OPINION
No one says this to Pardhanji. We have to.
- NISCHAY PAUL
No one says this to Pardhanji. We have to.



DEFEAT IS EXPECTED to spur any political party into some introspection. At worst, a defeated political force enacts a charade of introspection. Bussing the dejected comrades to a hill station or a five star hotel for chintan-meetings used to be the gold standard. A more robust form of introspection would often witness challenges to the established leadership that did not deliver results. 

In Punjab, nothing like this happened with the Akali Dal. The party faced its worst defeat, trailing at number three. Its alliance partner, roaring around the country, remains as silent as a mouse in the bigger brother's shadow. Not one leader in the third rung of Akali Dal leadership posed any question to the top father-son duo. (There is no second rung leader in the Akali Dal.) And not for one day did the party behave like a force that got defeated at the hustings. 

For some inexplicable reason, the senior leader has lost any wish to have a darshan of the sangat, a routine he would not give up even when the doctors used to advise him to get some well-earned rest. And no one has challenged the son to a leadership duel after this historic and humiliating defeat

Any core committee, working committee, political affairs committee or whatever committee meeting, whenever it will take place, will see each leader expressing full faith in the high command. The problem with the third rung comrades is that they are always busy pulling each other down. They do not have the gumption to question why The Leader is selected and not elected. Being seen with The Leader on a stage is peddled as their achievement. For such a photo-op, the minions obediently gather around The Leader. Now, The Leader utters some inanity about a new comer opposition party. The third-rung hordes waiting at the gates chirp in unison. The Leader remains plastered on hoardings across Punjab. 
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In reality, the stronger that The Leader and his circle appear, the weaker is the organisation. Power now flows solely from The Leader. Did he not tell you that even when out of power, top civil and police officers take his calls, kowtow to his diktats?
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The Leader stamps his authority by declaring that district commissioners and senior police officers still attend to his phone calls. The minions are awestruck by the omnipotence of their leader 
 
These minions have no ambition to matter in the scheme of things. They merely want to be able to pretend that they matter in the scheme of things. They are frequently reminded of their utter dependence for security and survival on The Leader. "Call me if anyone torments you," The Leader tells them. 
 
It is the same pattern that The Leader adopted during his years in power. He would pass the crumbs around, very carefully, making the minions first fight for it, and then be grateful when they get a morsel. For how else will the morsel look big if the minions do not fight for it? And the leader knows how to keep such fights going. Holding back the morsels is one way. Letting know that more morsels are on the way is another. 
 
Minion A becomes a halqa-incharge. Minion B is promised he will be made one if Minion A fails. Minion C hopes both pull each other down. All minions are also selected by The Leader. Lesser minions insert advertisements and put up flex hoardings to proclaim their direct link with Minion A or Minion B. 
 
The Leader, meanwhile, has many favours to bestow. Such as choosing to have a cup of tea with a wanna-be Minion C. This is projected by the house-trained media as a major political move. Dropping in on a marriage ceremony to bless the newlyweds is considered a hallmark of the humility of The Leader. 
 
The minions then emulate The Leader. Everyone has read the signal. Follow The Leader, follow The Leader's actions, follow his pretences, too. Follow his shams, his theatre, his Judy and Punch act through the maze of politics.
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Once you shun ideology, the movement becomes a party. Then it becomes a mere electoral machine. So it has to ‘adjust’.
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The Leader, meanwhile, is a chameleon. He is a survivor. He is hailed for being a survivor. But no one mentions that the survival is because of his immense capacity at being a chameleon. 
 
The Leader calls his political alliance a Fraternal Alliance. The desperateness earlier used to take him to sundry havans, yagyas, aartis, poojas. He was routinely spotted at the darbar of one or the other satguru. Satgurus have massive and captive vote banks. 
 
The politics of The Leader becomes a game of clever formulations. Earlier, he talked about higher MSP of crops, international airports, thermal plants. Now, it is about river waters, Chandigarh, attack on SGPC, zulm on his minions. If things do not work out, The Leader may be forced to pull out the 1980s card: the Azad Hasti of the Sikhs! 
 
When the party of history had come into power, it dumped the history. Forgot the legacy. Trashed its own struggle. Became the party of airports and Progressive Punjab summits and cheque distribution at SangatDarshans and managing administration through halqaincharges. Out of power, it merely wants to wait out.
 
Minions, too, wait. And as they wait, they hail The Leader. The Leader is now too big. He is a monolith. He is such a burden. He has to be propped up at all times. Because he cannot be allowed to fall. After all, he is the face and the body of the party. Down below and deep inside, there is nothing to the party. It is all hollow.
 
The Leader faces little threat because he believes in nothing. He has not taught the minions to believe in anything, so they, too, cannot threaten. When you believe in nothing, there is nothing that you need to desist from doing if there is some advantage that could be accrued. 
 
The Leader is helped by others. By those outside his party. They, too, are chips of the same block. They, too, are leaders in the same league. "Baki vee sab same ne,” goes the argument. So why change?
 
"Can one leader be any different from the other? Does any leader live by any ideals?” Then why blame The Leader? Why blame a particular leader? The flaw is systemic. So we can live with The Leader.

No one mentions the "shrinking universe of morals." The ideas and ideology for the attainment of which the party was founded no longer permeate or radiate into those who are outside the party or organisation, just as it no longer affects those who are inside it. 

Once you shun ideology, the movement becomes a party. Then it becomes a mere electoral machine. So it has to ‘adjust’. Adjustment means compromises. It becomes acceptable language. Even acceptable formulation. Soon, it is raised to the level of an ideology. 
 
But the transformation doesn’t stop there. Indeed, it has just begun. For the character of the one who has wrested the top office, stamps itself on the entire organisation, on every level of the organisation. His very success legitimises ambition, greed, and intrigue, double-dealing. 
 
It becomes imperative for The Leader that the only voices are the ones that hail him. So he ensures that all gatherings unanimously resolve to leave the choice of nominating all office-bearers to him. The party hierarchy comes to consist entirely of nominees of The Leader, and of those who, for the moment, have managed to insinuate themselves into the good books of The Leader.  
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Minions wait, and as they wait, they hail The Leader. The Leader is now too big. He is a monolith. He is such a burden. He has to be propped up at all times. Because he cannot be allowed to fall. After all, he is the face and the body of the party. Down below and deep inside, there is nothing to the party. It is all hollow.
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In reality, the stronger that The Leader and his circle appear, the weaker is the organisation. Power now flows solely from The Leader. Did he not tell you that even when out of power, top civil and police officers take his calls, kowtow to his diktats?
 
You have given The Leader a new job. Has he shown up for it? He is not even saying he is the new Opposition. He is saying he is the old ruler. ("DCs, SSPs take my calls!") So you need to do some of the job yourself. The Leader is missing in action. So please show up for some work.
 
And that involves understanding why things are the way they are, and what must be done to move forward. It starts by asking questions. We understand it is an onerous task. All we promise is that we will be with you in this one. Raising questions, pointing fingers, stating facts, calling out bluffs, and refusing to strike false equivalence when the choice is between stark truth and utter lies. Punjab Today will not be found missing in action. 
 

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Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT








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