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Payback time

Strange are the ways of our netas, be they the saffron-clad or the ones in designer kurtas, writes Rashmi Saksena.
None | By OFF TRACK |Rashmi Saksena, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 21, 2006 02:26 AM IST

Strange are the ways of our netas, be they the saffron-clad, khadi-wearing, those sporting the by-now passé safari suit or the ones in designer kurtas. They always have a unique take on things that leave ordinary mortals with their jaws hanging to their knees.  Hate them or love them but the politician of today deserves full credit for possessing the talent to turn any given situation to his advantage.

Note, for example, the situation on the eve of the 32nd anniversary (March 18) of the by-now unsung JP movement. Leaders on the national scene now, whose political careers were launched by the movement — Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar, Ramvilas Paswan, Sushil Modi, Sharad Yadav, Subodh Kant Sahay and many more — no longer spare any time or thought for this date in history. Those who are now in the Congress fold or strong Congress allies at the Centre prudently avoid even mentioning it.

On the other hand, some Bihar Congressmen decided to highlight the anniversary of the very agitation that dealt the first deadly blow to the Congress hegemony post-Independence. Among the pile of petitions and letters that pile up on the desk of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, there is one submitted recently by ‘neglected loyalists’ from Patna. The one-page letter draws attention to the day three decades ago, when students of Patna University gave a call to gherao the assembly and thus sowed the seeds of the JP movement on March 18, 1974.

The plea urges Sonia Gandhi to take note of all those Congressmen in Bihar who, led by NSUI leader Binod Kumar, put up a fight against the movement. Those were bad days for those owing
allegiance to the Congress. Within a month, JP had turned the tide against the Congress.

Congress leaders were known to hide their Gandhi topi when they ventured out into the streets of Patna.

The letter recapitulates the “struggle by loyal Congressmen against JP’s agitation”, who, as a result, “faced torture, physical and financial harassment, including institution of fake cases during the Janata Party regime in 1977-80”.

The overt sentiment is at the end of the letter: it’s payback time. Can there be a more appropriate moment for it than the anniversary of the JP movement? “It is high time when these fighters should be utilised for party activities.”

The logic is simple. If the Congress can accept those who opposed the party on the strength of the JP movement, why should those who fought the movement to defend the Congress be marginalised?

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