Patil's global agenda

Updated on Apr 15, 2004 05:09 PM IST

Seven time MP from Latur, Shivraj Patil refuses to discuss local issues.

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HT Image
PTI | ByK S Manoj Kumar, Latur

Before you sit down to interview Shivraj Patil Chakurkar, it is a good idea to spend the night before with UPSC aspirants, old hawks here warn. Brush up your general knowledge and test your current affairs. For no matter how hard you try, the former Speaker will simply refuse to come down to basic issues like roti, kapda aur makaan.

Instead he is just hooked on to the national and global agenda.

So for starters touch upon something like, say, satellite technology or India's shaky policy on Iraq, or may be a word or two on Indo-Pak relations. This will lure this elusive Congressman into giving an interview that may not be called off at the next milestone, as you accompany him on a whirlwind tour of his constituency.

It's completely a different matter that the first rail-road to his district hit his constituency only last month. And that, he admits without embarrassment, 'is not the outcome of any of my lobbying in parliament.'

A broad policy was adopted (by Parliament) to turn metre gauge rail lines into broad gauge. And so one day, in cyber age, came Latur's turn to see a train running through fifty years after Independence. That's all to it. Its very simple, he says.

Patil loves giant leaps. The first job of Parliament is to legislate. "And do you know some of these laws can go on to survive for over a 100 years?"

Who cares? "Well, all I am bothered about is where my next pot of water will come from tomorrow", says Sanker Biradar, listening intently to Patil at Shivaji chowk.

No matter how the opposition mocks at him, after seven terms in parliament, Shivraj Patil Chakurkar says he knows what he is talking about. "I do not promise the people the moon," the former Speaker says as he steps into his Tata Safari, beginning yet another day's hectic proceeding.

"I cannot help your son get a job, bring water to your dry taps or get those roads cleared of potholes,'' he explains to people gathered at a rally in the town. That's up to the local self government and the State government, Patil says as voters look on with dismay.

"I come into play when war clouds come hovering over the country. Should we declare war, or maintain peace? That's when you must test my intelligence while I cast my vote one way or the other," Patil explains as he sets about demystifying the Indian system of governance to people who care only about where their next meal comes from.

It is a queer phenomenon in Latur. Voters who cannot help repeatedly voting Patil back to power keep struggling to make sense out of his deep passion with all things outside their district and humble lives. On the other hand, the BJP is at its wits' end trying to device a strategy to stop him from what could be his eighth consecutive term in the Lok Sabha.

This time they have thrashed their way into Congress citadel by nominating the daughter in law of former chief minister and present revenue minister, Dr Shivajirao Nilangekar, as their candidate. While with all sincerity, Rupa Nilangekar promises to the hungry people that she will help them eat, Patil's only remark is "the woman does not know what an MP's functions are all about.'' Even in his attack, Patil is refuses to stoop to local issues.

But the secret of Patil's victories is certainly not buried in the sea of wisdom drawn from  his Rs 2.5 lakh worth library that he proudly declared among his assets. His own community, the Lingayats, who have an overbearing presence in the voters' lists, (over two lakh) the Muslims and the Marathas have stood behind him with unflinching loyalty.

In fact, Latur has an acronym for this vote bank :  MaMuLi  -- Marathas, Marwaris, Muslims and Lingayats. But even they do not know why they should be listening to Patil about Uganda and Bosnia when bijli, sadak, paani is what they really want.

But then this is the ultimate mystique of Shivraj Patil Chakurkar.

Excerpts from the interview

You are on your way to the eight consecutive term in the Lok Sabha. Can you name one thing that you have changed in Latur since you were first elected in 1980?
In Latur ? Ho! woof! (Laughs it off). You see I am an MP. I cannot think of   individual districts. I have the whole country in mind. I do not dole out jobs to individuals. But I do contribute towards generation of multiple jobs as under Employment Guarantee Scheme, (EGS)  to whose formation I contributed in a major way. This scheme, which began with a budget of Rs 43 crore is now generating jobs worth Rs 1200. That is the way MPs must work.

But people think they have voted you to get things done in their district?
People have to be explained the structure of governance. I do that in all my meetings. You see, the MP has three main tasks. Legislate. Participate in planning the budget,  which runs to over Rs seven lakh crore. And keep the ruling party in check. Make it accountable.  And whenever it fails on its word and deed, move in with a no confidence motion. This is my job. MPs have no executive powers. They can order no one. What needs to be done by a corporator can be done only by him. Similar is the case with an MLA.

The drinking water problem is critical in your area. What can you do about it?
Again I cannot solve the problems of individual villages. MPs should address this problem by seeing how a policy on water harvesting can be brought about. An MP takes with him a whole lot of experience to parliament. He is sufficiently exposed to socio-economic and cultural nuances to seek wider solutions to problems of society. He cannot afford to get involved in micro issues.

If an MP's functions are so specialized and demand such deep
understanding, how come the Congress party fields a green horn like Rahul Gandhi. What experience does he have to give justice to such work ?
Ho? Rahul? I am sure he will learn ?..You know politics is not dirty ?..He can do all this?

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