The ‘Daadi Mas' (grandmothers) of Dilli

Sanjay Jha
·Former National Spokesperson, Indian National Congress party
·4-min read
Protestors at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. Photo: Getty Images
Protestors at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi. Photo: Getty Images

I am destined to be a political disaster: I hate Delhi, with a capital H A T E. An atmosphere of palace intrigue and back-stabbing chicanery pervades its polluted air made insufferable by inexplicable traffic chaos on those huge roads.

The sublime magnificence of those interminable green lawns in the Lutyens corner of the city hardly compensates for the several criminals (some elected representatives, if you please) who occupy commodious government accommodation funded by taxpayers’ expense.

But it is our capital city and a hyperventilating media gives ‘Dilli’ a penthouse status in our mind space.

Delhi is seemingly first among equals: a manifestation of a big bully brother who eats the big chunk of the chicken curry that mother prepared in the hope of a more Marxian distribution.

Thus, the Delhi assembly election results (some believe it is actually just a Super Bowl of a municipal corporation election) assume humongous import in public consciousness; it is meant to signify a much larger national trend than the 70 seats for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi invoked his perpetual obsession Pakistan, and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bisht (Yogi Adityanath) sniffed bountiful biryani being transported around.

It was apparent that these macho, muscular men were quite rattled by the resplendent defiance of the grand old Daadi Mas of Shaheen Bagh.

Over the last few weeks, Shaheen Bagh dominated political discourse akin to Serbian Novak Djokovic’s merciless suzerainty on the tennis courts. The Bharatiya Janata Party reduced the entire raison d’etre of its impending catastrophe to a small patch of area near Okhla that at least I had not heard of before.

Pray, what was so disconcerting about the Shaheen Bagh protests that it prompted the Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP’s self-trumpeted Chanakya, to demand an electric current to be transmitted through EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines) by the Delhi voter directly to Shaheen Bagh and ensure its prompt incineration?

Maybe, the allegedly invulnerable Mr Shah knows something about EVMs we ordinary mortals don’t, but that also explains why the entire world and Scooby-do believe that the BJP cursorily hacks into the machine to ensure victory.

Shah has certainly not helped ease the ballooning tension by cockily proclaiming that February 11, 2020 will witness a ‘shock’.

With thermal capacity of power producers at an abysmal 55%, perhaps the use of terms like ‘current’ and ‘shock’ may have a salutary, multiplier effect on their fiscal slippage.

The fact that India under BJP appears like a banana republic gone rogue (if that was possible) can be seen from one TV news alert: ‘Aam Aadmi Party spends nervous nights before counting day’. Take a deep Baba Ramdev meditative breath and evaluate that statement loaded with epic possibilities.

What exactly is AAP, which according to most exit polls right from the consistently reliable to the constantly dubious is headed for a landslide win, that would please Jack and Jill, palpitating about?

The EVMs! So 73 years after our tryst with destiny, fixing the Y2 bug at the turn of the millennium, becoming Silicon Valley Jr in Bengaluru and attractive valuations of Infosys and TCS on Nasdaq, Indian democracy remains virtually hostage to a machine that looks like a typewriter with a computer hood bought from Flipkart that nobody trusts!

It is bizarre! Everyone thinks that the EVM can be manipulated by an accomplished member of the notoriously propagandist BJP IT Cell or a more sophisticated ally operating out of some seedy apartment in Israel.

Thus, there are round-the-clock watch-guards of AAP guarding EVM machines on the eve of their humdinger triumph; this is quite literally like Wild West meets Italian mafia setting. Frankly, it is ridiculous whether the worry is genuine or exaggerated.

The fact that the Election Commission that is often called as a tiger wearing dentures released the final voting percentage numbers a day after the voting concluded, accentuated the miseries of the conspiracy theorists.

Clearly, we live in dark dystopian times, where state surveillance is now considered an established norm. Almost everyone I meet prefers to call on WhatsApp, extremely fearful of Big Brother snooping on the confabulations even if one is merely arguing about where to order the pizza from.

But the Delhi election has touched a new nadir. Although Arvind Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, does have a moustache reminiscent of Adolf Hitler if it were appropriately subsidized, he by no means deserves to be called a terrorist.

Sometimes I wonder if the BJP treats our great country like a daily soap opera running on Zee TV with its daily dose of headline grabbing shenanigans that combines lacerating violence with dark humour. Anurag Thakur, who stood with a poker face alongside a usually grumpy Nirmala Sitharaman (I last saw her smile 33 moons ago), Finance Minister on Budget day, had earlier brazenly promoted violence, “Desh Ke Gaddaron Ko? ( The traitors of this country)…”, prompting the crowd to roar back “... Goli Maro Saalo Ko (shoot the rascals). Thakur’s preposterous defense: ‘I only said the first half’.

I think I need to see a Varun Dhawan film. Only the second half.