Rajesh Khanna: The politician and the phenomenon
The last public picture of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi with his wife Sonia Gandhi alongside that of Rajesh Khanna published on the front page of most national dailies on May 21, 1991 remains part of the recollection of a large number of people in the capital. The photograph was taken when the Gandhis had gone to cast their vote for the Super Star who was the Congress nominee against the BJP stalwart LK Advani from the New Delhi constituency. Though Advani won narrowly in the controversial election, Khanna remained determined to enter the Lok Sabha, which he eventually did in the by-election after Advani, who had also contested from Gandhi Nagar gave up his New Delhi seat. Needless to say, he defeated another top star Shatrughan Sinha in a hyped confrontation and entered the Indian Parliament.
Very few people know that Rajesh Khanna was made the Congress nominee to spite Amitabh Bacchhan who had fallen out with his good friend Rajiv Gandhi following the Bofors controversy. His election incharge Brij Mohan Bhama, a close associate of RK Dhawan then remembers how the former PM had wanted Khanna "in order to settle scores with Bacchhan". Ambika Soni who had been earlier told to get ready to contest against Advani was taken totally by surprise when Khanna’s name was announced on the day of the nomination. According to Bhama, Rajiv wanted Khanna. The actor who had earlier wanted to fight from Thane in Bombay agreed and his name was finalized.
Having covered his three elections in the capital including the one in 1996 where he lost to Jagmohan, I had come to know him quite closely. Our first meeting was, however, earlier, when as the secretary General of the Press Club of India, I invited him for a "Meet the Press" programme in December, 1990. The actor wearing his trademark Kurta Pyjama came accompanied by Bharat Upmanyu, a noted astrologer and his most trusted associate. On personal note, a few years later, he had also made it a point to attend my wedding reception.
Khanna also affectionately called Kaka had become an integral part of the city and initially stayed in Som Vihar and subsequently at an apartment in Vasant Kunj belonging to his friend, Naresh Juneja. Once he was elected to the Lok Sabha, he moved to Lodi Estate. The phenomenon as he was dubbed by Bombay’s leading film writer Devyani Chaubal always remained very much a filmi person. His mannerisms and frankness often perceived by his detractors as arrogance was his hallmark. Bharat recalls, "contrary to what people think, he was a softhearted and a genuine human being. He had tremendous intuitive sense and could always make out what the other person was thinking about him. Therefore, he would become intolerant of that person at times. He was very conscious of his popularity but also knew that his personal life’s upheavals had taken a toll of his career."
Rajesh Khanna’s interest in politics always remained intact. He told me once that the Congress was going to nominate him to Rajya Sabha. It never happened and he never hid his disappointment. He used to say that he had given so much time to campaign for his party and was even considered also as a candidate from Amritsar, his hometown when Navjot Singh Sidhu had resigned.
Khanna was truly a super star and never tired talking of his films. His movies had stopped clicking at the Box office but he knew that his super star status remained steadfast in the hearts of his innumerable fans and admirers. There was never any ambivalence in his mind over this. Goodbye my friend.
PUNE Most parts of the city will have no water supply on Thursday, May 26, as the Pune Municipal Corporation has decided to undertake urgent repair and maintenance works at various pumping stations. The supply would be restored on Friday. According to a statement from the PMC water department, the civic administration would undertake maintenance and repair work at Parvati, Cantonment, SNDT, Warje and Holkar bridge water treatment plants.
The Delhi Commission for Women conducted a surprise check of civic body-run schools in the national capital to look into safety and security measures in place for girl students in wake of recent reports of molestation. DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal, who led the team, called the condition of some of these schools “pathetic, unsafe and deeply disturbing”.
Pune: For over two months now, some of the big municipal corporations in the state, including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik, are under administrator's rule. Same goes with illegal encroachments and other civic inconveniences. In Pune, municipal commissioner Vikram Kumar, who is also serving as the administrator, has been pushing for expediting projects, some unpopular and seemingly difficult to be executed, if public representatives are in the game.
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Monday directed the state civil aviation department to immediately tie up with the Centre for direct flights to countries such as the US and Canada from the international airport in Mohali. Also read: Rain brings respite from heat wave in Punjab, Haryana At present, only two international flights are operational from the airport to Dubai and Sharjah.
The Char Dham Yatra to Kedarnath was halted on Monday amid gusty winds, heavy rain and snowfall in Uttarakhand even as the pilgrimage to Gangotri, Yamunotri, Hemkund Sahib, and Badrinath continued as usual. “Hemkund Sahib experienced light snow on the day the portals of the shrine were opened but it has not affected the yatra,” said Hemkund Sahib Management Trust vice president NS Bindra. Over 10,000 pilgrims were waiting for the yatra to resume.