Kith and Kin
Lines of Succession
Stri Shakt: Female Kingmakers
A Dream Come True
I was privileged to live and work in West Bengal for over three decades. And it is there, that I acquired the sweet tooth the State is famous for. (Perish the thought of elevated levels of blood glucose.) I learned the fine art of determining the taste of the pudding only by eating it. And pudding, I understand, originally covered everything worthwhile in life. It’s the Americans who narrowed down the meaning.
Fortified with this expertise, let me in this Election Special pose the all-too-important question: what would you choose, if on offer are: NaMo Sandesh, RaGa gulabjaman, Didi kada paak and AAP shinghara? Here, however, is a most unfortunate precondition. You can choose only one − repeat only one.
I was glad, however, to hear that despite the surcharged political atmosphere around them − when was there ever a quiet spell in Kolkata? − the great confectioners of the town are creating sweet delicacies named after party symbols: the Congress hand, the Trinamool Congress’ ‘Jora Ghas Phul’ (“twin flowers in grass”) or the ubiquitous BJP lotus. They have rightly named it ‘Nirbachoni Mishti’. So, the quintessential Bengali sandesh, now comes in all conceivable shapes and forms and, hold your taste buds for a moment, party hues ranging from the unalloyed saffron of BJP to the Congress mix of colors − saffron, white and green.
I suggest Mamata-di who is a non-conformist by nature, should initiate a new election idea. Outside each voting booth there should be on offer of the choicest sweet of each party. Prospective voters arrive and taste the best on offer of each party, and then decide in whose favor to cast the ballot, which alas is just only one.
Kith and Kin
Literally, Kith and Kin mean blood relatives or members of one’s own nation or race. Strictly speaking, kith are the people one knows and kin are those to whom one is related. Kith, I learn, is obsolete except in this expression, and kin is not much used except here and in ‘next of kin’, a term for blood relatives. In our family-centered society kith and kin have always played a significant role in one’s life. How can our forthcoming elections claim immunity from this bondage?
Right from President Pranab Mukherjee’s son, Abhijit to the Gandhi bahus Sonia and Maneka and the two scions, Rahul and Varun, as many as over 50 parliamentary constituencies are being contested by ‘sons and daughters’ of politicians of various parties. Doesn’t that make our democracy unique indeed?
I personally think we should amend the Constitution to create a quota of Lok Sabha seats for sitting MP’s and their children. Of course it will be followed by the legitimate demand of a quota for the descendants of freedom fighters. Needless to add, that a majority to them hail from the Congress stock.
Lines of Succession
Two ex-Finance Ministers P Chidambaram and Yashwant Sinha deserve special mention. Both of them have made the supreme sacrifice of surrendering their claims in favor of their children. Chidambaram is retiring and his son Karti is in the poll fray from Tamil Nadu’s Sivaganga constituency. He is making his debut in Lok Sabha elections.
Senior BJP leader and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s son Jayant is contesting from Hazaribagh constituency in Jharkhand. Yashwant Sinha who represented this constituency is not contesting this election.
Sons and Union Ministers of Congress party leaders, who are no more, are also contesting upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Jyotiraditya Scindia, son of the late Madhavrao Scindia, is contesting from Madhya Pradesh’s Guna constituency.
Sachin Pilot, son of the late Rajesh Pilot, is contesting from Rajasthan’s Ajmer constituency. Sachin is a Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Corporate Affairs. Jitin Prasada, son of late Jitendra Prasada is contesting from Uttar Pradesh’s Dhaurahra constituency. He is Minister of State for Human Resource Development.
Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra and former Cabinet Minister in UPA government Murli Deora’s son Milind is contesting election from South-Mumbai constituency.
Also, Kerala Governor and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s son Sandeep, a sitting MP, is contesting on a Congress ticket from East Delhi constituency. Haryana’s Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son Deepender, also a sitting MP, is contesting from Rohtak constituency.
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gourav is contesting from Kaliabor parliamentary constituency on a Congress ticket. Former Congress Union minister and late actor Sunil Dutt’s daughter, Priya is fighting elections from Maharashtra’s Mumbai-North-Central seat. Priya, a sitting MP, is facing BJP’s Poonam Mahajan. Poonam is the daughter of former BJP leader and Union Minister, the late Pramod Mahajan.
BJP is running neck and neck with the Congress in this support-my-son race. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s son Abhishek is in the fray from Rajnandgaon. Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s son Dushyant is contesting from the Jhalawar seat in the state as a BJP candidate.
Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh’s son Rajbir Singh is contesting from Etah on a BJP ticket. In Delhi, former BJP Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma’s son Parvesh Verma is contesting from West Delhi constituency.
It is not that only the main political parties like Congress and BJP are giving tickets to sons and daughters of their senior leaders, other regional parties are also following this ‘dynasty politics’ trend. In Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Misha Bharati is contesting from the Pataliputra seat.
Well I can go on and on. The list is tortuously long.
Stri Shakt: Female Kingmakers
You know whom I’m going to refer to: Amma, Didi, and Behenji. In a significant manner the make-up of India’s next government could lie in the hands of a trio of women who command a massive following in their regional heartlands. Known more for their charisma than policies, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati are likely to play pivotal roles in coalition negotiations, after India’s marathon general elections, which is under way as you read this column on the 7th or thereafter.
Narendra Modi is the frontrunner. However, his party may not win an outright majority, underlining the growing support for regional parties. The last time any party won a clear majority in Parliament was three decades ago − in 1984 when the Congress party swept the elections held in the aftermath of the assassination of its leader, Indira Gandhi. Today, the situation is qualitatively different.
Many analysts believe Jayalalithaa could play the role of kingmaker for Modi after telling her supporters it is time for a change in New Delhi.
Noticeable by its absence at rallies has been criticism of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with reports saying Jayalalithaa has ordered her party to refrain from speaking out against India’s likely next prime minister. “This Congress government − those looters − must be overthrown!” the 66-year told Amma told her supporters at a rally in the city of Pondicherry.
She is an incorrigible believer in voter freebies. Recently, she set up an “Amma canteen” scheme which offers lunches for three rupees and she has promised more freebies if people vote for her party, which is slated to win up to 30 out of 39 Tamil Nadu seats.
A police raid found more than 10,000 saris and 750 pairs of shoes at Amma’s residence. That was back in 1997 and a related court case accusing her of illegally amassing wealth is ongoing. Today, ministers reverently bow down in her presence in Tamil Nadu. There’s a big iron curtain about the way she operates. Nobody knows, for instance, who are her trusted confidantes.
If Jayalalithaa is the queen of the south, Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress party rule the roost in West Bengal and its capital Kolkata. This time round, Trinamool’s share of West Bengal’s 42 seats is expected to be nearer 30. Analysts say it is hard to guess which way Didi will jump after results on May 16.
While Banerjee is seen as a big sister, Mayawati is known as the “Dalit Queen” or “Behenji” after a colorful career as champion of India’s lower caste dalits.
Mayawati, whose Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has 21 seats in the current Lok Sabha, is absolutely anti-Modi but can − so her record shows − most effortlessly switch her loyalty.
A Dream Come True
Move fast forward to one sunny day in late May 2014. An old man approached the PM Residence on 10 Race Course Road. He spoke to the Jawan standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with PM Manmohan Singh.”
The Jawan looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Manmohan Singh is no longer PM and no longer resides here.” The old man murmured, “Okay”, and walked away.
The following day the same man approached the 10, RCR and said to the same Jawan, “I would like to go in and meet with PM Manmohan Singh.” The Jawan again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Manmohan Singh is no longer PM and no longer resides here.” The man thanked him and again just walked away.
The third day the same man approached the 10, RCR and spoke to the very same Jawan, saying, “I would like to go in and meet with PM Manmohan Singh.” The Jawan, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Manmohan Singh. I’ve told you already that Mr. Manmohan Singh is no longer the PM and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand?”
The old man looked at the Jawan and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.”
The Jawan snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir!”