Do we really need lessons from others to address our own foibles?
The piece that follows is more personal than intended but the unusual circumstances have perhaps been at work. Lord Shiva-Murugan took centerstage a couple of weeks ago through the prolonged fasting, sacrifices and devotions of devotees at Thaipoosum Cavadee. It was followed immediately by the similarly grand setting of Maha Shivaratree, when hundreds of thousands having fasted, have flocked with their kanwars to Ganga Talao and to temples around the island. It will be immediately followed through by the forty-day fasting of our christian brothers.
Every year, storm and heavy rains can’t prevent devotees proclaiming their personal and collective attachment to that most solitary, daunting and unconventional facet of the Hindu Trimurthi, Lord Shiva, in a rather unique pious unifying pilgrimage, its immense popularity significantly different from the austerity of its Indian counterpart.
For decades now, politicians have been unable to resist the temptation of this massive gathering, generously covered by MBC and media, to gain some mileage from such a week of spiritual reckonings. Neither the Temple federations nor the socio-religious associations on their side have been brave enough, even when they decided to have Chief Guests, to say “yes” to a reception with dignity and decorum but “no thank you” to speeches, which should only be the preserve of spiritual masters rather than temporal overlords as guests.
And we must here congratulate the new advisory or communication team who have ensured a saturation coverage of the PM’s several visits to private associations holding tents and prayers, while guarding the PM against the temptation of the microphone at any of these events. The organised trek of the PM, family and friends from Vacoas to Grand Bassin, casting him in the light of an ordinary pious pilgrim among others, was equally a valuable stroke on the media and communication front.
But sadly even they couldn’t stop some of the unseemly shenanigans of the Task Force, the pettiness of marquee dismantling, the abuse of Police force with orders from “la-haut”, the electricity blackout at the Mauritius Sanatan Dharma Temples Federation marquee and the transport havoc that surrounded this year’s edition. Nor, were they so inclined, could they prevent the epic moment when sycophants sent SAJ and family soaring above the 33m Lord Shiva for their devotions…
Fortunately, however irked we may feel by the chaotic transport and traffic management or condemn politico-mediatic patronage and interference at the Ganga talao, this hasn’t prevented most devotees from touching base with the renewal of their innermost being. But Mauritians, already disinclined to trust the body politic and contemptuous of the independent “institutions” sorely wanting in credibility, and particularly those of the hindi belt will feel concerned at the profanation of the sacred during their most cherished occasions of upliftment. Do we really need lessons from others to address our own foibles?
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It will be a long march for the MMM
Addressing their foibles, at another level, is clearly what has been keeping the MMM busy these days. The venerable party and its leadership have been impacted and seem to have more trouble getting back into step after the debacle of the December 2014 general elections, when the improbable marriage turned into a miscarriage. The Labour Party has shown distinct signs of a revival in the hearts and minds not only of its core followers but beyond, even if all caution is exercised at analysing results of the by-election in constituency No 18.
Cornered on its left by the Bizlall-Resistance, agitated by the Tania Diolle candidacy, the MMM has been left reeling at its 14% score. Leaving some to wonder whether that’s the signature MMM dowry nowadays, what it effectively brought to the LP-MMM alliance of 2014 and what it could bring to the major partner in any future alliance. Nobody remotely believes in another go-it-alone MMM strategy. Should its potential partner be so inclined, this leaves little bargaining room for the MMM.
In the aftermath of defeat, the LP has conducted probably a more thorough analysis of its discomfiture. The MMM seems stuck in its traditional response: designate some scapegoat(s) for the defeat and appoint a committee likely to take some 6 months to come up with any report. Meantime announce loudly that it won’t be “business as usual” while proceeding confidently as if nothing untoward had happened, with much the same figureheads and who have no intention of digging deeper. The faithfuls are used to rumbustious electoral hustings followed by defeats.
The Obeegadoo attempt to spearhead some deeper reflection on why the demoralising decline in appeal and ideas of the MMM had little chance of shaking the ageing behemoth. One may even suspect that internal witch-hunts of the “hypocrites” could well be on the agenda, with a purge not excluded at this stage, although internal elections within the party to increase the leader’s authority look more likely.
It will be a long march for the party that had such a marking effect on Mauritian politics for the past forty years.
* Published in print edition on 16 February 2018