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archive: BJP-Sena Saffron rally at Mumbai

BJP-Sena Saffron rally at Mumbai

Varsha Bhosle.
Rediff on Net.
September 10, 1999

    Tite: BJP-Sena Saffron rally at Mumbai
    Author: Varsha Bhosle. 
    Publication: Rediff on Net. 
    Date: September 10, 1999
    Shivaji Park -- the bastion of the Shiv Sena -- could have been
    fuller. Sharadrao had managed a little over a lakh. But today, our
    seasoned eye put the crowd at between 60 to 75,000. Just three days
    before Bombay votes...
    We have now become adept at making sad eyes at the cops when they ask
    for the special security pass. Besides, we had latched on to a veteran
    whose years on the beat are more than our age. Thus we slipped in and
    took our seat in the Press enclave (linen-covered tables, bottled
    water, adrak chai, all phukat), after sending our assistant to mingle
    with the hoi polloi (bring your own newspapers to squat on). Our
    assistant is our cousin who has developed acute political awareness
    since after the advent of the Shroud -- with a little help from us, of
    course. We assure you, she was grateful for her assignment, especially
    after bagging a wooden bow-and-lotus-tipped-arrow, a saffron scarf, a
    saffron cap *and* a photograph of Atalji from the karyakartas. Our
    cousin has potential.
    Our fellow journalists were all asleep, eyes wide open. This is always
    the case till... The prime minister and the Shiv Sena supremo ascended
    the dais at 7.30 pm, and Atalji garlanded the bust of Chhatrapati
    Shivaji to the trumpeting of tutaaris, the flutters of the bhagwa and
    robust calls of "Jai Shivaji! Jai Bhavani!" It was an electrifying
    moment -- the Marathi ethos got the better of us. And then, into the
    Press area walked, of all the people, old-time music-director, and RSS
    member, Sudhir Phadke, better known in aamchi Mumbai as Babuji. Over
    eighty years old and still keeping tabs?! That clinched it for us --
    all we needed was a horse and we'd have been off brandishing our sword
    towards 10 Janpath.
    However, Chief Minister Narayan Rane charged up instead, and presented
    Atalji with a cheque of Rs 5,573,370 towards the National Defence
    Fund. Then he began his tirade in, how shall we put it, "unclean"
    Marathi. He ranted about having cleaned Bombay of gangsters, doling
    out 12,000 crores owed by the previous government, changing the name
    of the airport (loud applause), etc, etc. He succeeded in bringing us
    down from our militant Marathi high. The man has no idea how to make
    the earth move.
    Fortunately, Rane wound up quickly and let Bal Thackeray take the
    podium. Certainly, this was one of the most controlled speeches
    Balasaheb has given in recent times. But he prefaced it with his
    characteristic barbs (believe us, it doesn't translate well): "Perhaps
    you think that I'm afraid of using the word 'Hindu.' Not a chance! I
    will be restrained only because Vajpayeeji is on this stage, and I
    don't want to give anybody an excuse to get him into trouble."
    The personal attacks were mild: Sharadrao -- lengyatli Jayalalitha (JJ
    in pants). Manmohan Singh -- kavli laavlyavar akkal daadh aali (got
    his wisdom teeth after fitting dentures, ie, he never raised in
    Parliament the question of the RSS involvement in the anti-Sikh
    riots). Deve Gowda -- Kolhapur cha chivda. Sonia -- "When you [Pawar]
    sat side by side with her, didn't you get a foreign smell then?"
    The difference between the people at the Shroud's rally and those at
    Shivaji Park was palpable. Here, the people listened -- and responded.
    We could hear their laughter at Balasaheb's one-liners, of course, but
    what was more telling was the buzz at his angry words -- as if the
    whole lot was hmm-ing its disapproval of Balasaheb's foes: "What did
    the Congress do? First give us the account of 40 years, then ask us
    the hishob of four and a half years." Deep Rumble. "Who had asked you
    to spill our blood in Bangladesh? What was spilt in Kargil was spilt
    for our country. Rakta desha saathi saandla." Deafening Hmmm... "Look
    at the map. Where's your country, where's our country? You are NOT our
    bahu!" Rumble And Claps.
    He wound up his speech in 25 minutes with, "Don't go to your villages
    to eat modaks for Ganpati. First give your vote, and then go.
    Remember, one vote brought down Vajpayeeji; that should not happen
    again." Point is, Balasaheb speaks TO the people; not AT them. And
    this is why, no matter what Teesta Setalvad & Co do (who, BTW, are
    ensconced in a Congress MP's flat in Delhi, putting out lakhs of
    rupees worth of full-page newspaper ads reviling the BJP-led
    government), it will be hard to "eradicate" the Shiv Sena from
    Maharashtra -- till Balasaheb is around. Hallelujah to that.
    Then came Atalji. What does one say about his oratory? Well, for one,
    we could write down everything he said -- thanks to his considerable
    pauses. And what he said, was worth writing down. We lose ourself in
    the beauty of his language: "Nirnay ki ghadi aayi hai"... What an
    opener! "The time for decision is upon us." It didn't matter that the
    following content was what all of us have been reading over the past
    month -- price control, low inflation, sensex, forex, coalitions,
    Kargil, foreigner blah blah. There are just so many things any
    politician can say on a campaign trail. The pleasure lay in his
    expression: the Congress' "siddhaant-heen samjhauta"; "lekin woh
    [Pakistan] bhram mein the; sarkaar kamar kas kar khadi thi"; "hum mukt
    Bharat denge"; "hum gehu ka jawaab dete hain; woh chini ka masla
    uthaate hain"...
    Public-wise, the loudest applause came when Atalji related an incident
    from his recent trip to Pakistan: Some minister said to him that the
    Kashmir issue should be tackled by the two countries because "Pakistan
    Kashmir ke bina adhura hai (Pakistan is incomplete without Kashmir)."
    Atalji's reply: "Pakistan ke bina Hindustan adhura hai (if so, India
    is incomplete without Pakistan)." Oh yes, it was a belligerent and a
    totally feel-good speech -- something *very* required in this
    atmosphere soured by the moaners and groaners. Thus, when Atalji ended
    with, "Yeh ek-ek vote ki ladhaayi hai. Ek naye Bharat ka uday hai
    (it's a fight for each vote, it's for the dawn of a new India)," we
    cheered and clapped. Our insouciant fellows stared at us in shock.
    The rally ended with an off-key rendering of the national anthem. We
    had learnt nothing new, really. At least, not till we hit the pavement
    and sat on the parapet of Shivaji Park, waiting for our cousin to
    emerge from the backward regions. One of our friends, an experienced
    ToI man, sat with us, making like a chimney (for some strange reason,
    people aren't supposed to smoke within the enclosure). Soon, a small
    crowd of journos formed near the chimney, and the exchange of notes
    began. "The speech was same as Beed's"; "I don't think Loksatta will
    carry that comment"; "did you see the people leave after T Balu
    finished?"; "it wasn't as bad as last year's exodus"; "we try to read
    too much into nothing"; "you electronic types don't have a copy to
    But one of them, a young stringer, kept asking our friend very bizarre
    questions, indeed: Could he say there were about 50,000 people? Would
    you say Vajpayee look tired? Could he write that the audience didn't
    respond? How should he word this, how to write that... And our pal was
    actually telling him how to phrase it so that it wouldn't be an
    outright lie! We were aghast! 
    We *had* to butt in: "Why are you doing this?!" Our pal: " He's from a
    Marathi daily. He has to give a specialised copy." Us: "Specialised
    copy??" Stringer: "It's the policy of the paper. I can't write a good
    piece on BJP-Sena." Us: "But that is wrong!" Stringer: "So I don't
    take a byline." Our pal: "Or the whole report will be hidden on page
    5." Us: "But it's still wrong!!" Amused Loksatta man: "Welcome to the
    Press." Us: "I will write this!" Our pal: "Don't mention his name."
    Us: "I will have to name the paper!" Stringer: "If you'd read the
    paper, you wouldn't have had to ask which paper." 
    This is our first-hand experience of the ways of the "secularist"
    Press. Up to that moment, we had only made educated guesses about how
    pinkos operate, based on employee statistics and reliable hearsay and
    the unfolding of events. But now, if any one of you should try to
    cross us on this point, we swear on our late beloved Tommy, we will
    take a flying tackle from here and beat your pus-filled head into the
    ground. By all accounts, our constituency's Congress candidate, Murli
    Deora, is a more efficient, industrious and accessible person than
    BJP's Jaywanti Mehta. But, since her party is *surely* working with
    such a major handicap, we have no choice but to do the honourable
    thing. Such is the life of a Maratha...

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