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When reality bites

india Updated: Dec 26, 2010 21:50 IST

Hindustan Times
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With a glass of coconut water, Telugu Desam president Chandrababu Naidu, we learn, has broken his eight-day fast. The news has caused us relief, now that Mr Naidu is back to a more sustainable way of living, and to political reckoning. The cause he was espousing, while steadfastly avoiding food, or even later when he was being administered intravenous fluids under governmental duress, is, of course, the hobby horse that all Indian politicians love to ride — the helplessly indigent farmer. In this case, Mr Naidu was demanding adequate compensation and larger subsidies for farmers whose crops have been destroyed by the heavy monsoon this year.

The Mahatma's long and honourable shadow, obviously falls on all those Indian leaders, big and small, who reason that a well-fed argument is never as effective as one on an empty, growling stomach. Even as Mr Naidu observed his fast, his political rival Jaganmohan Reddy gave up his own dietary requirements for 48 hours on the banks of the Krishna in Vijaywada, for much the same purpose. Another fellow brethren K Chandrasekhara Rao had the state of Andhra Pradesh in an uproar a year ago, when he went on an indefinite fast demanding a separate state for Telangana. Lest one thought that certain regions were more prone to fasting than others, let us not forget Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee's 26-day-long fast in 2006, when she lay in full public view, protesting against the forcible acquisition of land in Singur.

It is, of course, important to reiterate that our noble political leadership fasts for a cause, and not because of the shallowness of their pockets. The same cannot be said of the toiling masses, who have a tough time keeping body and soul together, not because they too have noble ideas to promote but because the paltry, ignoble contents of their wallets and skyrocketing prices have deemed food a luxury item anyway.