News networks could just as well have spared airwaves the superfluous burden of breathless exit polls on Monday night, and reverted instead to the staple fare of Bollywood and cricket which at least provide momentary escape from the backbreaking reality India’s politicians have constructed as life for its ‘independent’ millions. Why crunch numbers when all-over-but-for-the-clapping was splashed across the nation’s mediascape even before the first votes were cast? But political fixers are known to demand their money’s worth, to the last penny, and will be satisfied by nothing less than the total and absolute capitulation of every single vestige of human decency to the power of a Rs 5000 crore – some say Rs 10,000 crore – war chest, and the opportunity to gloat with triumph in front of every household for the four days left for the official result, which is but a formality.
This new avatar of public prurience, running non-stop for the next 100 hours, will showcase the court of the masses approving mass murder, and vindicating the policies of its supervisor, right down to every child malnourished to fill corporate coffers, and every farmer disinherited to jack up the stock market. People have to move on, even if they are slaughtered by the thousand, because the land has no greater law than the verdict of the masses, and they have spoken.
But still, when curtains were yet to be rung down on the globe’s biggest democratic exercise, declamations on India’s Lok Sabha polls had appeared just that bit less certain than a fortnight ago, with even cocksure political pundits beginning to wrap their prognosis in cautious ifs and buts – partly out of concern for their own reputations, but mostly out of anxiety not to come out on the losing side. Not that they had entirely given up on the idea of Republic turning Reich, but soundings-out at the ground level may have indicated that the nation’s fractious multitudes had a mind of their own even if their bellies – and what does not go into them – belong to a syndicate of sahukars who take turns on a damsel called democracy.
Being great schools, starvation and subsistence-level existence gift inmates with philosophical insight beyond the capacity of top universities many of whose polished products had been drafted to mass-produce arguments on why the Prime Minister’s office is the best reform-and-rehabilitation centre for someone otherwise suited for the wards of a penitentiary. The lesson the multitudes categorised in a certain way are bound to have drawn is simple: the only way you win the race for office is if you are chased by the hangman’s noose.