Why Jignesh Mevani prefers to stay at the CPI HQ
Eternal love story
Whoever said that politics is the stuff of legend may have had an account from Rajasthan in their mind. Every time the northwestern state gears up for an election, stories of the tragic love affair between the late maharaja of Jodhpur, Hanwant Singh, and his wife, Zubeida, are narrated with renewed interest. Singh was already married twice when he took Zubeida as his life partner. The first wife of the maharaja was an Indian princess, Krishna Kumari, and the second one was a nurse, Sandra McBryde.
Singh was one of the first royals to take the plunge into electoral politics. He formed the Akhil Bhartiya Ramrajya Parishad and contested against the then incumbent chief minister, Jai Narayan Vyas, in the maiden elections after Independence. Singh won the seat with a huge margin, so much so that the CM had to forfeit his deposit. Unfortunately, the maharaja, who was only 28 at the time, and Zubeida did not live to see the poll results. Both of them perished in an air crash on January 26, 1952, while the counting was still underway.
In the years following the tragedy, the tales of their love affair went on to acquire a mythical aura. In 2001, the writer-turned-filmmaker, Khalid Mohamed, penned the script for the eponymous period drama, Zubeidaa, which was directed by Shyam Benegal. The experience this time in Rajasthan suggests that nothing much has changed in the intervening years, the couple is still widely remembered in ‘the land of the rajas’.
The Congress is fighting for survival, but its leaders still manage to make light of some of the adversities thrown their way. On Friday, when television camerapersons began to yank off the mic cables in the middle of a press conference, the Congress spokesman, Manish Tewari, was quick to spot the action. It was a clear indication that the press conference will not be shown even during news bulletins, but an unfazed Tewari quipped, 'You guys seem to have got calls to not show the press conference.'
However, he added that his comment should not be taken personally as it is no secret that nowadays the media are micro-managed by the powers that be. Curiously, the press conference was called to draw attention to the BJP’s burgeoning advertisement spend on TV.
The young Ambedkarite icon and member of the legislative assembly in Gujarat, Jignesh Mevani, has a new preferred address in Delhi, Ajoy Bhavan, which is the national headquarters of the Communist Party of India. Before being elected, Mevani used to stay in the hostel rooms of the former presidents of the students’ union at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Kanhaiya Kumar and Mohit Pandey, whenever he visited the national capital. After the assembly elections in his home state earlier this year, Gujarat Bhavan used to play host to Mevani during his Delhi trips. The place is known for its lavish yet affordable meals. But this time, Mevani stayed at ‘India’s Kremlin’ courtesy Kumar, who is now a national council member of the CPI. The question is why Mevani chose to put up at the CPI office, as the canteen there — more suited for frugal comrades — is not a patch on the one at Gujarat Bhavan.
The theory doing the rounds is that the lawmaker used to constantly feel being watched at the state-run institution. Even government staff, apart from other MLAs, have in private admitted that any proximity to Mevani comes under the glare of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Comrades, however, are more than willing to welcome Mevani. Moreover, the food kiosks neighbouring Ajoy Bhavan give the Dalit leader a perfect venue to treat his growing horde of fans and hold forth on matters of state.
Lead by example
The state of politics can highlight the state of the nation. Is this the reason why so much discord prevails in India? In poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, a new low is being witnessed. Leaders of the ruling BJP and the Congress do not wish to cross paths with one another, be it in television studios, banquet halls or airports. Social niceties such as exchanging pleasantries or catching up with one another have become a strict no-no. Perhaps it is time for the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Amit Shah, Narendra Modi, Sitaram Yechury, Mamata Banerjee and others to set an example of personal rapport and warmth for their camp followers to emulate.
Staying with Madhya Pradesh, although most people are not sure who will win on December 11, the day the poll result is set to be announced, the absence of some key officials in the state secretariat has become a subject of speculation. A few officers considered close to the chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, have decided to travel aboard, to places such as Sweden, South Africa, the UAE, Singapore and so on. Another set of politically inclined babus have also gone on long leave. They seem less than enthusiastic to help the current regime even at an informal level. Have the bureaucrats been able to smell which way the poll wind is blowing?
Can there be a Great Indian Wedding sans naach gana? There are whispers that Nick Jonas, who is expected to wed Priyanka Chopra in a shaadi complete with sangeet, mehendi and haldi ceremonies, may end up grooving to a mix of Bollywood hits that featured Piggy Chops doing her thumkas. The buzz is that Nick will also croon a Hindi song dedicating it to, who else but, PC.