Anyway this involuntary viewing of a third rate Hindi film did answer one question that had been bothering me for quite some time ever since the unexpectedly good performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi assembly elections in December 2013. Having seen many people's movements bite the dust as far as performance in elections is concerned I had not put much store by the AAP. But surprise of surprises the party did very well and came close to forming the government on its own and did so later with the help of the few legislators of the Indian National Congress which it had decimated. What I couldn't fathom was how the voters believed that the AAP would be able to fulfil all the promises it was making about ridding the government of corruption and providing free or cheap public services of a good quality and voted for it in such large numbers. Clearly, they believed in the capabilities of its leader Arvind Kejriwal who was leading from the front. Even though small and frail looking he obviously conformed to the metaphorical fifty six inch syndrome.
After this came the parliamentary elections in May 2014 and the high pitched campaign of Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate. I did what I thought was a pretty nifty analysis of the voting possibilities in various states across the country and came to the conclusion that the BJP and its allies would have to perform something like a miracle by winning more than 80 percent of the seats in the states in which they were strong and also in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where they had been languishing for some time. Surprise again as they went even one better by making clean sweeps in some of these states and getting more than 90 percent of seats overall from the states that I had considered for my analysis. Once again it was the charisma of Modi and the belief of the voters that he would be able to fulfil all the tall promises he was making that carried the day. Modi repeatedly used macho metaphors, not the least the one that he had a fifty six inch chest!!!
I am a person who is totally against the phenomenon of individual leadership which is an imperative in centralised and hierarchical systems. This scepticism regarding the liberating possibilities of individual leadership has been reinforced by the failure of individual leaders of great charisma, across the religious, social, economic and political spectrum in bringing about the establishment of a just socio-economic order (business leaders are by definition crooks who are interested only in furthering their economic interests!!!). That is why I find it a little difficult to understand why people fall for the rhetoric of leaders, especially ones who boast that they are super human and have fifty six inch chests. The commercial success of the film Dabangg solved this problem of understanding for me. People like simple linear solutions to difficult and complex structural problems even if that is illogical. Even though all that the hero of the film Dabangg did is impractical and cannot be replicated in real life, nevertheless a large number of viewers spent their hard earned money to go along with this fiction and liked it. Similarly, in elections also, voters seem to prefer the comfort of believing that individual heroes in the social, religious or political spheres can solve their problems which are primarily structural in nature and created by the greed and oppression of the leaders of business. Commercial films, television and sport, all controlled by big business, have always played a major role in promoting this fiction that entices people into vicariously succeeding through their heroes but the extent to which this has now come to mesmerise voters in elections is very disturbing indeed. The rise of the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal also was orchestrated by the media initially, only to be jettisoned by them later on when Arvind began to get too big for his boots and began attacking the very business barons who control the media!!! Anarchists like us get listened to only by a very small minority who have no other choice but to listen to us having been badly disillusioned by their heroes!!!