A friend from Russia told me this folktale from his land. A cart got stuck in the river. Three animals were harnessed to the vehicle to pull it out: a pike, a crayfish, and a swan. The pike, following its instincts, pushed forward.
The crayfish, which swims backward, went in the opposite direction. The swan could only dream of flying with the cart into the sky. The cart never moved. Does this remind you of anything? Perhaps of I.N.D.I.A., still huffing and puffing to sort out contenders and candidates when the scream of the starting whistle is already resounding in the political atmosphere.
A little quiz
We could start a little quiz: Who are the pikes, the crayfish and the swans? The swans, of varying colours, are most evident, all dreaming of soaring towards the Prime Minister’s seat in Delhi. The Congress has announced its candidate for Prime Minister, Mallikarjun Kharge, with immediate repercussions. Nitish Kumar has responded with the game of silence, letting rumours speak louder than facts as he strikes a distance from alleged allies on minor or major issues. The retired, and perhaps tired, swan Sharad Pawar has floated into parallel waters, beguiled into political miscalculation by parental love. DMK is the crayfish of the South, retreat the best means of return to its comfort zone.
The Communist Party of Kerala (Marxist) is the second crayfish, wisely concentrating its energies on the backward flip. The pike of 2023, Mamata Banerjee, has been equally judicious, deciding that 2024 is not the year for any forward movement. Better to save the harvest in your backyard. Akhilesh Yadav might be in danger of being neither fish nor fowl. Arvind Kejriwal, leader of AAP, is still trying to become a pike but remains seriously underweight. As for Congress leaders, all of them are anxiously looking for that elusive prize of Indian democracy, the safe seat.
A proverb attributed to the great ancient Greek dramatist Euripides might prove to be a useful reminder for the I.N.D.I.A. allies: One loyal friend is worth ten thousand relatives. One feels compelled to add that Euripides was famous for writing tragedies.
A master of comedy can get it equally right. Oscar Wilde, so cleverly wrong about so much, was immaculately right when he pointed out that true friends stab you from the front. As a definition of opposition politics in India, it works.
As for ruling parties in our country, the syndrome shifts in a neat semi-circle. Once again, we must learn from a great poet. As William Butler Yeats is believed to have said: There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met. Yeats was talking about Ireland, not Bihar. The Bihar amendment is: There are no strangers here, only friends whom left you before.
A great mystery of media is summed up by the question: Why do stories disappear when the humongous problems they expose still persevere? Here is a case in point.
One of the signature projects in Britain is the High Speed 2 railway line, first proposed in 2009, started in 2012, and to be completed heaven knows when.
It covers only 230km of track, with 54 state-of-the-art trains, but then Britain is a small country albeit with a big bureaucracy. Sometime late last year, or after more than a decade of work, someone discovered that there were not enough doors for the carriages. More specifically, only one door had been ordered instead of the regulation two. If this was corruption, it might have been understandable if not forgivable.
Venality comes in many ways, some creative enough to win awards. But this was a case of stupidity. Why is such stupidity not a criminal offence? Because the story disappears before it imposes accountability