The 'relative'-ity of politics

A popular running critique of politicians, found on the internet, is that they are blood-sucking insects because of the “etymology” of the word ‘politics’: “Poly” means “many”, and ticks are the aforementioned blood-sucking insects. But there is another breed of people that are considered ticks in many households: forced relatives. Interestingly, there’s no dearth of this species in politics as well!

It may have started innocuously, leading the common man to refer to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by the paternal moniker “Bapu”, or children to fondly call Jawaharlal Nehru “chacha” (uncle). Over the years, however, several politicians have either been bestowed or have had bestowed upon themselves—though the proxy of party activists and supporters—familial monikers that just might endear them to the electorate.

As a result, Mamata Banerjee has become Didi, J Jayalaithaa has become Amma, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has become “mama”, and several people in the hinterlands as well as urban areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have become elder brothers; eg, Raja Bhaiyya. Others, like Mayawati, have become Behenji. Sharad Pawar's nephew seems to have incorporated the fraternal moniker in his name, and has come to be called Ajit “dada”. Even former president Pratibha Patil was got “tai” (elder sister) added to her first name. Meanwhile, the “Bapu” moniker seems to have somehow passed on to Shankersinh Vaghela.

But all that was before the polls. The General Elections of 2014 seem to be throwing up familial ties left and right, in everyone’s effort to get to the Centre. Thus, while Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav is calling political rival Mayawati her “bua” (paternal aunt), the Behenji is snubbing him back. But for some inexplicable reason, she seems to have skipped a generation, and refused to see Akhilesh as her brother. Come to think of it, she might have been more slighted by the apparent age difference Akhilesh could have been trying to highlight than his efforts to forge an imaginary kinship with her.

Then there’s Narendra Modi. His comments, that Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was well within her rights to criticise him on behalf of her mother and brother because she was performing her duties as a daughter, seem to have been misconstrued as he calling her his daughter, or daughter-like to him. To this, Priyanka has tersely replied that she is the daughter of Rajiv Gandhi. Interesting, given how she has been projecting her brother as “like your son” to the electorate in Amethi, the Lok Sabha constituency Rahul Gandhi is contesting from.

And those aren’t the only people close to Priyanka who have had their familial ties dragged into the poll arena. Recently, the BJP published a video and a booklet alleging massive irregularities in the manner in which Priyanka's husband Robert Vadra “built” his real-estate business. In a jibe towards Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the “documentary” was called “Damad Shree” (honoured son-in-law).

While some like robert Vadra have these relational monikers thrust upon them, there’s Nagma, the former actor who is contesting on a Congress ticket from the Meerut Lok Sabha constituency, who had to plead with the crowds at her rally to view her as their sister—a move prompted by the repeated harassment she faced while on the campaign trail. Videos show a Congress MLA purportedly trying to kiss her on the podium of a rally, while reports talk of she being repeatedly targeted at public meetings.

While we wish Nagma all the success, the same can’t be said for “Kaka” Joginder Singh Dhartipakad, who once reportedly held for losing the largest number of elections, including the race to become President. Interestingly, the “Dhartipakad” tag he received is because of his dogged persistence to keep contesting elections despite the defeats mounting.

Politics, they say, is a game of changing relationships. It’s been proved amply in the past, is being proved constantly in these elections, and one has no doubt that it will be even more evident after the polls, when the horse-trading necessary to form government begins. Here’s raising a toast to the biggest dysfunctional family in the world.

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