Monday, September 16, 2013


In Uttar Pradesh, I was told by two persons (one a vehicle driver, and the other a cook) - that Raju Bhaiyya is a saviour of the poor, that in his village and panchayat he does not allow anyone to go hungry. He gives generously, and even provides the money for marriages in very poor households. For them, he is a Robin Hood.

The driver was also certain that Narendra Modi is the only hope left for the country. According to him, every village square talks of the upcoming elections and of Narendra Modi, and if BJP gets any votes, it will be because of this one man. We need a Hindutvavadi like him, who can protect us, or else we will be ruled y Mughals again. But, he said glumly, it is possible that the party will use Modi to get votes, and then not make him the Prime Minister.

This morning Javed the taxi driver who drove me to the airport in Bhopal was equally definite that the BJP has made a mistake in naming NM as the prime ministerial candidate, that they will lose 40% of votes they would otherwise get. Madhya Pradesh will vote for Shivraj Singh Chauhan, but for his good work here, not because he is BJP. Though the party does count for something, the person is important - hence the loss to BJP. Once a person in a high position has a slur on his name, it is very difficult to get rid of it. Governing a state is one thing; governing a country such as ours with such a diverse population, is another ball game altogether. 

The taxi driver at Bhubaneswar airport is all praise for Naveen Patnaik. He has done a good job here, has zero tolerance for corruption, he says. If work in any government department does not get done in a fixed time, you can register a complaint and it is attended to. Officials and politicians are wary now. The BJP may get a couple of seats, he predicts, but not many more.

The man who came to repair the TV in my room at the hotel saw me tuning into the news channel and lingered to talk. Politics in India is such a mess, he confided. Since you too speak Oriya, I can speak freely with you. Patnaik babu has been here for three terms - and things are going well. Why disturb it? Different people including teh BJP want to displace him and come to power, but they want to do it for selfish reasons and nothing else. Naveen Patnaik will leave if he is defeated - it is no skin off his nose. He does not have a family to cater to, nor has he made millions for himself during his tenure, unlike other politicians have. If then we beg him to return, will he? And who will be in the soup then?

Varied viewpoints, all among men in their 20s and 30s.

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