Last week saw David(read the Aam Aadmi Party(AAP)) beat Goliath(read the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)) in the Delhi elections. AAP won 67 out of the seventy seats in the Delhi assembly, leaving only three seats for the BJP. This led to one WhatsApp forward which suggested that Delhi should now allow tripling(three people travelling on a bike) so that BJP legislators could ride to the Delhi assembly on a bike. Another forward suggested that the BJP legislators could drive to the assembly in a Tata Nano.
Jokes apart, in the aftermath of this electoral debacle many reasons have been offered on why and how the BJP lost Delhi. Reasons have also been offered on why and how the AAP won Delhi. Let’s sample a few here. The ghar wapasi campaign launched by the Sangh Parivar backfired in Delhi. The BJP ran a very negative and a highly vitriolic campaign against AAP and that didn’t quite work.
The AAP supporters on the other hand have been pointing out to the fact that the party ran a positive campaign and that went down well with Delhi residents. Further, the 49 days that Arvind Kejriwal was chief minister of Delhi, the levels of petty corruption in Delhi had come down dramatically. And this, we are told, is something that the people of Delhi haven’t forgotten.
Long story short—the number of reasons offered on AAP’s spectacular performance and BJP’s wipe out, is directly proportional to the number of political pundits analysing the issue. Nevertheless, most of these reasons have been offered with the benefit of hindsight. Most political pundits had no clue about BJP ending with up three seats and the Narendra Modi juggernaut losing steam. But now that it has happened, they need to find reasons and explanations for the same.
As Gary Smith writes in Standard Deviations—Flawed Assumptions, Tortured Data and Other Ways to Lie With Statistics: “Through countless generations of natural selection, we have become hardwired to look for patterns and to think of explanations for the patterns we find…We yearn to make an uncertain world more certain, to gain control over things we do not control, to predict the unpredictable.”
Also, some political pundits have now even said that they saw the whole thing coming and offered explanations of the same. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in Fooled by Randomness: “Things are always obvious after the fact…It has to do with the way our mind handles historical information…Our mind will interpret most events not with the preceding ones in mind, but the following ones.” This tendency is referred to as hindsight bias in psychology.
Daniel Kahneman defines this in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow: “When an unpredicted event occurs, we immediately adjust our view of the world to accommodate that surprise…Once you adopt a new view of the world(or of any part of it), you immediately lose much of your ability to recall what you used to believe in before your mind changed.”
This leads to a situation where one feels that one has understood as well as predicted the past and given that one further feels that one can predict as well as control the future. As Jason Zweig writes in Your Money & Your Brain—How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich: “Hindsight bias is another cruel trick that your inner con man plays on you. By making you believe that the past was more predictable than it really was, hindsight bias fools you into thinking that the future is more predictable than it ever can be.”
This is exploited in particular by financial pundits. As Kahneman writes: “Our tendency to construct and believe coherent narratives of the past makes it difficult for us to accept the limits of our forecasting ability. Everything makes sense in hindsight, a fact that financial pundits exploit every evening as they offer convincing accounts of the day’s events. And we cannot suppress the powerful intuition that what makes sense in hindsight today was predictable yesterday.” That of course is not the case.
Hindsight bias also is also at work when we invest. An excellent example, is of investors saying after a bubble has burst, that they knew all along it was a bubble. But the thing is that if a bubble is obvious to enough investors at the time it is in its initial stage, there would be no bubble in the first place.
Zweig has an excellent example in his book of the link between hindsight bias and investing. As he writes: “In the fall of 2001, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, you tell yourself, “Nothing will ever be the same again. The U.S. isn’t safe any more. Who knows what they’ll do next? Even if stocks are cheap, nobody will have the guts to invest.” Then the market goes on to gain 15% by the end of 2003, and what do you say? “I knew
stocks were cheap after September 11th!””
The moral of the story here is that you may have been able to explain the entire situation to yourself, but you have missed out on the rally.
Then there is the case of missing out on a bumper initial public offering. Zweig offers the case of Google which first sold its shares in August 2004. At that point of time, an investor wanting to invest in the stock, would have thought back about the bursting of the dotcom bubble and the money that he had lost back then.
Using this logic he would have decided not to invest in the stock. He would have then seen the price of the stock jump from the initial price of $85 to $460 by end 2006 and told himself: “I knew I should have bought Google!”
And this would lead to a change in the worldview of the investor and may well make him “more eager to take the plunge” the next time he has “a chance to get in on the ground floor of a risky high-tech start-up.” But as Zweig puts it: “Of course, “the next Google” may turn out to be the next Enron instead.”
Given these reasons it is very important for investors not to become victims of the hindsight bias while investing.
In an essay titled Political Leadership (The Oxford Companion to Politics in India edited by Niraja Gopal Jayal and Pratap Bhanu Mehta) historian Ramachandra Guha writes about the various styles of political rhetoric: “The modern idiom is often expressed through a rhetoric of hope—the offer of a better and fuller life, whether expressed in material terms or otherwise. The traditional idiom, on the other hand, privileges a rhetoric of fear—warning the members of a caste, or religion, or region, that they would be swamped by their enemies if they do not bind together.”
Indian politics, over the last seven decades since independence, has largely been fought on what Guha calls the traditional idiom of fear. Given this, Narendra Modi’s campaign in the run up to and during the 16th Lok Sabha elections came as a breath of fresh air. Modi campaigned around the idiom of hope. “Acche din aane waale hain,” was the line that he tried to sell to the voters of this country. And voters bought it lock, stock and barrel, giving an absolute majority to the Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP). This was the first time that a single party other than the Congress got an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha.
Once the majority was in place, the hope among analysts, economists and everybody who had some sort of an opinion on Modi and his politics, was that he would push big bang economic reforms, like the kind that had happened in 1991, when the Indian economy was thrown open to the world. Nevertheless, nearly 100 days since the Modi government assumed power on May 26, 2014, nothing of that sort seems to have happened. This is not to say that no economic reform has happened. The government allowed 100% foreign direct investment(FDI) in several areas in the railways sector. It notified that the FDI limit in the defence sector would be increased to 49% from the current 26%, through the approval route. At the same time it has cleared the FDI limit in the insurance sector to be increased to 49% from the current 26%. Further, land acquisition laws put in place by the Congress led UPA government are set to undergo a transformation.
But other than the “proposed” change in land acquisition laws these are not big bang reforms exactly. This is minor tinkering at best. The union budget presented by Arun Jaitley lacked a vision of what the Modi government plans on the economic and the financial front over the next five years. Also, it continued with the unrealistic estimates of both revenues and expenditure made by the previous finance minister P Chidambaram.
Given this, it is highly unlikely that the fiscal deficit number projected by Arun Jaitley and his team is a realistic one. In that sense Jaitley has continued the process of projecting lower expenditure and higher revenue, started by Chidambaram.
Also, like Chidambaram, Jaitley has started to suggest that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should start to cut interest rates. But as I explain here, there is very little that the RBI can do to cut interest rates. Interest rates will only come down once the government starts to manage its fiscal defict, borrower lesser and leave more money on the table for everyone else to borrow. Fiscal deficit is the difference between what a government earns and what it spends. The government spends it through borrowing money.
Over and above this, there has been almost no talk about what the government plans to do on the Goods and Services Tax(GST) and the Direct Taxes Code (DTC) front. These are two big bang economic whose implementation has been pending over the last few years.
In his independence day speech Modi announced that his government was doing away with the Planning Commission. There is no doubt that it was an institution that had outlived its utility, nevertheless, with what and how does the government plan to replace it. More than two weeks after the independence day speech, there is almost no clarity on this front. As economist Bibek Debroy, wrote a recent column in The Economic Times “We are in end-August. In 2014-15, what happens to the (central assistance) money disbursed to states through the Planning Commission? Will that be released in December 2014 to be spent by March 2015?”
Oil prices have been falling for a while now. Given this, it was widely expected that the government would use this lucky streak to move towards market determined price for diesel and do away with some of the “under-recoveries” that the Oil Marketing Companies have to face everytime they sell diesel, cooking gas and kerosene. It was also expected that the cooking price would be raised by an equal amount every month and the “under-recoveries” on it would be done away with over a period of time. But nothing of that sort has happened.
Also, no moves have been made to sort out the food subsidy mess that the country finds itself in. A recent new report pointed out “Food corporation of India has informed the food ministry that dues on the food subsidy have piled up to Rs 50,000 crore at the end of 2013-14 over the last three-to-four years as it has not been allocated enough funds.” This is something that needs to be sorted out immediately.
A possible explanation for economic reforms being put on the back-burner being bandied around by Modi sympathizers has been that economic reforms will start streaming in after the Maharashtra elections are done with. The government does not want to make any publicly unpopular decisions before the Maharashtra elections are over. The thing is that state assembly elections will keep happening all the time. After there Maharashtra there is Bihar in 2015. And by the time the state assembly elections are over, the next Lok Sabha elections will be upon us. The government, like most other governments in the past, is likely to get into the election mode by 2017, two years before the next Lok Sabha elections are due. So, when will it actually get around to implementing any big-bang economic reforms is a question worth asking? Given this, the explanation does not really make much sense.
If the government is serious about economic reforms, the best time to do it is now. These are the early days for the government and it still has a lot of leeway to push through these reforms. An excuse offered here is that the Modi government does not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha and hence, legislation required to push through these reforms can get stuck there. This is indeed true, but then the government also has the option to call a joint session of Parliament and pushing through these reforms.
To conclude, it is worth pointing out what Guha writes about being the bane of almost all the governments in India over the last 25 years, before the Modi government came to power: “[The] deepening of Indian democracy has come at a cost, namely that there is now no political leader who can really think of or act for the country as a whole. When a single party was dominant at the Centre, it was possible to design long range policies; now, when the government is constituted by a coalition of a dozen or more parties, each representing a specific sectarian interest—these based variously on caste, language, region, or religion—its policies are determinedly short-term, aimed at placating or satisfying one or other of those interests.”
Modi doesn’t have to go through all this. His government has absolute majority on its own and it can use this opportunity to push through economic reforms, which will be beneficial for India in the days and years to come.
The article originally appeared on www.FirstBiz.com on September 1, 2014
(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
Lal Krishna Advani in his dreams must sometimes wish that he should have belonged to the Nehru-Gandhi family. Irrespective of what happens to the political fortunes of the Congress, the Nehru-Gandhis remain at the top.
Even when the party is not under the control of a Nehru-Gandhi, the Congress politicians keep conspiring endlessly till they have managed to install a Nehru-Gandhi at the helm of affairs. This was clearly the case between 1991-1996, after Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated and his widow Sonia refused to take over. Nevertheless the Congress installed Sonia as the president of the party as soon as she was ready.
As Rasheed Kidwai writes in Sonia – A Biography “Throughout the Narsimha Rao regime, 10 Janpath[where Sonia continues to stay] served as an alternative power centre or listening post against him.” In December 1997, Sonia Gandhi indicated that she wanted to play a more active role in Congress politics. It took the party less than three months to throw out Sitaram Kesri, the then President of the party and put Sonia in charge in his place.
Advani has not been anywhere as lucky as Sonia. In fact, he has constantly been sidelined in the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) over the last five years. And unlike Sonia, who continues to enjoy the spoils of the hard-work of her husband’s ancestors, Advani built the BJP right from scratch.
The final nail in the coffin for Advani was the decision by the newly appointed BJP president Amit Shah to drop him from the 12-member Parliamentary Board of the Party. Advani though has been included in the newly created margadarshak mandal, where he is unlikely to have any decision-making powers.
In fact, Advani had to recently go through the ignominy of his nameplate being removed from his room in Parliament (the nameplate was put back later). This after being denied the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker, which he wanted. All this must be too much to handle for a man who is BJP’s senior most active leader, and refuses to retire.
The BJP was formed on April 5-6, 1980, after it broke away from the Janata Party. The Janata Party had been formed a few years earlier in 1977, with the merger of Congress O, Bhartiya Lok Dal, the Socialist Party and the Jana Sangh (the BJP’s earlier avatar), with the idea of taking on Indira Gandhi and her Congress party in the 1977 Lok Sabha elections.
The Janata Party won 295 seats in the elections, with 93 MPs coming from the erstwhile Jana Sangh. But trouble soon broke out and different constituents of the party could not get along with each other. This experiment against the Congress ended in 1980, and the BJP was formed. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the president of the BJP, and Advani was its general secretary.
Interestingly, the party chose “Gandhian socialism” as its credo. Kingshuk Nag writes in The Saffron Tide—The Rise of the BJP that a “consensus emerged…on Gandhian socialism being the credo of the new party; in other words, it would fashion itself like the Janata Party.”
Advani explains this in his autobiography My Country, My Life: “The stress from the beginning was not on harking back to our Jana Sangh past but on making a new beginning.” The new beginning happened primarily because both Vajpayee and Advani had been influenced a lot by Jaiprakash Narayan, who was the main architect behind the Janata Party.
Also, what did not help was the fact that Indira Gandhi in her second avatar as the Prime Minister had in a way hijacked the “Hindutva” agenda, which the Jan Sangha had stood for. “Indira Gandhi had become religious with vengeance after coming to power in 1980 and began visiting temples with fervour. In public imagination, the impression created was that of a Hindu lady seeking the benefaction of the Gods. The policies in her tenure were also interpreted as being pro Hindu,” writes Nag.
This newly discovered “Gandhian socialism” did not work for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections that happened in December 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguard. The party won just two seats in this election. A committee was formed to try and understand the reasons for the electoral debacle.
As Nag writes “The committee…found a lot of lacunae in the working of the BJP. The committee also commented on the lack of political training of workers on political, economic, idealogical and organizational matters.” Or as a BJP insider told Nag “Basically, the committee politely said the party was going nowhere.”
Vajpayee resigned in the aftermath of the debacle and Advani took over as the president of the party. With Advani at the helm, the relations with the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh(RSS) also improved significantly. In the years to come, the BJP went back to Hindutva and gradually junked “Gandhian Socialism” as its main credo. In fact, in 1990, Advani launched a rath yatra in which he wanted to travel in a motorized van from Somanth in Gujarat to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh.
But before he could enter Uttar Pradesh, Lalu Prasad Yadav got Advani arrested in Bihar. As Advani recounts in his autobiography “My yatra was scheduled to enter Deoria in Uttar Pradesh on 24 October. However, as I had anticipated, it was stopped at Samastipur in Bihar on 23 October and I was arrested by the Janata Dal government in the state then headed by Laloo Prasad Yadav (sic). I was taken to an inspection bungalow of the irrigation department at a place called Massanjore near Dumka on the Bihar-Bengal border [Dumka now comes under the state of Jharkhand].”
Even though Advani could not complete the yatra it was a huge success and Advani was greeted by huge crowds wherever he went. “At some places, charged-up followers applied tilak to the Ram rath while at other places, those moved by the movement smeared dust from the path of the rath on their forehead,” writes Nag.
Advani went around building the party on the ideology of hardcore Hindutva, taking the number of seats that the party had in the Lok Sabha to 85 in 1989 and 120 in the 1991. This fast rise of the party was built on slogans like “saugandh Ram ki khaate hain mandir wohin (i.e. Ayodhya) banayenge” and “ye to kewal jhanki hai Kashi Mathura baaki hai”. As Advani went about his job, Vajpayee took a back-seat for a while.
Nevertheless, Advani soon realized that temple and Hindutva politics could only get the party to a certain level. He also realized that he was looked at as a Hindu hardliner and as long as he led the party, it would never be in a position to form the government. Hence, in November 1995, at the end of his presidential address at the BJP national council meet held in Mumbai, he announced that “We will fight the next elections under the leadership of A.B.Vajpayee and he will be our candiate for a prime minister…For many years, not only our party leaders but also the common people have been chanting the slogan, “Agli baari, Atal Bihari”.”
This was a political master stroke. At the same time it needs to be said that not many people would have been able to make the decision that Advani did, if they had been in his position. It is never easy to build an organisation right from scratch and then hand it over to someone else, to lead it.
With Vajpayee at the helm, other poltical parties were ready to ally with the BJP. The BJP led National Democratic Alliance first came to power in 1998. They were in power till 2004, when they lost the Lok Sabha elections. After the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Vajpayee gradually faded from the limelight.
In these years, the spin-doctors of Advani had managed to tone down his image as a Hindu hardliner. This can be very gauged from the fact that Nitish Kumar had no problem with being in alliance with an Advani led BJP, but he wasn’t ready to work with a Narendra Modi led BJP.
The NDA fought the 2009 Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Advani and lost. And from then on, the stock of Advani has constantly fallen in the BJP. The decision to drop him from the Parliamentary Board of the party, as mentioned earlier, is probably the last nail in the coffin of his political career.
Interestingly, Narendra Modi was also handpicked by Advani to play a greater role in the BJP. As Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay writes in Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times “From the beginning it was evident that Modi was Advani’s personal choice and he was keen to strengthen the unit in Gujarat because the state was identified as a potential citadel in the future.”
Advani also mentored Modi during his early days in politics. “It was Advani who mentored Modi when he virtually handpicked him into his team of state apparatchiks after recommendations from a few trusted peers in the late 1980s. Advani also gave Modi early lessons in how to convert the mosque-temple dispute into one of national identity,” writes Mukhopadhyay.
But in the recent years while Advani’s stock within the BJP and the RSS has fallen dramatically, Modi’s stock has been on a bull run. The shishya has become the guru. The trouble is that the guru does not want to retire, and is probably still itching for a one-last-fight.
But there is not much that he can do about it. Advani’s side-lining is an excellent lesson of what happens when one overstays one’s welcome in politics as well as life. There is a time to work. And there is time to retire and move on.
To conclude, Advani’s one remaining political ambition would have been to become the prime minister of India. But that somehow did not happen. As Salamn Rushdie aptly put in Midnight’s Children “This is not what I had planned; but perhaps the story you finish is never the one you begin.”
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on August 29, 2014
(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)
My standard tenth exams got over on March 12, 1993. It was late evening, around 6pm, and I was having a vanilla ice-cream (or was it chocolate I don’t remember) in a cone along with some of my friends standing outside Firayalal, the premier shopping destination for clothes in the city of Ranchi, where I grew up.
A small kid started pestering me to buy a copy of Sandhya Ranchi Express, an evening newspaper that had been recently launched. I tried to shoo him away. He wouldn’t go and was determined to sell the last copy that he had.
The trouble was I did not have a single rupee in my pocket. My parents never came around to the idea of giving me pocket money, being forever bothered that I would use it to buy the music cassette of the latest Hindi film, which was one of the two interests I had at that point of time. The other one being religiously listening to Cibaca Sangeet Mala, a countdown show of Hindi film songs hosted by the one and only Ameen Sayani every Monday on the government owned radio channel Vividh Bharti (He started with Radio Ceylon and during the later years moved to Vividh Bharti).
My friend Anshuman, who had also paid for the ice-cream (if I remember correctly), first gave me a stare and then a one rupee coin. I bought the newspaper. A small piece of news which seemed to have been inserted at the last moment as the paper went to press talked about bomb blasts in Bombay (now Mumbai).
Those were the days when evening newspapers were not meant to be taken seriously. They usually had their share of masala and gossip. I thought the news about the blast was not true and would have just been put in to hopefully sell a few copies more.
In fact I was sure of this primarily because all kinds of news that appeared in the local newspapers. A few days after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991, a local newspaper had even gone to the extent of reporting that he was alive, living in the United States of America (USA) and having fun there.
The news about the blasts in Bombay turned out to be true. By the time I reached home, people had tuned into BBC Radio on the short wave and confirmed the same. Those were the days when people did not believe in anything unless they had heard it on the BBC (and if not them, someone else they knew had because it was not always easy to tune into the right frequency).
The evening news on Doordarshan, first in Hindi and then in English, also reported on the blasts. I went to sleep peacefully that night, the first time since January 29, when I had started preparing for my tenth standard exams, on the day Vinod Ganpat Kambli made his test debut and batted ahead of his schoolmate Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. The blasts in what was a ‘far away’ Bombay did not effect a small town boy who was just happy that his exams were done and out of the way.
Investigations soon revealed that the blasts were carried out on the orders of the much feared Dawood Ibrahim, the mafia don who ruled what was then Bombay. By the time the news of his involvement came out, Ibrahim had left the country , never to come back. It is said that Ibrahim carried out the blasts to revenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the riots that followed against the Muslim population in the city of Bombay.
Babri Masjid in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992, twenty years to this day. I clearly remember that rumours were abuzz in the colony that we lived in, about the Masjid having been brought down. The rumour mongers used the usual ploy of saying “BBC par bol diya hai (they have said it on the BBC)” to give a kind of an authenticity to what they were trying to spread.
But cable television had already arrived by then. We had got a connection on February 22, 1992, on the day India lost to England in Benson and Hedges cricket World Cup being played in Australia and New Zealand.
Earlier on the same day the New Zealand captain Martin Crowe had surprised the entire cricket fraternity by asking the off spinner Dipak Patel to open the bowling in the match against Australia. Something like this had never happened before.
And it was on cable TV we got some confirmation of the Babri Masjid having been brought down. The BBC (television and not radio) showed some kar sevaks getting on the dome of the Babri Masjid and starting to hit it with rods and hammers.
Lal Krishna Advani of the Bhartiya Janata Party and Ashok Singhal of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad could be seen rushing towards the disputed structure and asking kar sevaks to stop what they were doing. Whether they really meant it or not is something even they won’t be able to tell.
Those were the only visuals of that were broadcast on the BBC. In fact from what I remember it was not BBC’s original footage and they were broadcasting a tape that was put together by news agency ANI. The media was thrown out soon after the kar sevaks starting demolishing the Masjid and those are the only visuals that anyone ever got of the Masjid being brought down.
The only other news show was on Doordarshan and nobody of course believed what they were reporting. So people would tune into BBC on their cable television and waited with a baited breath to hear something being reported on the scene in Ayodhya and the riots that had broken out in different parts of the country in the aftermath of the Masjid being brought down. Given that a lot of people did not have cable television, they waited with a baited breath in homes of people who had it.
Schools, colleges and offices had been closed down and a curfew had been imposed on the city of Ranchi. Shoot at sight orders had also been given. But we were safe inside the confines of the CMPDI colony. I was advised to start preparing for my tenth standard exams which were due in less than three months time. I remember studying some Chemistry or at least pretending to, just to ensure that my mother did not bother me too much. And I was really kicked to know that the word Oxygen is an oxymoron. But being the news junkie that I was, I was more interested in all the rumours that were going around rather than studying for my tenth standard exams.
Most of the people around me were happy at what had happened. “Advani ji ne kar dikhaya (Advani ji has got it done),” was an oft repeated phrase. People also talked about the time when Advani had come visiting us in October 1990.
Advani was on his Rath Yatra across the country starting from the Somnath Temple in Gujarat on September 25, 1990. He arrived late one night to stay “overnight” in the guest house in our colony primarily because there wasn’t a hotel good enough for him in the city of Ranchi. At least, that’s what the rumour was.
In fact, in the years to come I saw a spate of BJP leaders from Atal Behari Vajpayee (who was sitting in the front seat of a Maruti Omni), Murli Manohar Joshi and the late Pramod Mahajan, all stopping overnight at the guest house.
Early next morning, before Advani was supposed to leave, a small crowd, which included me, had gathered in front of the guest house. He came out and was requested to speak a few words. I don’t remember anything of what he said except the last line, which was “Saugandh Ram ki khaate hain, mandir wohin banayenge”.
He was out of the place in five minutes. But the crowd that had gathered continued to mingle. Some were happy to have seen him. Some were amazed to know that his so called rath wasn’t actually one. Some women spoke about the glow Advani ji had on his face. Some others said “kam bole par bahut acha bole. (he spoke less but spoke very well).”
And some others who thought they were worried about the state of the nation asked “mandir banega ki nahi? (Will the temple be made or not?)”. With the Babri Masjid out of the way the first step towards the making of the temple had been made.
The slogan going around was “ye to kewal jhanki hai, kaashi mathura baaki hai (This was a just a trailer, Kashi and Mathura are still remaining).” Ranchi was a hardcore BJP constituency returning its candidate Ram Tahal Choudhary to the Lok Sabha four times in a row between 1991 and 2004.
People who had gone to Ayodhya from Ranchi as kar sevaks became minor celebrities once they came back. One of my older friends claimed to have met one such person who had told him “ke masjidwa ekbak hi gir gaya (The masjid fell rather suddenly with ekbak being the Ranchi lingo for suddenly)”.
So those were the days.
Its late in the night as I sit writing this and wonder about all that has changed since December 6, 1992.
Vinod Kambli now sports a weird hairstyle and recently had an angioplasty. He never fulfilled all the potential he showed in the early 1990s. He is probably the only test player to have played just 18 tests with a batting average of 54.
Captains now regularly use spin bowlers to open the bowling in T20s, one day internationals as well as test cricket. Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s latest spinning sensation is regarded as the best new ball spinner in the world. Talk about oxymorons!
Ranchi now has much better hotels. And it no longer votes for the BJP. Since 2004 its turned to the Congress and voted for Subodh Kant Sahay, who till very recently was a minister in the Union government but has since been dropped due to his role in the coalgate scam.
Nobody listens to the BBC Radio in India any more. Very few watch its World News Service on cable television. And Cibaca Sangeet Mala has been long gone.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee went onto become the Prime Minister of India and started travelling in bullet proof BMWs, with the days when a small town boy could catch a glimpse of him sitting in the front seat of a Maruti Omni being over.
Pramod Mahajan was murdered by his younger brother.
Ameen Sayani’s voice still continues to be strong. On the two occasions I have heard him live in the last two years I went back to the time two decades back when life was fun and simple.
The internet hindus who are highly educated, well paid and normally upper caste, have replaced the kar sevaks who largely belonged to the middle class and the lower classes.
Today we have mobile phones and the internet unlike two decades back. If an incident like this were to happen, the media would cover it in a more detailed manner. If they are thrown out like they had been 20 years back, the kar sevaks (or should we be saying the internet Hindus) would be recording the event on their mobile phones and uploading pictures on Facebook with messages like “I was there.”
But some things are still the same.
Dawood Ibrahim continues to be a free man.
Lal Krishna Advani still goes on rath yatras whenever he does get the time and still hopes to become the Prime Minister of this country some day.
Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar ironically continues to look like the best batsman we have.
And Rahul Gandhi is still a bachelor!
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on December 6, 2012.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at [email protected])