Today is the anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi’s death, an event I would have blissfully ignored if the cable had not gone out in the morning and we had to switch to Doordarshan for a brief period. Entirely coincidentally, today I decided to change the CD in my car’s music system that was playing the same set of Kishore Kumar songs again and again. I felt like having some Hindustani vocal. That naturally brings up the question: How much damage did the government do to Indian classical music by switching to it during periods of “national mouring”?
I have not been following the ups and downs of the American primaries very closely because there isn’t much profit to be had from it. I am sure that the internal workings of the US presidential elections are as interesting as those of the Nutrimatic Drink Dispenser, but the result will be the same. So I am only dimly aware of the Barack Obama phenomenon (and before you ask, I was completely uninterested in the Ron Paul phenomenon.) But from what I understand, he is like the Rajiv Gandhi of 1984.
There are many reasons why the dynastic system finds favour with people. A minor one among these is that every generation a new scion of the ruling family descends on the scene and makes a bid for a top post. Chances are, he will be a relatively young person among more senior contenders. Youth always attracts people – they associate it with freshness. They also instinctively associate it with a rapid rise, achievement and talent, even when they should know better. Because this person is from the ruling family, chances are that he has not had to fight his way to the top, has not had to make ugly compromises and does not have a history that gives some people a reason to hate him. His “clean past” is an empty vessel into which people can pour their hopes and aspirations, whatever they are, however unrealistic they are. So it was with the Rajiv Gandhi of 1984. With absolutely no basis in his track record, nay with no track record people had decided that he was the one who would lead the country into the 21st century. The dream took around 2 years to end.