I write regular columns for a number of mainstream, mass-circulation dailies. If, in a column, I had openly appealed for support to any one candidate contesting the Lok Sabha poll, an editor would have contacted me and stated the newspaper's inability to print it. An article, it is understood in our profession, shouldn't be akin to an advertisement.
Yesterday's Sunday Times of India had Shobhaa De going overboard in her endorsement of banker Meera Sanyal who is contesting as an Independent from Mumbai South. Saturday's Mint also carried an endorsement of Sanyal. Other publications have given disproportionate publicity to Mallika Sarabhai who, it seems, is contesting from Gandhinagar merely to paint rival L.K. Advani as an "outsider"--a theme that should appeal naturally to Raj Thackeray.
It is well recognised by everyone that neither Sanyal nor Sarabhai are likely to win. I am doubtful if both of them will save their deposits. Eliciting mass support, it would seem, is not on the agenda of both these candidates. Yet, both have made a virtue of the fact that they are fringe players and that most voters will not trust them with their vote. Exclusivity may be a social virtue and a criterion for club membership but it doesn't suit public life in a democracy.
That the levels of sanctimoniousness is inversely proportional to public support is puzzling. But it is an indication of the disdain with which these beautiful people view their co-citizens. They are snobs in an arena where snobbery is at a discount.
I can understand the media viewing the likes of Sanyal and Sarabhai as expressions of light relief--in the same way as the British media used to view "Lord" Sutch of the Monster Raving Loony Party. But when their candidature becomes a pretext to tell the "great unwashed" that they are ignorant fools, something stinks.
Politics is hard work, time consuming and requires a particular temperament. Would any of these candidates be able to spend countless hours interacting with people in inhospitable government offices and attending hundreds of marriages and funerals each year? Would they like their privacy to be invaded at odd hours by pesky constituents?
OK, if policy interventions are what separates national politics from parish pump issues, where has Sanyal distinguished herself? Her priorities seem distinctly municipal. Why, for that matter, doesn't Sarabhai contest on an anti-Narmada, anti-Modi plank instead of going on and on about Advani's "outsider" status? And, if she is so much of a rooted Ahmedabad woman, why has she appealed to "outsiders" from JNU to come and campaign for her? Are local people repelled by her "old money" disdain for the parvenu?
An election is an occasion for many social games. We are witnessing a strange intervention founded on high media exposure and low public acceptability.
I am not complaining. Sanyal and Sarabhai are adding to the versatility of a democratic system they implicitly abhor.