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Anita wants to be ‘chechi’ in politics, not ‘madam’

Politicking, she says, wasn’t her cup of tea. So when author and journalist Anita Pratap decided to take the plunge as the AAP candidate in Ernakulam, she decided the best way forward was to be candid. One instance: she ticks off those who address her as “madam”, saying it reminds her of Sonia Gandhi.

Anita says she was never far from her Kerala roots. The Telegraph caught up with her on her campaign trail.

Q. How do you find the role change?

Pratap: I love facing crowds. I have been addressing people at international conferences. So I’m very comfortable with people. I have talked to crowds all my life. But this is different, you know, waving to crowds.

Q. Heard you telling a jansabha not to address you as ‘madam’ since it reminds you of Sonia Gandhi….

Pratap: Yeah, I am what I am. Even my Malayalam is very colloquial. I don’t think this ‘madam’ usage is appropriate. As a Malayali, in our kind of concept, we don’t use ‘madam’. We always call chettan (elder brother), chechi (elder sister).

Q. You have known M.J. Akbar for long. He is now with the BJP….

Pratap: It (BJP) is ideologically opposed to him. He was with the Congress and other kind of things that are always secular. How he landed in this party, I don’t understand. He is not opposed to me, but he is opposed to everything he had stood for in the past. It is a strange combination.

(Akbar was the editor of The Telegraph and Pratap had reported for the newspaper then.)

Q. How do you react to the possibility of the BJP coming to power?

Pratap: (Narendra) Modi is only about himself…. He makes references only to himself and not even the BJP. I don’t see how even his party members will tolerate him after some time. He is bigger than the party…. India is basically a coalition. India needs coalitions that can take everybody along. How can Modi ever do that? India cannot be run by a one-man show. Indira Gandhi tried it once and we know what happened.

Q. But Modi has said he was a team player and that Gujarat would not have progressed but for the team effort.

Pratap: If he is a team player, then I will say his team has only one person in it. And what is this Gujarat progress? It is complete bunkum. (Arvind) Kejriwal was the first one who went right inside the state and exploded the myth of a Gujarat model.

Q. But the AAP has failed to rise to the occasion.…

Pratap: See, let us tell one thing, when the election was announced, it was the BJP vs the Congress. Then we talked about the AAP. You have to agree with Kejriwal’s brilliance in that he first demolished the Congress. The BJP is the main contender and there is the AAP and there is a third front…. All these guys are talking about corruption, making that an issue. Who made that an issue? Kejriwal.

Q. But even surveys are predicting poor times for the AAP. Does the journalist in you think Kejriwal blundered?

Pratap: No. I think he is a very strategic person. I saw his interview and realised he is a highly strategic man, capable of thinking far ahead.

Q. What is your view on journalists becoming politicians? Do the readers feel cheated?

Pratap: Journalists, as we are very close to politicians because of the work, have a natural understanding of politics. But playing politics is very different. Maybe that is why till now, very few journalists have succeeded in politics. Politics practised by our traditional parties is all about politicking, which is all about manipulation. Most journalists cannot sustain that because we are not trained to do such things. But I think the AAP is completely different. It has certain set of ideals. I think I would not have been able to survive even one day in the Congress or the BJP….

Q. Is your husband supporting you?

Pratap: He (Arne Roy Walther, the Norwegian ambassador to Japan) is giving me all emotional support. But the sad part is he can’t give me any money because he is a foreign national.