The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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By bullock cart, Bharat scary

Sept. 14: This should be a warning to “austere” politicians keen to jump from business class to bullock cart.

Rampur MP Jaya Prada yesterday cried out in fear of her life as floodwaters swirled around her stranded bullock cart on a submerged village road.

The Samajwadi Party member, of course, had no choice — the bullock cart is the only means of travel left in parts of her flood-hit constituency that she was visiting.

She would have had no inkling of what was to follow as she began her journey in a convoy of three carts in this belt of western Uttar Pradesh.

The sugarcane fields stretching to the horizon on both sides of the road may have reminded the former actress of the idyllic rural scenes she had acted in during her Bollywood career in the ’70s and ’80s.

Then the water level rose as she entered the worst-hit areas, obliterating the road from sight. Jaya Prada, dressed in a light-yellow sari, kept looking around her nervously.

Suddenly, around 1pm, one of the wheels of her cart got detached with a jerk and rolled into a ditch, tilting the cart dangerously to one side.

“Aaaaaaaaa!” the actress screamed.

For the next few seconds, her expression was that of a terrified girl rather than a battle-hardened MP who has just retained her seat despite opposition by a local strongman and party rebel, Azam Khan.

A few people from her entourage jumped off the other carts and propped up one side of the MP’s cart, pushing it to higher ground. Jaya Prada quickly regained her poise. The wheel was re-attached and the cart soon reached safer areas.

The Samajwadi MP’s rough ride came a day before Congress president Sonia Gandhi too roughed it, flying economy class from Delhi to Mumbai to attend a party event.

Sonia has been behind the austerity drive launched by her party — which has had a host of Union ministers announcing the pious intention of flying Y class — in the face of a drought threat.

Droughts would have been far from Jaya Prada’s mind yesterday but by the time she had concluded her trip around 5pm, she had learnt first hand what havoc floods can cause. Thousands had been marooned in 60 villages since Saturday when 16,000 cusecs of water released from Rampur barrage breached embankments.

Jaya Prada promised to raise the villagers’ plight in Parliament and ensure more relief now and a metalled road after the waters recede.

Back in Rampur city, the MP, asked about her terrifying experience, said: “It was a temporary reaction to an averted accident.”

Her critic Azam Khan did not let go of the chance. “Jaya Prada behaves like a child. If she herself cries out in fear, how can she look after the flood victims?” he said.

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