An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

June 1, 2023

The Manchurian Candidates

PM-KejriwalThis 1960 Novel by Richard Condon was a political thriller masterpiece. The plot revolved around a US presidential nominee. He had unknowingly been subjected to an extensive mind control program which in effect turned him into a puppet in the hands of his controller. He was propped up as a war veteran of impeccable character who also held a Medal of Honor from Iraq war. A combination the US public really loves to elect before things go haywire. Of course, this article is not a review of this old classic but i thought it would be prudent to give the reader a background.

I don’t think such a mind control technique is in existence till date. Irrespective of that, Indian political history is littered with examples of varying degrees of Manchurian candidates. Before we proceed, it’d be wise to establish a basic understanding. A Manchurian candidate is the public face, a person of acceptable, if not impeccable character. He is prone to manipulation or control from his handler on most if not all issues. The handler on the other hand will not or cannot be the public face. He uses the candidate for implementing an agenda which was never disclosed to the people.

A famous example is Rabri Devi. the illiterate wife of Lalu Yadav, who served three terms as chief minister but the defacto power remained with Lalu. Lalu couldn’t hold the post since he was accused of corruption while his wife, being the public face, submissively carried out his commands. She may not have achievements or an impeccable record to show for but her subservience to her controller was exemplary. There are thousands of examples where jailed leaders have put up their family members in elections. In recent elections in Rajasthan, a jailed leader who is facing charges of rape and murder, put up his 83 year old mother in his place. She could hardly speak and told the media she is a dummy and if elected, the real power will be with her jailed son.

These are, however, examples of candidates with varying degrees of Manchurian syndrome. How about a perfect Manchurian candidate? Our current prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh seems to fit the bill. He speaks when told to, almost always a written script. He does or does not do things as instructed by high command. His loyalty to Madam can put man’s best friend to shame. He is immune to insult and humiliation as seen in case of his ordinance that high command’s son tore up and threw in garbage. Funny even his demeanor resembles that of a robot. As he nears end of his second term as PM, almost everyone in country knows he might be the PM but the real power lies with Congress party president Sonia Gandhi. He is not the only one guilty though. Given the way congress party functions, almost every senior leader is more than willing to act as instructed without any questions.

The recent entrant in the political landscape of India, AAP makes for an interesting case study in this regard. It’s a pity, how one of India’s most promising leaders Arvind Kejriwal is allowing himself to fall into this category. Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t exactly a house hold name till Janlokpal agitation. He had a background of relentless fight against corruption and working onsocial issues. His past and a clean image endeared him to civil society members like Anna, Kiran Bedi, Santosh Hegde. As Kejriwal went on with his aggressive campaign the original members of the movement withered away while new ones joined.

The coterie that surrounds Kejriwal today, doesn’t carry the same high morals as the erstwhile Anna team. Infact most of them are closet communists pushing naxal sympathetic agenda. From Yogendra Yadav, Prof Alok Kumar, Prashant Bhushan to other unknown members, none of them contested the Delhi elections and yet they’re the ones driving future strategies of the party. While the publicly acceptable face of Arvind Kejriwal charms the crowds with his anti corruption barbs, the politburo in the background is formulating policies with controversial stands on Kashmir, Naxalism, Nuclear power, terrorists and national security. From questioning encounter of terrorists to separate manifesto for Muslims. Promise of free water and cheap electricity, all find striking resemblance in communist party manifestos. The concept of Mohalla Samitis sounds similar to communes in the former soviet union. Kejriwal is no longer the man deciding and setting the agenda. Instead he is the one following what politburo decides.

It’s interesting to note that majority of the voters who chose AAP in elections don’t even know the name of AAP candidate they’ve voted for. With no real power or say in functioning of the party or the government, these AAP legislatures are nothing more than stooges. They act as rubber stamps while the real agenda is pushed by the unelected politburo.

All this, while not uncommon in Indian politics, is certainly disappointing, coming from Arvind and AAP. Rise of AAP promised a new breed of politics in India and yet the way things have gone, seems the promise will remain a pipe dream. The vicious communist agenda if pushed through, with the help of new breed of Manchurian candidates, will only poison an already morose and disillusioned populace with more cynicism.