Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Coming of Indira Gandhi II - Mayawati

In 1989 Kanshi Ram was in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram as part of his election tour after launching his new party for the Dalits. A statement he made rings in the ears. “We will come to power. This election we will open our account.” Things may not have happened so fast but the course of events in UP only prove that the BSP juggernaut had started rolling. In the election after this one mentioned he opined his account. Now the “Mayawati Tsunami” will only come to a grinding halt after securing the PM’s berth in the coming elections.

If the results of the recently concluded elections in UP are an indicator Mayawati will be able to achieve that coup. The call for Dalit unity across the country can be the clarion call that will cement the Dalits across the country transcending geographical, linguistic differences.

What is it that gave her this giant leap in a state where Mulayam Singh, Amar Singh, the first family of India’s past glory, the Nehru-Gandhi , the minority politics, the Brahmin lobby, all were unable to halt her progress. After results started pouring in channel after channel reminded the viewer-she doesn’t deign to speak to the media, she did not turn up at many of the venues where large crowds gathered to hear her speak, during her whirlwind tours of UP, electioneering. Yet, the people voted.

Mayawati is no ‘Clean’ politician, nor is she does stop to think about propriety in administration. When in power the state is her ‘fiefdom’. Nothing short of the Bourbon Louis XIV who said, “L’etat c’est moi’- "I am the state.” Surely there was a large section in the population that knew that she was as corrupt as any other politician so things would not improve on that count. It isn’t as if the Brahmin lobby which she won over does not know of her strong “Dalit” leaning, yet, they voted.

Was it the, “Let us giver her a chance” attitude or that once in politics none can be above board so why blame Mayawati approach that worked?

All this does not however explain why she is called “Indira Gandhi II’ in the title of this piece. Look at her career graph - a product of the Delhi of the Seventies, she has formed her own idea of the dynamics that work in the “musical chairs” game for power, she may not be a follower of Mrs Gandhi I but would have identified features in her manner of wielding power over the Congressmen and the ruthless manner in which she bent rules, violated established norms and yet stomped home with the Nation’s support at the hustings. Even if Mrs Indira Gandhi was disliked by many yet hers was a personality that impacted that generation in a Love her-or hate her, but you cannot ignore her” manner, and Mayawati in Kalindi College and later as a student of Law is very much the product of the Delhi of Mrs Indira Gandhi.

In her earlier terms as CM one can definitely locate similarity in the manner of governance of the two. Public have short memories, promise to deliver, execution is rarely monitored, but establish a rapport directly with the people and you will be able to sway the numbers to your side, is what she has learnt. Decisiveness, no soft pedaling, shock the media and the people with your decisions, do not stop to explain, you have the recipe for staying on in power.

The ‘petticoat cabinet’ of Indira Gandhi’s days may come back because a look at the running of a Ministry by Mayawati often shows her in the News and none of her minions or Ministers in the Cabinet find space. There again she comes through as Mrs Gandhi did, of course nearly four decades ago the country did not face such an acute leadership crisis, so we did have men who had quality but were kept under the thumb by Mrs Gandhi’s super planning.

Now we have pygmies for leaders so for Mayawati it will be a clean sweep if she plays her cards well and has some crumbs to offer for Dalit welfare, Muslim voters, agriculture, pamper the criminals and goons that people her party(all parties have this ingredient, so it is no more a black mark) and she will have a long reign in Lucknow, sorry New Delhi!

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


When Jhumpa Lahiri’s work THE NAMESAKE became a film it raised interest among Indian audiences because a book by an immigrant Indian author being made into a film by another immigrant Indian, Mira Nair. Questions were many - “Will it be loyal to the book?” “Was the book suited for adaptation to celluloid?” “How close can one portray on celluloid the immigrant’s reality?”

Well, to say that Mira Nair has achieved great degree of success in this “Immigrant’s Tale” will make the film sound one for the Indian immigrant. But watch the film and you’ll know that it’s the searing pain that every immigrant undergoes be it the Middle East,the Continent, the US or even your own neighbouring state.

It has been said of the film that it is an American tale for the Indian and an Indian tale for the American. Well labels do not matter, what matters is that the film has touched us. Mira Nair’s has been a casting coup, I believe. Irfan Khan as Ashoke Ganguly and Tabu as Ashima his wife have done a splendid job. So has Karl Penn as the son Gogol.

The diasporic existence comes through. For the first generation the land is one of opportunities but ultimately he must get back home. The second generation cannot think of any place else other than the land where his parents held ’immigrant’ status as home, b’cos he is born here and has lived there.

But is it the name, is it the colour, that they find assimilation is never complete. “I feel my children are strangers,” says the mother, because they live the American life, or the son does not understand why ‘Gogol’ is important to his father. “Don’t call us ‘guys’, we are your parents. Understood.”

Mira Nair’s THE NAMESAKE is a well executed film. Some may accuse her of having made it for an international audience but she is a filmmaker who enjoys that status. One cannot ignore the fact that the NRI population is a major part of her audience. To say that she should not have any audience in mind when making the film would be unfair. The film must communicate and for that her audiences have to be reckoned with.

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