Dignity in defeat
How you cope with adversity probably says more about your character than the way in which you cope with success. Over the last four days I have been watching BJP spokesmen try and handle the magnitude of the party’s defeat. To their credit, most have behaved with grace and dignity.
The BJP began badly when the graceless Balbir Punj was assigned the task of conducting the press conference at which the party conceded defeat. Punj has many admirable qualities, none of which, alas, is visible on television.So he came across as belligerent, brusque and entirely lacking in dignity.
I was on NDTV at the time and after we had relayed the press conference live, even the normally restrained Prannoy Roy was moved to say to the cameras that this was the most graceless concession statement he had ever heard.
Fortunately, things got better after that. In 2004, Prakash Javadekar had joked to friends that if they saw him on TV on the morning the results were declared, it meant that the BJP was losing. But if they saw Arun Jaitley, it would mean that the BJP was winning.
This time around, Jaitley hit the airwaves in the afternoon and though he’s clearly not a man who enjoys losing and was obviously distraught at discovering that all his smug predictions had gone completely awry, he still managed to be graceful, dignified and even a little humble.
The spokesmen dispatched to TV studios followed no consistent policy. Ravi Shankar Prasad lives life king size, so every statement is delivered in a booming baritone and every truism is repeated with endless rhetorical flourishes. This is not a man who knows how to spell understatement.
So, he was probably the wrong choice to send to the studios and I felt happy for him when he did not turn up to join us on the NDTV panel. But from what little I saw of him on other shows, he managed to look shattered and graceful all at the same time.
Sudheendra Kulkarni is the most erudite of the BJP spokesmen, a Marxist intellectual lost in the wilderness of the Sangh Parivar. He is also a very decent man so when he came to join us in the studio he made it a point to congratulate the Congress on its victory and to admit that things had gone badly wrong for his party. Nevertheless, his sad demeanour suggested a man whose dog had just died. When we were on the show, somebody sent me an sms about the luxuriant expanse of white hair that used to flow above his ears: “Even poor Sudheendra’s hair looks defeated.”
Javadekar was the one BJP spokesman who seemed able to distance his own emotions from the electoral debacle. He can’t have been happy about the defeat. But in the studio, he came across as his natural gentle self, laughing easily and making self-deprecating remarks.
Nalin Kohli is the new boy among the BJP spokesmen so he did his best to mouth the party line. But when the cameras were turned off, he was more than willing to admit that the party had screwed up big time.
Chandan Mitra is not really a BJP spokesman. But because he is invited to studios to defend the party so often, we have begun to regard him as one. Chandan is bright, witty, and more than willing to admit a mistake. He was easily the best of the BJP spokesmen, knowing when to stick to his guns and when to concede a point.
A final note. Most of us are used to Venkaiah Naidu’s mawali-like TV persona. But when he appeared on NDTV, he was dignity personified. He spoke so well and with such humility that I almost forgave him all those years of raving and ranting in the studio.
What a shame that if the BJP wins, he will go back to being a mawali.