The BJP's pre-election rhetoric on Kashmir and Pakistan now sounds more and more like Asrani's bombast in Sholay.
Before coming to power, it claimed to be different from the Congress, like Asrani calling himself a strict Angrezon ke zamane ka jailer who would not allow any kind of nonsense under his baton.
"Humare aane se pehle yahan jo kuch hota aaya hai, woh ab nahin chalega. No, no, no, no, no." The BJP and its leaders roared soon after coming to power in dialogue-baazi that now seems to be inspired by Salim-Javed.
Since the environment was filmi, heavy with melodramatic one-liners aimed at frontbenchers, almost everybody had a go. Smriti Irani, in a memorable display of rhetoric promised to send bangles to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh after Pakistanis beheaded an Indian soldier. Sushma Swaraj vowed to bring back ten heads to avenge every loss of Indian life. And the incumbent prime minister himself did not let any opportunity to underline his own decisiveness and mock his predecessor's lack of courage.
With Kashmir slipping into greater turmoil every passing day, Pakistan becoming more belligerent, China threatening to meddle into India's domestic affairs to safeguard its investment in CPEC, and visiting Turkish president recommending international mediation, the BJP government appears speechless, prompting the Congress to mock the BJP's history of talking big and doing nothing.
In its moment of reckoning under the headlights, the BJP has the same expression Asrani had when he cried out in anguish: Hamari jail main surang!
Yes, Mr Modi , a lot has happened under your watch. And perhaps you are not even aware how enemies of the Indian state have crept deep into our territories, making the self-proclaimed jailer of British era's pre-election rhetoric look like comical interlude.
Kashmir is a real mess. The spectre of violence in bypolls to the Srinagar parliamentary constituency, the dismal turnout on polling day and the sight of girls skipping school to pelt stones were big pointers to the deteriorating condition on the ground. But, what's ever more worrying is that the Indian state has had to cancel elections to the Anantnag constituency because of fear of violence and a near total boycott.
The Election Commission's decision to cancel the bypolls tells many things. One, the Indian state is not in a position to hold elections in its own backyard. Two, the chief minister of the state is helpless in her own bastion, in a constituency where her own brother is a candidate. And three, the BJP, just like Asrani, can just watch as things spiral out of control under its own alliance government.
Two other developments are disconcerting. For the first time in decades, Chinese official media has openly written about its government's desire to play an active role in the Kashmir dispute. It says China will have no option but to intervene because of its huge investments in an economic corridor that run through parts of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
China has always meddled in Kashmir through its proxies. But, its open declaration of the intent to become an interlocutor — a mild word — in the dispute is a watershed event. Now, that China has announced it publicly, it will back up its words with real action on the ground.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's extraordinary decision to tilt towards Pakistan and raise the Kashmir issue on the eve of his visit India is another worrying sign of the growing interest of Pakistan's allies in Kashmir. Though Erdogan himself can do very little to push India's hand on Kashmir, it shows how the BJP-led government has failed to isolate Pakistan in spite of its rhetoric.
The evolving situation indicates India should be very vigilant on Kashmir. The dark triad of local anger and protests, Pakistan's defiance and the support from its allies point to tough times ahead for India and the failure of the BJP government to keep the situation under control.
On Pakistan, in fact, it is impossible to concede that India's policy has been a mix of naivete, rhetoric and adventurism. Like a quack trying every possible remedy, the Narendra Modi government has experimented with everything at its disposal to deal with Pakistan. From inviting Nawaz Sharif for his own swearing-in to making a surprise pit-stop at Lahore, from cancelling, rescheduling then again cancelling bi-partite talks to carrying out surgical strikes, the Modi government has tried every trick in the trade. But, nothing has brought Pakistan to its knees. In fact, as the beheading of two Indian soldiers by its BATs shows, Pakistan is in fact mocking at Indian helplessness even after exhausting every possible option.
As the Congress has argued, Pakistan has become more intractable and belligerent over the past few years. It has been violating ceasefire with impunity, organising more attacks on the Indian soil and fanning more trouble in the Valley.
If only the BJP had kept the rhetoric low on Kashmir and Pakistan, we would have still been laughing at Asrani of Sholay, instead of rewinding tapes of speeches of the BJP's top guns for tragi-comic relief.
Updated Date: May 03, 2017 16:45 PM