The Right Pitch

A beastly election season is in store if the battle hymns striking up all over get any more play. The chorus of hurt sentiments is dying away after the crescendo of the Vishwaroopam ban, to be supplanted by exponents of the dramatic monologue like Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen MLA Akbaruddin Owaisi and Praveen Togadia of the VHP. You can't see the complete picture on television any more — in fact, maybe TV viewers never got the unabridged, unbleeped version — but YouTube has both worthies performing at length. The longest clip of Owaisi, credited to the Hyderabad channel 4tv, is on the site of Siasat.

These are rabble-rousers holding up the shibboleth of Ayodhya to a roused rabble. Owaisi reminds them that the Mumbai blasts would not have happened but for "action ka reaction" to the Babri demolition, whose architects are still unpunished. And he draws a contrast between Ajmal Kasab and Narendra Modi. "Kya hai us bachche ka naam, haan, Kasab. A Pakistani gets the noose for murdering Hindustanis while a Hindustani gets the throne of Delhi for murdering Hindustanis?" His audience rejects the law as a solution and softly bays for blood.

"A dog in Hyderabad thinks he is a tiger!" responded Praveen Togadia this week in his tympanum-piercing falsetto, defining Muslims as cowardly Hindus who quit the fold and fled to Pakistan. In response to Owaisi's rant about what would happen if the police were told to stand down and Muslims allowed to assert themselves, he reminded them of Nellie, Bhagalpur and Gujarat, where the police stood by and not one Hindu died. An embarrassing assertion, at a time when Modi is positioning himself for office at the Centre. No wonder the BJP is trying to keep him at arm's length.

But more importantly, Togadia dusted off the old Hindutva dogma — Hindu identity is crucially dependent on the construction of a Ram temple. Could one talk to Muslims? No way, his rabble responded. Could they trust the law? It offered no certainty, he said, echoing Owaisi. But unlike his declared opponent, who had wisely restricted himself to diffuse generalities, he exposed himself by being specific.

... contd.

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