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A new star on the southern horizon

Though he has a tongue-twister of a name, you better familiarise yourself with it: Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa, writes Khushwant Singh.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2008 00:10 IST

Results of the recent Assembly polls have given a decisive victory to the BJP — its foray in the South with far-reaching impact on the political scenario of the country. Anyone who tries to minimise it will be fooling himself. A new star has risen on India’s political horizon. Though he has a tongue-twister of a name, you better familiarise yourself with it: Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa. However, you should also get BJP’s victory in the right perspective. Although it was a thumping majority of seats only three short of a complete majority, its vote percentage was still marginally lower than that of the Congress. A slight shift in the voting pattern would have tilted the scales in favour of the Congress.

Another thing that the Karnataka elections showed is that our notion of communities as vote banks are outdated. In Karnataka we assumed that the main communities — Vokkaligas, Lingayats, Muslims, Brahmins and others voted in blocks. They did not do so in recent elections. Community vote banks begin to erode as soon as they are formed, as every one of them puts rival candidates from the same community.

What influences people more than big issues like foreign policy, education, employment, communal equations etc. are smaller issues concerned with their daily needs i.e. prices of rice, lentils, vegetables and cooking oils. If they go up, the people will vote against the party in power. Most people do not go to the polling booth to vote for their favourite candidates but to vote against the one they hold responsible for their sorry plight.

Within the BJP there will be changes in the top rungs of leadership; Atal Bihari Vajpayee has already faded into the background; he was not seen in Karnataka. L.K.Advani has taken his place as its top leader. The next in importance will now be Arun Jaitley who has proved his worth as an organiser and spokesman of the party. The rest including M.M.Joshi, Venkiah Naidu, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj will be in the third layer. This will be the pattern of BJP’s high command when the country goes for the next general elections.

Sibal, the songster

I have known Kapil Sibal as a top-grade lawyer with a persuasively honeyed tongue. I have also known him as debater who, along with Abhishek Singhvi and Jayanti Natrajan, are fielded by the Congress Party to take on Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie of the BJP on contentious issues on TV programmes. I began to see more of him since he became a Cabinet Minister — not for my matlab but his. He prodded us into building a poly-clinic-cum-night shelter for the homeless in Lahori Gate which is in his constituency. I happen to be a member of the Sir Sobha Singh Charitable Trust. We often have problems with locals which hold up the construction and we need his help to sort them out. He is always available at short notice.

But the last time he dropped in on his own I was in for a surprise. Instead of talking about the poly-clinic-cum-night shelter he took out a sheaf of papers and said “I want you to hear some of my poetry and give me your candid opinion about it.” Sibal, the hard-headed lawyer and Minister of Government composing poetry: Why not? If Vajpayee of the BJP could combine composing verse with running the country, why not Sibal of the Congress party?

He read some of his poems. They were on a variety of themes: politics, POTA, cricket and much else. I asked him “Have you any on love?” He blushed and replied: “I have, but I haven’t brought them with me.” I told him, send me a few samples. I had to remind him before I got a couple. I quote two verses.

Monsoon showers

Monsoon showers wash away
Oppressive summer heat
Expectant nature springs to life
The way that we both meet

Tortured landscape hoping
For the rain to quench its thirst
Every time you meet me love
It always seems the first

Another poem entitled Silence of Unspoken Words has a few memorable lines. I quote three verses from it:
Shall I woo you/with words/woven in silken threads
That resonate/as you look/into my eyes.
Or will you/let me slip/into your mind
And cradle/your memories/in the comfort of my presence
The silence of/unspoken words/overtake us
Touching you/to savour/the new world around you.

Sibal hopes to complete his anthology in a couple of months. He has also promised his publisher his first novel.

Tongue twister

Kamala: Stupid organ. Hardly two inches long and it has swollen my belly by 20 inches.
Vimla: Congratulations!
Kamla: For what?
Vimla: For expecting your first child.
Kamla: But I am not pregnant.
Vimla: But you just said….
Kamla: My dear girl, the organ I was referring to was my tongue.

(Contributed by Rajeshwari Singh, Delhi)

Khushwant Singh is on vacation. This column will be back after two weeks.