The Wall vs the Mandir


The Wall vs the Mandir

Illustration: Akshita Monga

George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, first published in 1949, became a bestseller in 2017. The novel paints a picture of a government wielding severe control over its people and persecuting any form of independent thought. George Orwell didn’t know that reality TV star and Dr Batra’s future patient, Donald Trump, would some day be in the position of the leader of the free world when he spoke about Newspeak and Doublethink.

Up until last week, the world and its optimistic inhabitants lived under the vague idea that there is no way that Trump would actually put into action his outrageous campaign promises. But last Wednesday, he signed an executive order to commence building his magnum opus and the most ambitious of his campaign promises – the wall. This was followed by the executive order on Friday that banned the entry of refugees, migrants, and green-card holders from seven Muslim-majority nations to the United States.

As the world reacted with variations of the astonished face emoji, it had to grudgingly admit that as much as they hated this orange orangutan, he was perhaps the first world leader who actually followed through on the promises he made when he demanded the public’s vote.

In stark contrast is India, also known as the country which has been waiting for ₹15 lakh deposits, even as black money lies safe and snug in Switzerland. And Vikas? Well, Vikas is standing sab ke saath in an ATM queue outside the Parliament. But perhaps the biggest carrot is the one that the ruling party has been dangling in front of its strident supporters for more than two decades and has never actually delivered on – the Ram Mandir.

The temple has been a BJP promise since 1992, ever since the destruction of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya put the party on the national map. From the Age of Advani, the BJP has always been in the “will build” mode, but unlike Donald Trump, no one has ever laid down any concrete plans to actually build the temple.

Comparisons have already been made between Donald Trump and Indian politicians, but it’s not difficult to see who the winner here is.

Now, with the Uttar Pradesh elections around the corner, the BJP, beginning an image-rehabilitation exercise post the resounding success of reducing 86 per cent of the country’s cash, has once again decided to use their Brahmastra. Last week, Uttar Pradesh chief Keshav Prasad Maurya said, “Ram Mandir is a subject of faith. It is not going to be built in two months,” he said, managing expectations. “The temple will be constructed after the elections. BJP will come to power with a full majority.” Here’s another carrot for you, people, just tantalisingly out of reach. This latest comment is a direct middle finger to India’s Supreme Court, which recently ruled against the use of religion or caste to garner votes in elections.

But why blame the BJP? It isn’t the only party that has broken its social contract. The Congress, in its 2009 general election manifesto, promised faster and more inclusive growth. There was no mention that the inclusivity will only apply to Congress leaders and ministers in the 2G spectrum and coal scams. The Congress’s other promise that failed spectacularly? Their scion Rahul Gandhi.

That’s a feeling we also associate with the Aam Aadmi Party. For all of Muffler Man and AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal’s grandstanding, he promised Delhi eight lakh new jobs, filling of 55,000 vacancies in the government and autonomous bodies of Delhi, and permanency of around 4,000 doctors and 15,000 nurses and paramedics when he took office. “Whatever we promised before coming to power, we fulfilled in just 49 days,” he said in 2014 regarding the lowering of electricity prices. As of February 2016, however, only 1,417 jobs were created. And the other promises? Nada. Anyone know where the Lokpal at? Though one can sympathise with Kejriwal because he never really assumed the chief ministership of an Indian state, but the presidency of a municipality.

Comparisons have already been made between Donald Trump and Indian politicians, but it’s not difficult to see who the winner here is. Trump might be a pussy-grabbing xenophobe, he might be a racist and connected to the KKK, but you can’t doubt his efficiency in fulfilling his campaign promises.

With pivotal elections around the corner, the Indian public is being fed the “Mandir yahin banayenge” bullshit all over again. Looking at the way politics has been practised in this country over the last two years, it’s clear as day that the only mandir the BJP plans to build is that of PM Modi inside every Hindu household.