Politics, Ek Prem Katha: Lessons in Love from Maya, Mamata, and Other Indian Netas


Politics, Ek Prem Katha: Lessons in Love from Maya, Mamata, and Other Indian Netas

Illustration: Arati Gujar

If we had to learn something from our politicians, the top lesson would be how to con the public into thinking you’re serving them while actually lining your own pockets. But it might surprise you to learn that another area where our netas can inspire us is in the relationship department. From an assertive Uddhav Thackeray to the contrarian Mamata Banerjee, our prolific leaders are doling out relationship lessons — you just need to know where to look.

Keep your partners guessing

Rule #1 for a healthy relationship: Never let your partners take you for granted. And any politician who has ever liaised with Behen Mayawati knows that through painful experience. After all, the formidable Behen of the Hindi heartland had bailed out the Congress in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, where it desperately needed a helping hand to form a government. But not only did Mayawati spring a nasty surprise by refusing to tie up with the Congress in the battle for UP, she has also been keeping the party on tenterhooks with her frequent and sharp attacks on its strategy toward alliance partners. More recently, she tore into the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh, when an accused in an alleged cow slaughter incident was charged under the National Security Act.

Even Akhilesh Yadav, who has been her unlikely ally in a bid to topple Adityanath, can rarely breathe easy. The seat-sharing formula made it amply evident that Behen ji is the boss: In Uttar Pradesh the SP and the BSP have decided to contest in almost half the seats each (of the total 80), prompting SP party founder, Mulayam Singh Yadav to remark, “Now, tell me the basis for giving away half the seats. Now we have only half the seats left.” Poor Akhilesh, his alliance with his father’s political nemesis has been that double-edged sword with which he must carve out his political identity. So the next time you feel taken for granted in a relationship, pull a Mayawati and give them a reality check.

Ride out the rough patches

Love finds a way. Warring couples, separated couples, divorced couples, partners who simply hate each other — all decide to bury the hatchet and pick up the roses again. The Shiv Sena and the BJP are a perfect case study for relationship counsellors. Ever since they came together to trounce the Congress in Maharashtra, this power couple has never really had a honeymoon in their  lives. Uddhav Thackeray has never missed an opportunity to remind the BJP that neither his views nor his voters can be taken lightly. The BJP has responded by plying the party with just enough to keep it from filing for official divorce, while never really ceding any political ground. And despite using the party mouthpiece Saamna to attack the Modi government on issues ranging from Rafale to communal riots, Shiv Sena decided to stick with the BJP again. (Of course, the pre-anniversary gift of ₹100 crore for the Bal Thackeray memorial might have done the trick.) How the two parties handle their fresh flare-up over the CM’s post will be essential viewing for anyone looking to ride out a rough patch in their own relationship.

There are times when the path to true love is blocked by obstacles, like the whole world hating your choice of life partner.

Love thyself

Sometimes, you have to date around before you realise your true soulmate is you, which are words Mamata Banerjee could live by after reaching out to all non-BJP leaders. Despite the floral photo opportunities with Uddhav Thackeray and KCR, and the fabulous rally in Kolkata, she still finds herself leading a fractured team. At home, her party is struggling with dissenters and trigger-happy cadres. The CBI is snapping at her heels. And the BJP is throwing in some major muscle to put her down. But you have to give it to Didi. She seems to know just how to survive political heartbreaks and move on.

Other than the CBI fracas, Banerjee has been getting tremendous bad press from the artist’s community after she was accused of snuffing a film, critical of her policies, out of theatres. But she shows no signs of slowing down. Or toning down her rhetoric, even when her so-called partners ditch her at the altar. In a way, she is the perfect example of how to be in a supremely happy relationship with yourself.

Stand by your bae

There are times when the path to true love is blocked by obstacles, like the whole world hating your choice of life partner. For those trapped in this dilemma, look no further than Congress heiress Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra, the Gandhi family’s Achilles heel. Until now. Vadra, who has been accused in a 2013 land grab scam, has never been anyone’s favourite. The apolitical masses could never really figure out the chemistry between the seemingly unlikely couple. But as soon as the Gandhi scion announced her maiden foray into electoral politics, her husband was summoned by the ED for questioning in a money laundering case.

Just when you thought the Congress leader would try to downplay the incident, she decided to brazen it out. She even accompanied him to the ED grilling sessions, creating a brazen and rather cheeky photo opportunity. At a time when she has been under fresh and vicious attacks by trolls and political rivals for her lineage and her husband, you would imagine Priyanka to play it safe. But by taking a leaf from her brother’s brand of politics (remember that famous hug and wink in parliament?) she let the world know she stands by her husband. And that, dear kids, is what they call commitment.

So this election season, remember to be political and stay up-to-date with our politicians’ latest antics. You never know, you might find your love life gets a boost.