Now that the general elections are on us, it is permissible to identify the principal vote-catchers on the national scale. There are many whose voice matters in their particular regions, eg. Farooq Abdullah, and more so, his son Omar, in Kashmir; Mulayam Singh in Uttar Pradesh; Lalu, Paswan and Nitish Kumar in Bihar; Patnaik in Orissa; Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu; Narendra Modi in Gujarat — and such like leaders in other states. But they do not reach out to voters beyond their regions.
When it comes to the national scene, I am of the view that only four netas draw crowds and can sway public opinion: L.K. Advani, Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia.
Advani, though not a great orator, has an offensive style and is a convincing debater. If the BJP does well in the polls, it will be largely due to Arun Jaitley’s managerial skills and Advani’s persuasiveness.
Mayawati is a recent arrival on the national stage. However, in a short period she has garnered support of Dalits and other backward communities all over the country. She is likely to do well and upset wishful calculations being made by the major contending parties.
Rahul Gandhi has made his mark as a crowd-puller and a speaker. What he says makes good sense and he is held on high esteem.
On the top of my list is Sonia Gandhi. Crowds do not gather in simply to have a glimpse of a good-looking woman but also feel that so far she has not let them down and the future destiny of the nation is safe in her hands. No one gives a hoot about the ill-bred comment that she is not India-born. She knows the Indian ethos and pulse of the Indian people. If the Congress party fares well in these elections it will be mainly due to the mother-son duo’s active role in the elections.
Exactly 25 years ago I met Usha Mahajan for the first time. Then she had poured out her heart to me. She was having trouble with her husband. Between tears and outbursts of anger she went from one episode to the other. Why she had chosen a total stranger to tell her tale of misery, I still have no idea. But how she narrated the different episodes gave me the impression that she had the knack of a story-teller. “Why don’t you put what you have told me in black and white?” I asked. She regained her composure and pondered over my suggestion. I did not see her for a few weeks. She wrote some stories which were published in some Hindi journal. Later on, I translated them into English. They were published in The Illustrated Weekly of India. She became a different person. Her relations with her husband became harmonious. Her three daughters were proud of their mother’s achievements. It had become a happy family.
Usha and her husband came over to celebrate the silver jubilee of her writing career with a packet full of burfee and rasgullas. It also coincided with the publication of her 25th book, Aurtein Tathaa Anya Kahanian — Women & Other Stories, along with a Hindi version of my two volume History & Religion of the Sikhs — Sikhon Ka Ittihas. Not bad going for any author: a book a year. Usha has made her place in the literary circles with several awards to her credit. But she has also proved that writing is good therapy for a troubled soul.
A shopkeeper went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked about the bill and the barber replied: “I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing Lok Sewa this week.” The shopkeeper was pleased and thanked him. Next morning the barber found a ‘thank you’ card and a box of sweets waiting for him at his door.
Later, a policeman came in for a haircut, and when he tried to pay his bill, the barber gave the same reply. The cop left happy and the next morning the nai found another card and basket of fruits waiting for him.
The same thing happened with a college professor who came in for a haircut. The next morning, there was a card and a dozen books, including ‘How to improve your business’.
Then a member of the Lok Sabha came in for a haircut and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again refused the payment, giving the same reply. The MP was pleased and left. The next morning when the barber went to open his shop, there were a dozen members of the Lok Sabha lined up waiting for a free haircut.
(Vipin Buckshey, Delhi)