Had it not been for cop Kiran Bedi, Rajya Sabha MP Jai Prakash Agarwal would have never picked up the tricks of the trade. It was only because he spent a day at the Kotwali police station, where he was brought under arrest on Bedi’s orders, that he got an insight into the manipulations of those in uniform.
His version: a curfew was on and he had asked one of his henchmen to go across and inquire after a family in distress. Bedi, then area in-charge, ordered that Agarwal be arrested for violating the curfew. He was brought to the police station and handed a piece of paper to sign: “There was blank space and I was asked to sign at the bottom of the page. I protested. Having messed up the situation and arresting me, the cops were looking for a face-saver. The blank space, I guessed, would come handy because it gave them the leverage to write what they wanted and attribute it to me.”
When he was in school, Agarwal did not do what boys his age did. Instead of playing cricket, he would spend his evenings in the kitchen making tea. The house was forever teeming with visitors and his politician father Ram Charan would ask him either to make tea or dial phone numbers that were ‘forever busy’.
By virtue of being “bare sahib ka ladka”, he also wangled his way into the cricket team much before he learnt the nuances of the game. The one thing the 62-year-old Agarwal bonds with is the chair in the Deputy Mayor’s room (in Town Hall in the walled city). His father had occupied it in 1958. Twenty-five years later when he walked in there as Deputy Mayor, very little had changed: “The chair was the same and as I sat on it under a huge portrait of my father staring at me, I got goose bumps,” he recalls.
His wife, Savitri, could never handle his election fatigue. After spending days touching everyone’s feet during canvassing, there were occasions when, unmindful of where he was, he would mechanically touch Savitri’s feet every time she opened the door for him. But the day he addressed her as ‘mataji’ (mother) she was convinced that he needed medical help.
Still fresh in memory is the politics of Ram Lila. Things could get so bad between onstage brothers Ram and Lakshman that the cops had to be called in. In 1998, the audience found two Rams and three Sitas on stage. “The situation came to blows,” recalls Agarwal. But the irony was that it was Ravana who played peacemaker….