India’s flaccid news anchors are in desperate need of some excitement. I have an idea to help them. Both Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal should also contest the upcoming parliamentary elections against Narendra Modi from the Varanasi constituency. News anchors across India will have multiple orgasms until the elections.
I am saying this only half in jest. The other half is a serious entreaty to Gandhi and Kejriwal. They owe it to India’s democracy—I mean be a dick and do it. Their candidatures would throw such a massive monkey wrench into Modi’s best laid plans, apart from setting up India’s most thrilling political contest ever.
Some of you might know that Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has decided to contest from the ancient city of Varanasi. With him alone there, this bastion of Hindu culture could easily hand him a thumping victory. However, if Kejriwal jumps in—a very distinct possibility now—along with Gandhi, which will never happen, then we have on our hands an epic political battle of the kind India has not seen. Modi could still win this but it could seriously undermine not just his individual prospects but greatly distract him from helming the national campaign.
Of course, both Gandhi and Kejriwal can simultaneously pursue safer seats as it is often done in India. Modi can do the same but given his own sense of self-worth and the narrative of an invincible barrel-chested political warrior built around him, he may have to contest just one seat. There is a whole braggadocian ecology that travels with Modi wherever he goes.
There is nothing in the Indian constitution that says elections cannot also become a source of political thrill and entertainment. I appeal to the three men to provide India the kind of gladiatorial entertainment that only they can. The Romans understood the importance of staging a spectacle to distract the ordinary folk from their real issues. Perhaps these three should do the same.
If Kejriwal does indeed contest against Modi, which is he is not at all averse to, then the entire national attention will be on Varanasi to the exclusion of everything else. It would be a spectacle in the league of Roman spectacles. Both men have a way with political oratory that is both at once empty and yet compelling. That’s an ideal mix for the election season. Modi may enjoy stronger brand recognition but Kejriwal has managed to establish fairly impressive name recognition in a relatively short time. Modi might still win Varanasi but if Kejriwal does indeed loom on him it could weigh him down. Politics is as much about winning a contest as it is about denying or making it hard for your opponent to win. Dickishness is a strength in realpolitik.
At least part of this wish is expected to come true once Kejriwal holds his public rally in Varanasi next week. By and large, India’s voters have never been known to be doctrinaire, committed lot. Sure, there is a base of voters for all parties but generally speaking the Indian electorate does like to hedge its bet. It is from that standpoint that I think Kejriwal jumping into the fray could upset Modi’s calculations, if not spoil them altogether. If on the other hand, Modi does indeed win triumphantly, then Kejriwal would have discovered the limits of his own real stature as opposed to what the media has been projecting. In either case, this is a contest that ought to happen.
As for Gandhi, it would be so out of character for him to jump in. Between Modi and Kejriwal, he might be verbally chewed alive. He does not bring the same oratorical sophistry as the other two men. I still think he should take the fight to Modi directly.