Pranab Mukherjee and Political Semiotics

Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

You don’t build a skyscraper to conceal a dead mouse, as Saul Bellow the Nobel Prize winning novelist would have asked. The entire nation was in a state of ferment over Pranab Mukherjee’s proposed speech on the occasion of the visit of the RSS headquarter. The national media had created such an air of expectancy as if a modern-day version of Book of Revelation was going to be launched from the ramparts of the RSS headquarters.

Pranab Mukherjee is no prophet, nor is he a great political thinker, nor a spellbinder, nor a man of compelling moral authority. He is just an astute politician endowed with a superlative skill for survival. Citizen Pranab Mukherjee could be described best in these lines from W. H. Auden’s poem The Unknown Citizen:

"Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war,
he went.

Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard."

Never the one to court controversy, he got away with the account of tempestuous years in his Autobiography without creating enemies. Why would he do so now?

In its complete banality his speech did not surprise anyone. It was a boring bricolage of what has been said ad nauseum: pious, trite, time-worn, as clichéd as clichés could be; homilies, sermons and the mantra like invocation of pluralism, inclusiveness, unity in diversity. It was a consummate use of language as political gesture; therefore, necessarily the words were sanitized and drained out of any significant content.

His presence at the RSS headquarters itself was the message, the rest was floral gift wrapping.

Umberto Ecco once said, "The politician, when speaking…, is actually sending a message in code that emanates from one power group to another and is destined for another. The two groups sender and receiver understand one another perfectly well. It is clear, moreover, that in order for communication between power groups to carry on undisturbed it must go over the heads of the public just like the coded messages passing between two armed camps in a war situation, which might be intercepted by ham radio groups but never understood the fact of its not being understood by others is the indispensable condition for the maintenance of private relationship between power groups."

His other ambitions were fulfilled but his ambition of the lifetime to become the Prime Minister of India was stymied. His memoir gives out the sense of hurt. The silent, subservient, suave and self-effacing Manmohan Singh became the natural choice over the more experienced and infinitely wily Pranab Mukherjee. Is there political life after Presidency of the Republic? Is that the coded message? Was it a private message sent to the BJP as well as select groups in his own party from a public platform which leapfrogs the eager public?

The political pot is simmering but no one knows what broth will be cooking in 2019. But one thing is for sure: there is the realization that the Congress has gone too far in "othering" the RSS - a corner stone of its policy - and, by a distant association, the many noncommitted, relatively nonparochial Hindu elements as well.

The political scenario has changed considerably and balanced, even tempered, Hindus are having a look around at the ‘secularism’, for good or for bad, which is now being perceived as an unabashed appeasement of the minorities and a deliberate short shifting of the Hindus.

Bismarck once said that there is no such thing as intuition: political genius consisted in listening to the hoof beats of history and then by a superhuman effort leaping and latching on to the coat tails of the horseman.

Is Pranab Mukherjee hearing the distant hoof beats of History? Is he taking a forward position? Only time will tell.


India Today magazine once referred to Manoje Nath, a 1973-batch IPS officer, as being fiercely independent, honest, and upright. Besides his numerous official reports on various issues exposing corruption in the bureaucracy in Bihar, Nath is also a writer extraordinaire expressing his thoughts on subjects ranging from science fiction to the effects of globalization. His sense of humor was evident through his extremely popular series named "Gulliver in Pataliputra" and "Modest Proposals" that were published in the local newspapers.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

View Your Patna

/30

Latest Comments

Guest Columns, Features, Lifestyle, Blog