The Ides of March traditionally related to the fall of the Roman Empire and the assassination of Caesar. In India, it could apply to the impending fall of another powerful empire and the assassination of language. In the heat of the electoral battle, prime movers and shakers are girding up their loincloths and using words and phrases that convey a confusion of meanings. Some examples:
Impotent: For someone who swears by the Oxford Dictionary, considering he taught at the famed university, Salman Khurshid’s choice of words can be colourful, but it can make others see red. ‘Impotent’ can be construed as the inability to get things done. Also someone who does not, or cannot, act. It can also get lost in translation when using the Hindi ‘napunsak’. For the target, Narendra Modi — who values his macho image — it was definitely a low blow, but considering he has remained a bachelor, despite getting married, there’s literally no issue. Party of rioting power: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee promised “poribartan”, but it has largely been a case of change in meanings rather than meaningful change, and words that speak louder than actions. Her latest ‘transformation’ of the English language was when she recently referred to the BJP as a “party of rioting power”. Whether she meant a party with conflicting leadership or riots breaking out if it comes to power remained unclear, but she does have a way with words.
Crushing media: Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde generally looks like he has his foot in his mouth, especially when confronting the press. The yoga-like posture acquires another dimension when there are pressing issues to be tackled. As in his recent threat to crush the media for giving the Congress bad press. His warning was directed at the electronic media, saying he had the Intelligence Bureau under him and knew whom to target. He, of course, lacked the intelligence or clout to take on network bureaus, so he did some quick editing to clarify he only meant social media. It was like a roar reduced to a tweet.
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Apology: BJP president Rajnath Singh’s contribution to language and meaning. He cut a sorry figure when he asked Muslims to forgive the party for any “past mistakes”, but lost no time claiming he didn’t mean Gujarat while others claimed he never meant Ayodhya, leaving everybody searching for hidden meanings. What they found was the classic politician’s ploy of apologising without saying sorry.
Parole: Meant to be given sparingly and in extreme circumstances, but actor Sanjay Dutt has found the Maharasthra government in an extremely sparing mood as far as his is concerned; he’s been out more than in since his jail term started. It has led to speculation about the role of a Godfather. Dutt has also played both tragedy and comedy, and this is both. He is clearly not acting in the best interests of justice.
Third Front: An old joke that is revived every time a general election is in the offing. But what the front does have in plenty, apart from grand illusion, is prime ministerial hopefuls, led by Mulayam Singh and Jayalalithaa, one promising a secular utopia, the other just a utopia, complete with fans, TV sets, mixer grinders, goats and milch cows for all, not just the fans in her home state. It’s called milking the votes, but what takes the birthday cake are posters of Amma in Chennai with five world leaders, including Barack Obama, George Bush and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, all bowing before the lady! Clearly shows her stature is expanding.