Arranged marriages for the magic of 272

Mar 03, 2014, 07:52 IST | Smita Prakash

There is something about arranged marriages in India. It’s like the entire universe conspires to actualise them

There is something about arranged marriages in India. It’s like the entire universe conspires to actualise them. There is near panic when families cannot organise one. No amount of personal success at work or happiness in life is acceptable unless a ‘suitable’ match is found. It doesn’t matter if the couple has nothing much in common, and are not even remotely attracted to each other. No, just some random people or a computer thinks that a fit is found and heaven showers blessings.

Alliance of convenience: BJP leader Rajnath Singh and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan exchange sweets after sealing a seat-sharing pact in Bihar, signalling Paswan’s return to the NDA fold, 12 years after he quit the alliance after the 2002 Gujarat riots. Pic/PTI

Somewhat like political alliances just before elections. The hunt is on to find alliances to reach that tantalising figure of 272. Behind the scenes political maneuvering, bargaining, some deals struck, some manipulation and the great hunt for allies because the quest for power demands it, not ideology. That specimen of Indian politics Ram Vilas Paswan jumps on to the BJP bandwagon, a shoo-in Jayalalitha steps out of the BJP circle of love and her bete-noire Karunanidhi makes plaintive noises hoping that Narendra Modi will look his way like he did towards Yeddyurappa.

Nothing is impossible in this wedding season.
The most unlikely of partnerships can be forged, treachery rewarded and loyalty punished. And we understand. Just like we nod approval at those impossible marriages in our extended families. These things happen in Indian democracy. We just wonder if one grouping has come up with a khichdi or a kheer….rice blended with milk or lentils.

Do you like it sweet or salty? It is hunting season in India. All political parties have sent out their sniffer dogs to seek the vulnerable with weak spots but ability to win seats. Those who can be compromised, those who have base survival instincts needed to stay in power. Please don’t mistake it for public service. Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar, Chandrababu Naidu, Naveen Patnaik, Jaganmohan Reddy, Kirankumar Reddy, Arvind Kejriwal, Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Laloo Prasad Yadav and several more are all in a state of readiness, semi-readiness and open to be wooed and cooed. Are we shocked? Mildly surprised? Cynically accepting? All of the above, I guess. Stories of love and betrayal are scripted daily in the months prior to elections.

“Hamare paas sab hai, vote hai, log hai, hum ummeed karte hain, baat kar rahey hain”, says Laloo. And he could be talking with the Congress or just about anybody. Whoever thought that Anna Hazare would dump Arvind Kejriwal and promote Mamata Banerjee? It’s probably Mamata’s sweet and pleasing demeanour. Just saying.

For the BJP, it is extremely crucial to have allies in place even if they may not need them in 2014. It is to dispel the well-publicised notion that the BJP is a political untouchable because of its non-secular image. No regional party wants to join hands with it and the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate is not acceptable to minorities. To counter such views, BJP would need to set aside some political goals which are unrealisable or impractical. Article 370, Ayodhya temple and FDI in retail being some of them. In the imperfect system of coalition politics, ethics and ideology are often compromised.

A television political drama called the House of Cards has gripped American audiences. The second season of 13 episodes recently concluded on Netflix with the principal character Frank Underwood becoming President of America through a series of dark deeds. He manipulates people and situations, stops short of nothing, not even murder in his quest for power. The show reinforces our belief that almost every country capital has shadowy corridors where dark deals are struck and people like Underwood thrive like Ninjas. Like a modern day Machiavelli, Kautilya, Sun Tzu the principal character spouts some universally astounding quotes. He says “For those of us climbing to the top of the food chain, there can be no mercy. There is but one rule: hunt or be hunted”. And another chilling one, “The road to power is paved with hypocrisy, and casualties.”

Like American TV audiences, we too watch political dramas (TV debates) with vicarious interest because wicked thoughts and deeds make for compelling viewing. Every five years we are witness to the carnival of elections, the tamasha of alliances in the garb of moralistic bunkum, corrupt politicians going through the pantomime of releasing party manifestoes which they have no intention to adhere to, common minimum programme which will be trashed just as soon as they take oath of office. And yet it is compelling to see who aligns with whom. If nothing, just for the fun
of it.

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