Attention PM, Resurgent Rahul & TTV’s Win Show Might of Underdogs

Attention PM, Resurgent Rahul & TTV’s Win Show Might of Underdogs

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A week is a long time in politics! Girl, how that cliché came alive in the last seven days. On Monday, 18 December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politically invincible fortress was nearly breached in his home state of Gujarat; on Thursday, 21 December, the alleged 2G scam with a notional figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore boomeranged on the BJP; on Saturday, 23 December, the redoubtable Lalu Yadav was convicted in the second fodder corruption case; and on Sunday, 24 December, the maverick TTV, once a pariah for ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaa, trounced her lifelong colleagues and a vindictive central government to claim her political legacy.

At the risk of preening, I must say I am currently enjoying a bit of popularity in the newsroom. I had predicted, almost recklessly, that the BJP would get reduced to a double-digit mandate in Gujarat. But since nobody would call the boss out, my colleagues remained deferentially skeptical. Once the BJP peaked at 99, I was quite the hero (one of the wagers I won was my pick of a 40-year-old single malt. I am still googling for the most exotic brew. If anybody has suggestions, do tweet ‘em to me).

Dhinakaran – The Underdog Who Showed Spine

I decided to stretch my gambler’s luck with my Chennai colleagues (the exceptionally bright duo of Smitha Tarur and Vikram Venkateswaran). At the very next editorial meeting, I had the following conversation with them:

Me: “I think TTV will win RK Nagar, because Indian voters are wise and emotional, who often root for the underdog, especially if they see him being hounded and persecuted.”

Smitha/Vicky: “No sir, the voters will simply press on the ‘two leaves’ symbol; EPS/OPS will win this one. Only the symbol matters for Amma’s followers.”

I shut up, even though I was unconvinced by their reasoning. I thought this was another instance of “us English speaking types” failing to appreciate the innate wisdom of India’s illiterate voters, who have shown, time and again, that they are sharper than the pundits.

But since I don’t understand Tamil politics as much as I do the stuff in the Hindi heartland, I chose the safety of an uneasy surrender. I wish I hadn’t, because TTV’s resounding victory simply underscored what I had asserted – Indian voters are emotional and often pitch for an underdog, who is seen to be suffering at the hands of a domineering and bullying opponent.

TTV showed them spine, while EPS/OPS were seen as paying obeisance in Dilli Darbar – that was unacceptable to a people who have consistently opposed the central government’s diktat.

Rahul Gandhi – The Underdog in Gujarat, Showed Similar Spunk

The week of 18 December is screaming out a political message at Modi and Shah, if they care to listen:

Hon’ble Prime Minister, please change course. WE DO NOT LIKE POLITICS OF ONE-UPMANSHIP. Else, just as we supported you in 2014 when you were the underdog, we could switch our sympathy to the new underdogs that your regime is creating.

The voters are beginning to see Rahul Gandhi as a well-meaning, and wronged, political underdog – as the Gujarat outcome showed, that can be lethal for the BJP.

Even Tejashwi and Lalu Could Reap Underdog Tailwinds

Not just with Rahul Gandhi, something similar could be happening with Tejashwi and Lalu Yadav. The father won a mandate in 2015 which was stolen from him. People see him as a victim of a crass double-cross.

People also see scores of corrupt politicians going scot-free, but enforcement agencies going at Lalu with a vengeance. They sniff something amiss there.

In any case, people see Tejashwi as innocent collateral. I may be wrong, but just as I stuck my neck out in Gujarat and on TTV’s victory, I believe Tejashwi will garner the tailwinds of the underdog at Bihar’s hustings. Unwittingly, the BJP may be creating another lethal adversary in a state it swept in 2014.

Attention Prime Minister – politics had no fury than an underdog scorned.

Read more here.

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

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