over the times! While stones and bombs continue to figure in the protestors’ arsenal, new paraphernalia like boots and eggs too find ample use. Leering and jeering vie with sloganeering as an aggrieved populace swings fitfully between anger and frustration.

Of course, the looming economic crisis is the prime agent provocation. The rich are now at the receiving end after being at the deceiving end during much of the boom time. The left out lot wants its pound and pundits are already predicting 18th-century kind of revolutions if the collective distress does not dissipate. Bankers and the financial fraternity come next in the list of villains who had engineered this economic havoc. There are already tales of bank offices being broken into by irate mobs. The snooty CEOs of mega Corps lining up in designer suits and still flying private jets even if only to collect doles from wary governments too are objects of ire. Some of them who took huge bonuses from official bailout funds now face the prospect of 90% tax besides the possibility of getting lynched if spotted in a crowded place. And then there are the heads of States, politicos who rode to power on promises and populism. The masks are now being torn apart by mounting public wrath as was evident during the unprecedented protests in London during the G20 summit.

Poll-time Bharath offers a wide and varied kaleidoscope of the global trend. Here too, public patience is at a premium. But with only uninspiring personalities, insincere promises and insipid programmes on offer, the fatigued voter is faced with a futile future; resignation, not rage, is the flavour. Even a national calamity as the war-like terror attacks of 26/11 fizzled out with just a few shows of simulated anger on prime time. The ephemeral visuals of burning buildings soon gave way to the ceaseless breaking of news after news even as a combination of official spinelessness and political pusillanimity conspires to let Kasab join the exalted club of Afzal Gurus, immortal though condemned to death! That’s the law’s course here.

But public anger against politicos does break out occasionally. HM Chidambaram joined the elite group of world leaders who have had footwear thrown at them in public. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao received that ‘honour’ from a sneaker in Cambridge University in Britain recently. And when everyone was betting on a bomb going off under the seat of George Bush in Iraq in December, what he got was rather a tame ‘size 10’ shoe thrown at his torso by a piqued Arab journalist. The journalistic trend continued in India as another scribe resorted to another boot (adida?) to vent his pent up ire on another politico. PC, like the other two, survived the attack without as much as a footprint on his person, but all their egos stand stamped, nevertheless. The Sikh scribe who launched the sandal strike on India’s leading security man was incensed by the CBI giving the clean chit to Jagdish Tytler, who was believed to have masterminded the massacre of Sikhs in 1984. PC’s dismissive attitude of the anti-Sikh riots, the law letting off known offenders and worse, the Cong’s spite in nominating Tytler himself as a Delhi candidate were all too much even for that soft-spoken Sardar. Well, not all are MSinghs. The fallout: With due recognition of the reigning ‘foot’age, in future media conferences, pressmen may be asked to leave their footwear outside! And politicos will keep a safe distance from them. 20 ft, to be precise, if Maya’s subsequent press meet was any indication. A small step is now a giant leap! Still any takers?

But while anger may be running thin in public, the political platforms are frothing with fury. Of course, thankfully much of the anger is directed at the political opponent and not at the public and therefore will only yield net benefit to the nation if all those threats materialised. The in-thing is to chop off some part of the body. Varun was only heralding a political fad: scores of speakers have since volunteered to separate with the help of a knife someone’s finger from the hand, hand from the body or the body from the head. Indeed, the political battlefield already looks like a, well, Kasab shop! And all these assurances of amputation have come in full public view and often under media glare; no cloak, only dagger! If really, the EC were to act against all of them, sorry to say, but many heads will roll!

But not all politicos are so narrow minded; some have a larger perspective, a cut above the rest. Lalu for instance has no taste for just a ‘slice of Varun’. Instead, he has taken a rather holistic view and promised to run down the ‘entire’ Varun with a road roller if he (Lalu) were to become the HM. Mother Maneka has promptly filed a police complaint and an EC notice too has been despatched. Lalu has since clarified that he meant the ‘roller of law’. But for a cowboy who milked Bihar and still rolled off law’s way, that gag is a bit puerile. He is in trouble, just as his better half is for some other similar violation. What a family! But our own Vaiko here has bettered even Lalu with his even wider world view. Not just arms or legs or isolated individuals, but the entire TN would have a bloodbath if Prabakaran were to be killed, he has promised. ‘The Sikhs could only hurl a shoe, but here we have people who can get bombs’, he has warned. Sure, his likes can never be ‘shoed’ away, but what’s the nation’s fate if such explosive characters land in LS?

That brings us to Madurai. Lanka may burn, locals here may reel, but what agitates Kalaingar K most is the plight of his progeny; he has now announced that his lamb of a son Azhagiri faces a life threat from the Leftists (have their right arms been … no). A for his part has declared that he would win with a margin of 3 lakh votes. One can trust him to do a Thirumangalam with alarming accuracy, but now which is a bigger threat: Left to A or A to Parliament? Well, whatever, there’s reason enough for Dayanidhi and Kanimozhi, to feel threatened!

I have grouses too, would like to protest, issue threats and even carry them out. But being a veggie, I have no access to eggs. All rotten tomatoes were exhausted by the agitating lawyers in Feb itself. I can surely use the forefinger on voting day, assuming, I and my finger survive the bloodbaths and blades. But lo, I almost forgot! I am a journo and I wear shoes! See you in a week after some net practice!

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Jawahar T R