The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govinda prays and promises
- Triumphant return to dry constituency with pledge of water

Mumbai, May 30: Ram Naik’s career would be at an end if Virar’s mostly dry taps suddenly squirted rose-flavoured water. Govinda is not promising that to his voters, not yet.

But if he did, many would believe him — especially lower and middle-class women who potter around the house all day worrying about water and their children’s secret visits to the Internet café.

When the actor, now MP, took the local train on the first day of his campaign, his BJP adversary in Mumbai North flipped through the rule book and said the flashy “film artiste” had violated the election model code.

A little storm brewed and a nervous Govinda — who had surrounded himself with filmi type PROs wanting little more than his sound bites on TV — looked skywards.

If there was anyone who didn’t care whether Govinda had violated some vague rule in a subsection in the election manual, it was his voters. Why' Because “yeh bheedu toh apun ka aadmi hai (this man is one of us)”.

That is the charm and selling point of Virar ka chokra (the boy from Virar). But if he doesn’t watch out right now, that could also be his greatest weakness — because “apun ka bheedu” is expected to work for the aam janta (common man) at all costs.

He is not expected to be exclusive or aloof; he is expected to be in their midst at all times because he grew up and struggled here before becoming a popular actor.

Today, when Govinda took the local train once again and went to the Jivdani Devi temple in Virar to thank the goddess for his convincing election victory over the formidable former petroleum minister, an even bigger crowd accompanied him, talking to him and cheering him on with “Chal Govinda bhai, chal”.

Not many people had given Govinda a chance against Naik. But he amazed observers with his metamorphosis from a giggly and voluble actor to an earnest giant-slayer.

In a Mumbai where the Congress-NCP combine almost wiped out the BJP-Shiv Sena by winning five of the city’s six Lok Sabha seats, Govinda engineered one of the biggest upsets.

“People will come to see him and shake hands with him, but may not vote for him,” a senior Congress leader from Virar had said then about Govinda.

But the actor said and did all the right things and one day, even jumped into Naik’s campaign rath and sought the senior politician’s blessings.

Today, the MP from Virar inaugurated the first phase of a plan to instal 200 handpumps in nearby villages. He also promised what people need the most there — drinking water.

“I could not promise water earlier. I could not,” he said, “but now I can. I can make promises, especially to the women. We will give water. One-lakh litre of water per day.... Only one film per year (for myself).”

For an actor known mostly for slapstick comedy and violent pelvic thrusts, Govinda has been a surprise package. During the tiring campaign, the eager actor spouted poetry with the ease with which he executed his famous latka-jhatkas.

Then there was his quick wit. Sometime ago when asked if with Atal Bihari Vajpayee around, there would be more poetry and more “taal-mel” in Parliament, Govinda said: “Taal toh zaroor hoga, lekin mel ke bare mein keh nahi sakte (Rhythm would be there, but can’t say about harmony).”

After his victory procession this evening, Govinda was told that Naik had promised to keep an eye on him.

“He (Naik) should have kept an eye on himself,” the actor retorted. “But yes, I certainly will keep an eye on myself — starting today.” Virar will, too, on its chokra who became a big abhineta and is now a neta.

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