From rhetoric to parodies

It is amazing how the Indian politicians manage to remain in the public eye and also appear on the small screen, without most giving the impression of being drained out.

By Nilofar Suhrawardy (INDIA)

Published: Tue 28 Feb 2012, 8:38 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 3:32 PM

They literally appear to be ever ready with words to aggressively lash out against their rivals. What is it that keeps them going, as the age pattern suggests, from their twenties to near 80s? They have the zest to remain strongly in the race as ace politicians till literally their life’s end. Equally baffling is their dress code, from hairstyle to dust free footwear, as if they have stepped out of some laundry, all in one piece. Seriously speaking, they need to exploit this aspect commercially. Add the sale tag to politicians’ energy supplements, shoes/sandals, wrinkle-free clothes and of course lozenges to keep the throat and voice clear enough for speech as much as possible. Whether the politicians’ rhetoric sells enough to win them needed votes is not known but these commodities are bound to sell like hot cakes.

Statistically speaking, irrespective of how Indian politicians fare in their electoral battle, one thing is clear. Only a minor percentage of the involved will emerge as the winners. The economic rule of the day demands that greater importance must be given to political stuff that is likely to have appeal for the general public. When his political popularity was stronger, commercialisation of a traditional Indian drink and other such economic moves almost forced a Western think tank to invite Lalu Prasad and pay serious attention to his “ideas.” Lalu Prasad carried little appeal for them but his commercial instinct prompted them to take his ideas seriously.

Paradoxically, on the small screen, the importance of most prominent politicians is being increasingly pushed to the entertainment section, that too comical to draw laughs from the audience, at them. Whether this can be described as a parody or a comedy, it is but a minor reflection of nature of the importance that present politicians are being accorded by ordinary people. Even the serious, intellectual class prefers giving greater importance to their cartoons than the politicians themselves. This further supports the point of these “comedies” carrying a major commercial value for their sponsors. It is time this was carried further.

Just as Bollywood stars, cricketers have entered the advertising world, if not actual politicians, at least their look-alikes should enter this arena for serious shop-talk. Understandably, if an actual politician decides to accept the offer of speaking about his/her energy supplements, the secret of wrinkle-free clothes being spick ‘n’ span, dust-free shoes/sandals and other such confidential codes, he or she is likely to invite trouble from political rivals. The latter are likely to lose little opportunity in blaming these politicians for “commercialising” political ethics and norms, selling their “images” to brand names, falling prey to money-hawks and so much more.

Celebrities who have fared well in their respective fields, including Bollywood, media, sports, academics, business and others, don’t take too long to try their innings as politicians. But the same doesn’t hold true for politicians.

Once in the political arena, most are there forever, only a few considering retirement. The fault is not totally theirs. It is not an easy job for politicians to adapt themselves to other careers. Besides, it’s practically impossible for non-politicos to compromise their interests and stakes to suit that of politicians keen to join them. This explains that it isn’t easy stepping out of the political arena for those who have chosen to literally jump into the field.

The failure of politicians to emerge as brand ambassadors for commodities they can presumably sell may be due to a risk feared by marketers. The first is the fear of the value of their products declining to that of political rhetoric. The second is falling out of favour in the rival political camp. This is probably viewed as a major political risk with severe economic consequences. Not surprisingly, the image value of even successful politicians remains largely limited to parodies on the small screen.

Nilofar Suhrawardy is a India-based writer

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