Me captain, you team: Very vain, very effective

That's Imran Khan. Out to slay the 'circus ke sher' (of Nawaz Sharif), solve Pakistan's problems: thrash the thieves, get a driving licence, shoot down the drones, spook the West into giving you a visa. All you need is his bat, the magic wand that's, curiously, cast a spell

If you wanted to be so boringly accurate, wounded tiger is a description that will fit Imran Khan, now that he runs his campaign from his mobile phone, his battered trunk all bruised and bandaged. But he may not like that. Because tiger is now identified with the opposition. Or rather, more fitting, given the way he has run his campaign, with his enemy. In so many years, in fact, decades of covering electoral politics, I have never seen a more rude and vain campaign. What matters, however, is that it is working for him.

"Main tumhara captain, aur tum meri team," he often tells his crowds. Now, when did you last hear that? Come election time, and your politician becomes the very epitome of humility and grace before the voter. Not a tiger, but a bheegi billi. Instead of the "Me captain, you my team" exhortation, he is more likely to say you are the masters of my destiny, and me forever your humble servant. Not Imran. His detractors dismiss him as an incurable case of "I" disease. But he doesn't bother. And his voters love it.

All the metaphors and messages he uses are rude, macho and disdainful of all opposition. "Main circus ke sheron ko maarne aaya hoon (I am here to kill the circus lions)," he says, and the crowds cheer. Then he swings a cricket bat (his election symbol), like a pehelwan flaunts his mace in an akhara, and announces his plan to publicly whip the 500 "biggest looters" of Pakistan a day after the election. Crowds cheer again. Then he promises to shoot down the first American drone that enters Pakistani airspace once he becomes prime minister. Cheers get louder. And you cannot but shiver looking at the number of people in the crowd also swinging cricket bats they have brought along.

... contd.

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