Just Like That | From witty one-liners to humorous viral memes: Why humour is the safety valve of a vibrant democracy - Hindustan Times
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Just Like That | From witty one-liners to humorous viral memes: Why humour is the safety valve of a vibrant democracy

Jun 09, 2024 07:30 AM IST

Political leaders often take themselves too seriously, but the Indian electorate has a sharp sense of humour, as seen in the explosion of memes on social media

Now that the national elections are over, it’s time to lessen the bitterness and acrimony and learn to laugh at ourselves. Politicians tend to take themselves too seriously. They begin to believe that they are the same as the image they so assiduously project. But the people of India are not taken in so easily. Leaders may think that voters are like sheep that can be shepherded at will or malleable like plasticene, but they have a mind of their own, and a wicked sense of humour, that can be stunningly witty, innovative, and insightful.

Election Results 2024 memes An X user shared this meme amid the counting of votes. (X/@iamjavedjhan_07) PREMIUM
Election Results 2024 memes An X user shared this meme amid the counting of votes. (X/@iamjavedjhan_07)

Political humour has been amplified exponentially by the explosive advent of social media. One joke, or meme, can become viral and read and seen by millions upon millions. It is a parallel network, in stark contrast to the rhetoric, hypocrisy, and holier-than-thou attitude of most of our political leaders. There is such a vast amount of this sparkling wit and satire, that it is difficult to choose, but here are some random samples.

Three leading politicians were travelling together on a plane in the 2024 campaign. One of them said that if I threw a 500 note down, it would help a poor person. The second said that if I throw five hundred-rupee notes, five needy people would benefit. The third said that if I threw ten fifty-rupee notes, ten indigent people would get relief. The captain of the plane, who was listening, and could not take it anymore, said: “If I crash this plane, one billion Indian people will benefit!”.

The one-liners are often the best. One such is a huge hoarding with Nitish Kumar’s widely smiling face. The line below simply says: Hum Sabke Saath Hain (I am with everyone). Nothing could perhaps better sum up Kumar's spree of ideology-less pirouetting from one party to another, giving him the name ‘Paltu Kumar’. Another good one on him is: “Nitish Kumar is like that girl from your college who always has two boyfriends. Even if one gets angry, the other is ready to recharge her phone.” There is also this one on PM Modi: “Dadhi nahin, naukri badhaiye” (Not your beard, increase jobs!’)

Some of the question-answer jokes are hilarious too. Here are some examples:

While filling out a form, why did Tejaswi Yadav write ‘Innova’ under the zodiac sign?

Because on the previous page, Amit Shah had written ‘Scorpio’.

What has changed in Bhagwant Mann?

Nothing. Previously he used to crack jokes as a standing comedian and now as chief minister of Punjab.

What is the similarity between a Kamal Hasan film and Aam Aadmi Party?

All characters are played by the same guy.

On which topic do the BJP and Congress have an agreement?

That Rahul Gandhi should become the Congress President.

Chhattisgarh minister: ‘The voters will get an electric shock if they don’t press the button for the Congress’.

Villagers: ‘At least, electricity will come under this pretext!’

Political worker in UP: ‘Which party should I join’.

Friend: ‘These are things Amit Shah decides’.

‘Why do thieves never target the homes of politicians?

Answer: ‘Professional courtesy’.

And an older one, but one of my favourites:

‘Which Indian politician should get an Oscar for acting?’

‘Manmohan Singh for acting as the PM of India for ten years’

The new government is a coalition, where the BJP’s allies are no longer optional accessories of the party, as was the case in 2014 and 2019 when it had an absolute majority. A host of memes have sprouted on this new situation, with one involving Narendra Modi attempting to appease NDA allies Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar.

Political jokes are not a monopoly of Indian democracy and are even more ubiquitous in others. In America, for instance, often political leaders themselves come up with the best lines about their ilk. President Ronald Reagan was particularly good at this. One of his famous lines was: “Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first”. Another devastating quote of his is: “I have left orders to be awakened at any time in case of a national emergency, even if I am in a cabinet meeting”.

Humour is the safety valve of a vibrant democracy. Some jokes are irreverent and hard-hitting, but as a disclaimer, one can always say: “We don’t approve of political jokes — we’ve seen too many get elected”.

Pavan K Varma is author, diplomat, and former Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha). Just Like That is a weekly column where Varma shares nuggets from the world of history, culture, literature, and personal reminiscences. The views expressed are personal

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