Visit New Delhi during the election season, and there’s one boredom you’ll have to suffer. Everybody, from colleagues and concierges to acquaintances and drivers, is obsessively breaking words on the electoral fortunes of one state: Uttar Pradesh. All talk revolves around the toxicity of the narrative, and attempts to communally polarize the electorate there. The only other state that perhaps competes for mind space is Bihar.
If you are lucky to be in slightly eclectic company, then the spoils of West Bengal may get discussed because the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is competing hard there. But otherwise, it is as if there is no election happening anywhere else in the country. As if the numbers from other states don’t really add up to 545.
One expected that with Congress president Rahul Gandhi filing his nomination from Wayanad in Kerala, there would be sufficient curiosity about southern Indian states, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There may be a slight academic interest, but if you confuse that for genuine enthusiasm, and start reeling out ethnographic details of the state, disinterest becomes palpable. Or they come up with fatuous questions, like what I was asked the other day in a lounge in Lutyens’ Delhi: “What’s the difference between Kerala communists and Bengal communists?” I replied: “Kerala communists are fighting, Bengal communists have retired.”