Why Ravana was a coalition of ten parties

Yesterday, on October 30, 2017, once again the Indians burnt lakhs of effigies of Ravana. According to the mythology, Ravana had 10 heads. Naturally, every effigy had 10 heads with a big one in the middle. Those who burn Ravana’s effigies every year claim that they burn symbols of evil. This has to be an annual ritual because the evil refuses to die or disappear forever.

I have always wondered whether Ravana had really 10 heads or it is just a figment of imagination. To have ten heads on a shoulder is a physical impossibility. The ancient epics used metaphors to describe situations. Therefore, there has to be some basis for this imagination.

I personally feel that ‘Ravana’ was the name of a coalition government of 10 parties, each head representing one party. Everything was done in the name of Ravana giving an impression that there was a single king. Perhaps, the leader, whatever his real name, kidnapped Sita out of lust or to establish or re-establish his supremacy over his coalition partners. He was lucky that he had support of his family members except his own wife and brother Vibhishan.

Since there was no opposition party, the leader’s own brother, Vibhishan, played that role and opposed the government’s policies including kidnapping of Sita. I cannot say whether Vibhishan did so out of jealousy or out of conviction or because he felt sidelined. Quite likely, the leader had sidelined him and therefore he became critical of the government and its policies.

The leader’s wife, Mandodri, was not happy with Sita’s kidnapping but had no courage to openly oppose her husband who headed the coalition government.

If my hypothesis is correct, there is an old tradition of coalition governments. It also proves that coalition governments carry seeds of their own destruction.

I do not say that every coalition government in India or abroad is ‘Ravana’ though we have seen modern Ravanas in our own country earlier. Instead of burning their effigies, people banished them. The Modi government does not fall in this category.

Several political parties, mostly in position and some threatening to join the opposition, are trying to create a new Ravana to defeat Narendra Modi and BJP in 2019, if not in the Gujarat assembly election this year. It is not yet clear whether the coalition, the ‘Ravana’, in making will consist of 10 parties or more and who will be the leader with the largest head. There are many in the field and many aspirants for the central position. Larger the number of the partners, faster will come the time to burn their effigies.

One special feature of the modern ‘Ravana’ maybe inclusion of ladies who cannot tolerate coalition without their participation. West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in particular may provide some female heads for the future effigies.

Vibhishans will always be there. The BJP already knows it. The ‘Ravana’ in making will also have its own Vibhishan if he/she is sidelined.

(The author is a retired bureaucrat. The views expressed are personal)


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