Bahubali, Kattappa and some political lessons!!!

With over an estimated 30 mill. people having reportedly watched the film Bahubali 2: The Conclusion, I can safely conclude that most of those who are reading this blog by now would have! This post is not a review of the film or about how the film has broken all collection records in the country either. But about a character called Kattappa and the political lessons it holds for the principal opposition party in India namely the Congress. In the film, apart from the lead characters, Kattappa is the one who evokes much recall and sympathy – a situation very similar to what Congress (which has its own few Kattappas) finds itself today in India.  Kattappa in Bahubali and Kattappas in Congress??? Let me attempt to join the dots.

In the Bahubali series, Kattappa is an able warrior and sort of a leader of the forces of the Kingdom of Mahishmati. In terms of characterisation, Kattappa is shown as an extremely loyal, most faithful and a trustworthy soul who will do anything to protect his master – the ruler of Mahishmati in this case. He doesn’t mind others alluding him to a dog scornfully – a creature known for being utmost loyal to its master among all pets. At the same time, repeatedly he is depicted to be a prisoner of his own choice he has made in terms of being loyal at any cost. In the film there are 2 crucial mistakes he commits as a result of putting his loyalty ahead of being truthful. First, he lets the Queen announce Bhallaladeva as the King setting aside the earlier announcement of Amarendra Bahubali without making any attempt to clear the air in the Queen’s mind about the right and good intentions of Amarendra in wanting to marry Devasena. He makes no attempt to let the Queen know that Devasena likes and prefers only Amarendra to be her life partner. Second, he carries out the order of the Queen to kill Amarendra though he knew very well of the conspiracy of the Bhallaladeva camp to create misunderstanding and confusion in the Queen’s mind. These crucial mistakes deprived the people of Mahishmati the governance of a benevolent leader like Amarendra and instead were at the mercy of an unkind and autocratic ruler like Bhallaladeva.

Well, that’s what happened in the 2 part film that helped the Director weave an interesting story of palace intrigues in a huge canvas unseen so far in Indian films and create history!  But what has Congress to do with this?

Today in India, the Congress party is in crossroads and may be at its lowest ebb. The climb has been downhill since 2014 when it was reduced to an all-time low in the Lok Sabha. The string of defeats in most of the state elections since then have been catastrophic. The principal ruling party in India namely the BJP is systematically moving forward on its slogan of making Bharat – Congress Mukt. Apart from Congress there is no other party which can be called truly a Pan Indian political outfit. Under these circumstances for a democracy to be one, a truly credible opposition party with an alternate narrative is a must. Any ruling party must have at least one if not few other parties breathing down its neck any point in time for its own checks and balances. Not to mention of the country’s. And that’s why a revival of the Congress party from where it is today is a must.

Congress led UPA had their chances in changing and developing India for 10 years since 2004. I am for the moment ignoring the 50 years they had, prior to 1998.  Congress had and in fact has quite a few Kattappas in their ranks. Experienced, Able politicians and administrators who I believe had answers and solutions to the many ills the country faced when they came back to power rather providentially in 2004. However all of them ended up being true Kattappas who only put loyalty to the rulers (Gandhi family in this case) as their priority and did what served the family well rather than the country more often than not. The result – in spite of the benefit of global tailwinds helping the economy till 2010, UPA couldn’t change things much on the ground in their 2nd term and lost the elections to BJP in 2014.  The many new ideas their leaders had, got intertwined in turf battles between ministries and never were implemented with rigour. Coming back to the present, the Kattappas of the Congress continue their old ways the string of bad news at the hustings for the Congress notwithstanding. The able leaders still remain so loyal to the Gandhi family that even today they are reluctant to come out with their honest prescriptions to revive the Congress. They all make the “right” noises in public but being “right” is seldom being “honest”! The Congress today suffers from a uninspirational leadership in the Gandhi family. However the very able and even intelligent Kattappas of the Congress party continue to labour paeans on the Sonia-Rahul leadership without ever being critical of some of their moves since 2014.

My view is that unless the Congress party’s leaders come out of their loyalty web and challenge the strategy and some of the decisions of the party’s leadership thereby leading to some churn in the thinking of the party, the drive may continue to remain downhill for some time.

Coming to think of it, it took us 2 full years since Bahubali 1: The Beginning for us to comprehend the ill effect of Kattappa’s mindless loyalty to the rulers. It’s already 3 years now for the leaders of Congress to realise the ills of theirs. And if they are among the 30 million to have watched the film, it may be good to take some political lessons from the on screen Kattappa!!!

P.S: In the above piece, one can “find” Congress and “replace” with AAP and I guess most of it will hold good as well!!!

0 thoughts on “Bahubali, Kattappa and some political lessons!!!”

  1. Arunmozhi Balasubramanian

    Very good analogy Anand. But the reason for the Congress Kattappa’s loyalty to the Gandhi family is self preservation and desire to be in power/position not same as Kattappa’s loyalty based on ‘Dharma’. The Gandhi family and Congress has not taken well of opposition to the leaders…For that matter only BJP allowed a dissent within party and you can still remain…Congress, Sena, DMK, ADMK – all the parties are treated like a family property rather than a political party. Also what is lacking with Congress is a strong ideology groups dis-interested in ruling but focused on ideology of government – like Sang in case of BJP, or old DK in Tamil Nadu (forget about DK now – they are cronies and spineless characters who have forgotten Periyaar long back) and in US the conservative movement William Buckley JR of national review …

    1. Hi Arun, I agree with you. There is a big difference between the Reel and real!! I just used Kattappa as a metaphor to highlight the fact that Congress leaders have to come out of their loyalty web and express themselves honestly if they want to stage a comeback.

      Thanks for the feedback – well expressed and I appreciate as always.

  2. Good analysis and an advice to the wanton and the deaf. However one more small defect in the analogy. As audience, we had the narrative of two generations within 2 years. But the character kattappa could repent for his colossal mistakes and correct himself only after more than 2 decades. So, as a corollary, the real life Kattappas are expected to take 2 decades to realise their follies and correct. Of course the demise may occur much before and birth or emergence of new player may happen. But as you said such opportunity is lost/wasted by sri Kejriwal, and with that faith in emergence of any overnight leader is also expired.

  3. Interest analogy this. And as most analogies go, too simplistic too.

    I would take another analogy to describe the situation if I may. Fancy a newly promoted, jetsetter and fast-up-the-ladder yuppie who excitedly comes home to find his wife cooking a simple-and-nourishing dinner. He’s not too happy about having this plain food everyday and decides they’ll dine out for an entire week. It takes him a few visits to those posh restaurants, a few hours of precious time lost in traffic, a few thousand rupees worth of card swipes and a couple of upset stomachs to realise the value of food he was getting at home !!

    We are like this yuppie – easily blinded by the media every now and then to seek variety and run after change since change is always supposed to be better, isnt it ?

    I just hope we dont have too many upset stomachs this time round.

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