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What the Congress did right and the others wrong

india Updated: May 21, 2012 13:31 IST
Khushwant Singh

Three factors contributed to the spectacular performance of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in the recently concluded general elections.

First and foremost, the general perception of Manmohan Singh as an able and honest prime minister. Second, the vigorous campaign conducted by Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay Singh and others on issues that concerned the common people without trying to score brownie points against the conglomeration of opposition parties. And finally, the inability of opposition leaders to sense the mood of the people, particularly the younger generation voting for the first time.

They wanted to tell the aspirant for the PM’s post LK Advani, and his chief election manager Arun Jaitley that Manmohan Singh was neither nikamma (useless) nor weak as Advani kept repeating ad nauseum; that neither was the government run from Sonia Gandhi’s residence on 10 Janpath, nor from 7 Race Course Road where Manmohan Singh lives, as alleged by Jaitley. It was run from the prime minister’s office in South Block of the Secretariat atop Raisina Hill.

Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), played a stellar role in the rapid decline of Leftist parties in their two traditional strongholds, West Bengal and Kerala. His leadership has spelt disaster for the socialist movement and strengthened the Congress party. I have little doubt that his days as head of the Politburo are numbered.

Other regional leaders have been cut to size. Mayawati, who made no secret of being an aspirant to the PM’s chair, fell victim to her ego-mania. She squandered vast amounts of public money erecting marble statues of herself, her mentor and Dr Ambedkar, laying out parks and erecting monuments. She neglected roads, schools and hospitals. All this out of her megalomania fed by her ring of dishonest advisers who did not warn her that she was forfeiting the goodwill of Dalits and the poor.

Lalu Yadav laughed himself out of reckoning with his own buffoonery. The poor showing of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK was as surprising to her as to political watchers. She has ceased to be a power broker. And Sharad Pawar, the most calculating partner of the ruling Congress, has been compelled to put the ambition of being prime minister in cold storage at least for the next five years.

Where do we go from here ? Will there be a new agenda for the government now freed of petty obstructors in its fold? We all hope so.

Poetic licence

The principal purpose of writing is to communicate, whether it be prose or poetry, and if the writer fails to convey to the reader what he has in mind, he fails in his mission. This applies more to prose than to poetry because poetry is absolved of rules of grammar in order to preserve its musical ingredient through metre and rhyme.

But even in poetry, the poet should not go beyond the comprehension of readers. A lot of modern poetry does, and I find it frustrating to read. With some difficulty I was able to come to terms with TS Eliot and Dylan Thomas; Ezra Pound remains beyond my understanding. Indian poets are not obscure and I enjoy reading them in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu.

Mirza Ghalib, whom I admire most, often confuses me and I ask people more knowledgeable than me to enlighten me. I am not the only Ghalib admirer who has this grouse against him. My friend Abid Saeed Khan of Bugras quoted Nawab Agha Khan Ashq, a contemporary of Ghalib, who had this to say about the last Mughal laureate.

Agar apna kaha tum aap hee samjhey to kya samjhey?

Mazza kahney ka tab hai, ek kahey aur doosra samjhey

Zuban meer likhey and kalaam sauda samjhey

Magar inka kahaa yeh aap samjhein ya khuda samjhey

(If only you understand what you have composed, what is one to do?/ The joy of composing is when one composes and others understand too./ When Meer writes and Sauda say we understand/ But his couplets only he understands and God, its true.)

Simply put

The Indian government has made strenuous efforts to popularise the greater use of Hindi over the past several years. The project has, however, not met with much success. This is mainly due to the fact that the government insists on the use of ‘pure’ Sanskritised Hindi, which the common man does not understand, instead of pushing for Hindustani (a mix of Hindi and Urdu), which is the day to day lingua franca.

A factual, if somewhat crude example illustrates this perfectly. When public toilets were first built at the bus stand in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, the sign at their entrance read: ‘Shauchalaya’, which meant conveniences. Since this fancy language went right over the heads of the simple hill folk, who were the locals, they kept on relieving themselves all over the country-side, thus creating a health hazard.

After some months, the local administration, realising their folly, changed the sign to read ‘Sandaas’ which means ‘toilet’. The public still did not comprehend and continued following their old ways, irrigating and fertilising the area.

Finally, in desperation, the authorities again changed the signboard. This time it read ‘Tattiyan’ which meant ‘place to shit’. This did the trick, and henceforth there were no more cleaning up problems.