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Selling politourism

This weekend Agra plays host to the ?heavies? of World Tourism. This doesn?t mean that you can refer to them as ?excess baggage?. True, there are so many unscrupulous elements in the travel and tours trade that they are all called ?operators?.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2002 11:21 IST

This weekend Agra plays host to the ‘heavies’ of World Tourism. This doesn’t mean that you can refer to them as ‘excess baggage’. True, there are so many unscrupulous elements in the travel and tours trade that they are all called ‘operators’. Arguably, this does not apply to the honorable gentlemen (and women) currently holding their Sightseers Summit at the spectacular Oberoi Amarvilas Hotel located within sighing distance of the (real) Taj.

Now that planes are again flying into the world’s airports instead of into the World Trade Centre, the India wing of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC as distinct from the WTC) felt it was time to divert traffic in our direction. The industry desperately needed this initiative. How long can our airports, hotels and Bharat Darshan buses be sustained by the only category of traveller we have seen in recent months, namely, the Defuse Hostilities package tour led by those earnest if ill-formed guides, Rumsfeld and Armitage.

The first session at this Agra convention was on Creating Brand India. Since our ‘netas’ have already succeeded in branding India, I have a suggestion. Why don’t we use the opportunity of this WTTC meet to promote our unique Politourism. Politourism embraces all the categories of conventional tourism. Take the main attraction, history and heritage. In politics, the history-sheeters apart, any number of leaders can be notified as relics. Some are more monumental in their audacity than the rest. They stand as steadfast as a Paleolithic Age boulder, impervious to the climate of opinion against them. The best example is the world-renowned Modi Rock — neither scorching indictments nor lashing media makes a dent on this hunk of petrified morality. Several foreign archaeologists have attempted to analyse it, but they have been denied access; the authorities fear that its seemingly invulnerable exterior may not withstand such probing. Recently, the Modi Rock was subjected to an EC-G, but Dr Lyngdoh’s prognosis was rejected as unduly alarmist.

Bihar, which some say should be handed over entirely to the Archaeological Survey of India, has a similar unnatural attraction, the Laloo landmark. Its mystic hold on the popular imagination and the Chief Ministerial chair is fodder for much discussion.

The Jayalalithaa escarpment is yet another example. However, while its location, Tamil Nadu, has a plethora of monuments, in the temples category, Uttar Pradesh can lay claim to a much larger number of Politourists.

Religion, in fact, has literally moved the masses, pilgrimages having been the earliest avatars of tourism. The new Politourism has been inspired by this. Note the variety of yatras on offer to the traveller wowed by sound and fury signifying nothing more sinister. Politourists who missed out on the historic Rath Yatra can still book a ringside seat for the Gaurav Yatra. But here’s a travel advisory: in communal yatras, as in the conventional, there is every danger of innocent bystanders getting crushed under the juggernaut’s wheels.

In my bid to promote this new sector, allow me to remind the WTTC meet that fairs and festivals — another crowd-puller of religion-based tourism — are also found in abundance in Politourism. Holi might be only a riot of colour, but our MPs in their abandoned celebration of democracy are a riot. They provide such a riveting spectacle that Dilli Darshan buses may soon do much more than merely point out Parliament House. For a nominal extra charge, tourists can go sit in the Visitors Gallery. If the Politourism Department can organise a block booking, MPs might even put on a special performance.

The business traveller, no less than the pleasure-leisure one, has developed an adventurous taste in cuisine. In an exemplary case of the ruler repaying past debts, Britain seems to have done more to promote Indian food than Jiggs Kalra. Politourism is no leftover in this attraction either. Politics offers you all the tastes of India — and many more tasteless ones. Incidentally, the Indian travel industry may have only recently branched into sybaritic getaways, but politics has always been the last ‘resort’.

As for wild life sanctuaries, the political jungle lays on a raw, blood-chilling experience that could make Ranthambhor look like your neighbourhood children’s park. Alpha males battle for dominance over the party, females of the species are deadlier, and leonine Singh and Sinha leap into each others portfolios. As for tigers, nothing encountered by the likes of Valmik Thapar can compare with the roar of the Shiv Sena specimen. Old but still sabre-toothed, he can maul opponents, discipline unruly cubs, wield power and unplug its Minister — even if this means poaching on the Prime Minister’s territory. Do ‘Saamna’ with him at your peril.

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Alec Smart said, “Does ICC stand for ‘I Create Crises’?”