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Till election results do them part

As the general elections draw near, political matrimonial alliances assume a sense of urgency — now or never. The first step is to portray one’s party as a beautiful bride who will bring with her a handsome dowry of millions of votes, writes Khushwant Singh. See special coverage
None | By Khushwant Singh
UPDATED ON OCT 09, 2009 01:48 PM IST

As the general elections draw near, political matrimonial alliances assume a sense of urgency — now or never. The first step is to portray one’s party as a beautiful bride who will bring with her a handsome dowry of millions of votes. Likewise, prospective bridegrooms will flaunt pictures of future prosperity if their offer of marriage is accepted. Both sides know that such unions are not meant ‘till death do them part’, but only till elections results are announced and a new government is sworn in. Meanwhile, go full out to make yourselves as loveable and worthwhile as you can.

Notice the number of full-page advertisements carrying pictures of the main contenders, their past achievements and promises of a glorious future. You can’t miss them because they appear day after day, page after page in every newspaper and magazine of the country. A full-page ad in a national daily costs between Rs 40-50 lakh. It does not come out of the pockets of candidates; it comes out of the pockets of tax payers, that is, you and I, and is provided for in government budgets.

The busiest man in the fast-approaching political marriage season is the principal marriage broker, Amar Singh. For him no alliance is out of bounds, provided his leader Mulayam Singh and his Samajwadis can be assured of power. He has a knack of winning over film stars to join electoral baraats.

And, as usual on the eve of elections, the Muslim vote gains importance. Muslims form between 12-15 per cent of the population, and like others are split in their political loyalties. However, they can swing the outcome of elections in many constituencies across the country. On only two issues do they tend to act as one — the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the large-scale killings of Muslims in Gujarat seven years ago. For these L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi have a lot of explaining to do. Mere sugary speeches expressing affection for Muslims or appointing a Muslim as head of police won’t cut any ice. Only stern action against those who perpetrated these crimes will persuade Muslims to change their minds.

Dying wish

I have a Muslim friend whose parents, brothers and sisters migrated to Pakistan in 1947. He stayed behind to manage the family’s estate. He prospered as an Indian national. Though he occasionally visited his relations in Pakistan, he never regretted his decision to stay on in India. Some years ago when Indo-Pak relations were strained and visas were difficult to get, his father was taken seriously ill. I helped him get an emergency visa. He took the next flight to Karachi. From the airport he went directly to the hospital. His father was evidently dying to see him. His face lit up as the son embraced him. An hour later he died — at peace with the world as his dying wish had been fulfilled.

I know of another case of a wealthy Sikh widow whose two sons were doing well in their respective businesses. Though in her late 70s, she was in good health. One afternoon she was suddenly taken ill, and she sensed her end was near. She had word sent to her sons. Both rushed back to her bedside. She took one son’s hand in one hand, the other’s in the other. And with a smile on her lips, faded out of life.

Now I have the case of my elder brother Bhagwant Singh. He was 96 and in very poor health for the last five-six years. He had Parkinson’s disease and could not hold a cup of tea in his hand without spilling its contents. Then he injured his spine and had to sit in a wheelchair all day. He got hard of hearing and had lapses of memory. He was well looked after by his doting wife, three sons and a daughter, Geeta, who made it a point to be by her father’s side as often as she could. Both she and her Bengali husband Nayan Chanda teach in Yale University. A month ago she was in Delhi.

A few days back my brother’s health took a turn for the worse. His wife and sons took turns to be with the nurses round the clock. But he kept asking for Geeta and about her next due visit. Geeta was informed. She took leave from her college, and with her younger son flew back to Delhi. She arrived late in the evening and was by her father’s side holding his hand. Two hours later he breathed his last. His dying wish had been fulfilled. There are innumerable examples of a person’s dying wish being fulfilled just before he or she dies. It is a mystery that still remains unravelled.

Dear Amar Singh

Once a friend of Karat and Yechuri

Amar Singh found the Indo-US nuclear treaty

Apparently in the interest of the country

And switched over to Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi —

Because the nuclear treaty would protect him from Mayawati,

Cleanse Mulayam Singh in the disproportionate assets case

And make the duo the cleanest pair in the power race.

But as his fall from the rostrum in UP takes place,

Against the Congress he declares a virtual war

And chooses his prime minister in Sharad Pawar.

But with Paswan and Lalu also in the ring,

Hold your breath and wait for Amar Singh

To metamorphose in a new entity

And declare Uma Bharti the next prime minister of the country.

(Contributed by Kuldip S., Delhi)

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