In Assam, politics is not a stop word. It is stand-up comedy.
The other day, a friend remarked, ‘Isn’t it funny how politicians fight in the day and watch a game together in the evening?’ That got me thinking. We know that we are always taken for a ride and yet…we are always taken for a ride.
With the local elections coming up this year, the climate is not just of an unhealthy competition of blaming. It is in fact about who is wittier than the other. One pops up on TV to say that his party will win a certain constituency by 25k votes and his rival completes the jibe imagining how many sweets he’d have to eat if that happens. One compares the other’s drum-rolling of his high command with the art of a local dhol player and the latter overturns the argument meaning that his drumroll is, therefore, original and authentic. It is acutely funny, I tell you. All you have to do is just tune into the primetime news, or for that matter anytime news. You will easily get your share of laughs and you don’t even have to stand the real stand-up comedians who try too hard and end up sounding slapstick.
Herein, I might have to point out a few differences between politics and stand-up comedy. Stand-ups need a scheduled time slot and script. Politicians, on the other hand, don’t need that; whenever and wherever they find a platform, they start the game. Stand-ups have to stay within limits, lest they are sued for licentiousness. Politicians engage in libellous activities freely and often without fear of the law, (i.e. even if they have to face a lawsuit). Stand-ups have a correctional purpose. Politicians (when they’re picking on others) don’t. Stand-ups do not have a choice to shut up. Politicians do.
The funniest part is however played by the regional news channels. A few of them look like they have been launched on the basis of party loyalties, taking a stance to fend off the other. While their presenters spew venom at rival politicians and political parties from their channel’s point of view, news tickers scroll how good or bad the present situation of the state is, depending on whether it is the ruling or the opposition that it alliances with. In fact, the stand-up acts are born from the loins of these party loyalties, picking a few common publicly laughable characters on the go. Meanwhile, regional political parties dilly-dally between which central powers they should back while cursorily maintaining a non-allying attitude. Party members of such parties also contribute to the humour by picking at the big boys and throwing stones from their own glass houses.
The Assam political tug of war has become much like the US dichotomy between the Republican and the Democratic parties. If you belong to one, the other starts judging you. What will be reaped from it, is yet to be seen. For now, it’s only about name-calling and beating one’s own drum.