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Having attended several social events this month, I can safely surmise that most gup-shup veers towards two topics. Politics and food. More often than not, it begins with cocktails and food and ends up with Kejriwal and Modi. Given that food and politics hold a visceral grip on our imagination, it is interesting to note how we perceive our political chefs. Because politics is all about perception. Some will love you. Some will hate you. They will binge and purge. But you will always be on their mind.
In Delhi, master chef Arvind mastered the art of cooking for the common man, sunny side up. The pleasure you derive from his cooking is directly proportional to your tolerance for street food. Even as I write, he is cooking Hyderabadi biryani over an unfortunate incident. On odd days, when he says, “Pradhanmantri Ji, please humein kaam karne dijiye,” he is as syrupy as Aam Ras. And on even days, when he decides to spice things up, he is as tangy as Aam Panna. This week, when the High Court rapped the CBI, the BJP had to eat a humble pie for raiding his kitchen. And the jury is out on whether his odd-even recipe served the purpose, but Delhi roads definitely felt as clean as my tummy after one ripe papaya. Regardless, the man is one halwa cook, I mean one helluva cook who just can’t do without fail-ao-ing raita over Modi.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar government decided to impose 13.5% value added tax on sweets, kachoris, bhujiya, namkeen and samosa. Seriously? Tax on samosa tells us that memory can be bitingly alien when it comes to Lalu because in his own words Aloo and Laloo were inseparable at one time. Given that samosa-kachori are staple snack items in Bihar, collecting revenue from poor man’s luxury will reap negative political dividends. But who cares? Having won the Masterchef Bihar, Nitish can play with his recipes and ignore the perception of Rabri Raj.
Rahul, the princely cook bereft of his kitchen kingdom was back after pumping iron in Europe. It’s obvious that what his mother thinks of as a seven course Italian meal, Rahul thinks of as an instant pizza. He continues to jump from fire to the fire pan with his ham-handed actions to save his bacon. And the perception about his abundant grey cells lands him in a soup each time he addresses an audience.
Modi, meanwhile is cooking several schemes on the slow fire of a sluggish economy. No one knows when or how the dishes will turn out. In the politics of perception, NaMo is no longer a poor chaiwala, the outsider, or the underdog he was in 2014. It appears as if he breaks bread with buddy Barack and enjoys kheer with Nawaz even as Pakistan continues to scald us with homemade terror broth. Despite his savory schemes like crop insurance and Jan-Dhan yojana, Dal price, Dollar rise and Dalit voice continues to be his nemesis.
With China’s slowdown, the world economy is in Manchow soup. Unless Modi tickles the common man’s palate by addressing bread and butter issues, people will perceive him as someone who wanted to cook right but was unable to spice up the economy with his brand of Aji-Namo-To. As of now, we are in a pickle, stewing in sluggish domestic juice. Perhaps the Chinese fortune cookie can tell what the future holds.