Minoo Masani in 1957 went all the way from Bombay to Ranchi to contest the election for a seat in the Lok Sabha. He was of course looking for a safe seat, a seat where the sway of the Congress would not be so complete as in most parts of the country then. Masani won but never went back to contest another election there.
Twenty years later, in 1977, Mangalore-born George Fernandes fought elections from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He won and became a Union minister in the Janata Dal government headed by Morarji Desai. His royal socialist comrade from the south, Ravindra Varma, too fought from Ranchi, Bihar, and won. He became labour and parliamentary affairs minister.
The Indian electoral law does not bar Indians from contesting from anywhere in the country as long as their names are registered as a voter in one constituency or the other. But while political candidates, like birds, migrate from inhospitable conditions in search of more congenial places, not all candidates can hope to contest an election too far away from their home bases and do well.
Only the prominent, the popular or the desperate can afford the movement into the unknown. Candidates with clout too. The ‘outsider’ tag does not affect their fortunes because they are not contesting local, municipal elections but are fighting for a place in Parliament, where they are expected to discuss national issues and help draft laws for the country. So, even as some unpopular candidates move to winnable seats, the movement makes little difference to the big-league players.
Break the Mugs
There is growing unease in the EC at the reports of sporadic poll violence coming in from different parts of the country. Even in an urban constituency like Bangalore South, supporters of Nandan Nilekani and Ananth Kumar came to blows, putting paid to what was expected to be a informed debate. Meanwhile, in a Haryana village, a Dalit gets thrashed for speaking up in favour of a political party. But unlike earlier, Babu Lal of Ali Mohammed village in Sirsa did get to complain to the police. The men in uniform appear to be ‘prudently’ hedging their bets though. No action’s been taken till now.
An inability to communicate effectively in Hindi or Urdu has been the bane of the Congress in the heartland. Speakers at BJP rallies are no better although they do speak better Hindi and rehearse their lines. The AAP boys are the surprise pack as they effortlessly switch to the local dialect, recite poems and local sayings, crack jokes even as Urdu poetry and Sanskrit shlokas roll off their tongue. No wonder AAP leaders like Anand Kumar, Sanjay Singh and Kumar Vishwas are big hits with the crowd. If speeches win polls, AAP should be home and dry in east UP.
Birsa Munda, the only tribal hero to find a place in the central hall of Parliament, died at the turn of the century in 1900 rebelling against the British and the landlords and is hailed as a freedom fighter. The hero has a pervasive presence in Jharkhand today, with everything from the prison to the airport named after him. So no surprises that even Mamatadi’s party manifesto proudly claims that ‘Birsa Bhagwan’ spearheaded the rebellion on the soil of Bengal. While the dadas snigger, the TMC is technically correct: both Bihar and Orissa were part of the Bengal Presidency at the time.
“Even if Ramdev steps out for laghu shanka, a crowd of 2,000 appears.”
The yoga guru on his popularity, saying he can’t even step out ‘for a piss’ (he used the Hindi equivalent first) in peace.