Snakes and ladders

S. Madhusudhana Rao

Indian politics are increasingly looking like a game of snakes and ladders. Players will never know when they go up or fall prey to small and big snakes. Even after reaching the top, there is no guarantee that they will not be swallowed by the python that brings them to the bottom of the chart game.

Originated in ancient India, like shatranj, snakes and ladders is essentially a child game. But adults are not averse to play it for the simple reason that they can keep the kids engaged. The beauty of the game is it tests the participants’ luck. Players can’t cheat or manipulate. They move up the ladder or down the snake according to the dots on dice tossed by the players.

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S. Madhusudhana Rao

Some are lucky; some or not. A traditional belief is those who reach the final destination without being caught by snakes are highly successful people. That’s nothing to do with their adeptness in flinging the cube or using skills to manoeuvre the serpents but it is sheer chance of survival. Losing or winning the game depends on how doggedly one fights with a heart of steel and confidence despite facing setbacks in snake holes, in this case, squares.

On the other hand, chess is a brainy game and it can’t be played banking on luck. Strategy is the watchword at every step. A single wrong move can prove disastrous for either of the two players. It’s a battle between two challengers literally fought on a 64-square board. Unlike snakes and ladders, no moral can be drawn from a game of chess. What the wise man says is the game of snakes and ladders is a depository of philosophical truths about life, survival and death if one contemplates about it.

Politics is often compared to a game of chess and it is the art of survival. But rarely politics is seen through the prism of snakes and ladders. If we do, our two ancient games complement each other in political play.

Look at BJP. After completing one year in office with élan, it is frantically searching for solutions to get out of the mess it landed in. Two central ministers, a state chief minister and a minister are in the dock over untenable actions and allegations. While the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje have ‘family and friendly’ ties with Indian Premier League’s former chairman Lalit Modi, Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s education claims have returned to haunt her. In Maharashtra, Pankaja Munde, Minister for Women and Child Development, is on the mat over alleged corruption charges.

Strangely, and for inexplicable reasons, all the four BJP leaders are women and Congress and AAP are baying for their blood. Calls for their resignations are getting shriller by the hour. Whether they would quit on their own or would be asked to resign by the party is not the point. It is how the political scenario has changed with Lalit Modi’s revelations, a la WikiLeaks, and the coincidence of filing cases against Smriti and Pankaja.

All BJP stalwarts except Prime Minister Narendra Modi have expressed their solidarity with all the four women without buckling under opposition pressure and onslaught. The big question is how long they will be shielded when layer after layer of their defences, particularly in the case of the two central ministers and one chief minister, are being peeled off by BJP adversaries?

The saffron party urgently needs a strategy to counter Congress game-plan. But BJP moves, both defensive and offensive, are not saving the part’s face. Obviously, luck is on Congress side at this time of the year. That means after having climbed political ladders in several states and at the centre, the BJP is in the throes of setbacks. After success, the inevitability of fall is natural like in the case of snakes and ladders. Further danger comes from the python if anyone enters its den or if it spews venom.

No prize for guesses since everyone knows how these political games are being played out on the lines of snakes and ladders and chess.

These are going on not only at the centre but also in the two Telugu states. AP and Telangana chief ministers have been playing a game of chess ever since the bifurcation. What’s interesting is both Chandrababu Naidu and KCR are trying to checkmate each other. However, the cash-for-vote scam is turning out to be a game of snakes and ladders.

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