Even as I write this, the chaos marring the BPAC-organised debate among South Bangalore’s high profile candidates and its eventual abandonment forms much of the social media discourse at least in Bangalore circles. I was not present at the venue and haven’t had a chance to see the recordings either till now.
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However I did happen to be present for a brief while at another event, micro-level in comparison to the greater show of the day. It was at Shobha Daffodil, an apartment complex in HSR Layout where the BJP MP Ananth Kumar had come to “meet residents” to push them to vote for his sixth term in the Lok Sabha.
Not a platform for local issues!
He came an hour and a half late, and in what I would call a master-stroke, sent in the local corporator just 15 minutes ahead of his arrival. She gave a brief introductory speech detailing the wonderful accolades that she has been receiving for her neighbourhood development project (never mind the potholes and garbage dumps – they would be gone soon enough) but the most emphatic and critical message of that speech was “I shall be here to discuss local issues with you whenever you want, but that is NOT the agenda today. The Lok Sabha MP is here to discuss issues and agenda at the national level.” The bottomline, therefore: Please do not question the roads and garbage dumps and neighbourhood transport. Period!
Fair enough, given the role of a parliamentarian, but just that most of us present there really do not know what to ask about things at the national level. We haven’t even read the party’s manifesto.
Once the man arrives with about ten more people, some more minutes lapse in decorum and felicitations. Then we listen quietly to his articulation of the abysmal failures of the UPA and the downhill journey of the nation in the last 10 years — something that we read in the papers, watch on television and “experience” ourselves in some way or the other every single day.
In all fairness, he is a good orator. And when he chides the apartment populations for not voting in large numbers — “putting in 20 per cent and demanding 100 per cent” — we know that in some sense, he is right.
There is some stir at the mention of Arvind Kejriwal and his no-governance model, since that is an emotive issue anyway. People look on, most of them listlessly, as he brings up the issue of incursions at the LAC and LOC and clap as he talks about bringing back PoK within Indian fold.
The mind, however, keeps straying back to the roads and waste management and encroachment of the neighbourhood lake. No one asks him exactly what his plan is for reining in corruption and inflation and current account deficit and the host of other ills that he has been accusing the current government of.
The floor is opened to question. Supposedly. Two questions are asked from the very front row:
“What do you think of your competitor, Nandan Nilekani?”
“Is Modi bigger than the BJP today?”
The powers-that-be have no issues answering these. Critical national issues indeed. So they are happy to address them.
Meanwhile, a gentleman and a lady have tenaciously kept their hands raised as Ananth Kumar responds to those questions. From my conversations with the couple during our long wait for the MP’s arrival, I know that one of them wants to ask him about Aadhaar and the hours and crores that would go to waste if his party indeed relegated the project to the ‘dustbin’ as he has been quoted to have said. I myself want to know of environmental policies and how a BJP government would walk the tightrope between industrial demands and environmental sanctity.
Questions that couldn’t even be asked
But just as Ananth Kumar finishes his detailed exposition of how “Ab ki baar Modi Sarkaar” is just a very logical extension of “Agli baari, Atal Vihari” and has nothing to do with Modi’s ascension above the party, members of his entourage rise. The MP has to cover five more apartment communities in the following one hour and so apologies to all others waiting to ask him more questions. The corporator and local MLA would have to reach there 10 minutes earlier as well, I assumed, to deliver the critical disclaimer of the session.
One person however manages to shout out his question: if the BJP comes to power, shall we see some of the tainted UPA ministers behind bars? “For that we need a full mandate, if you ensure that, we will see that wish fulfilled,” is his response.
As they leave, I suddenly feel angry at myself. For going along with this orchestrated campaign arrangement in one election after the other. Why even put up this facade of an “interactive” session? Why not simply come and say, “Look, I know that most of your questions are actually for the local governance body, neither do I have answers for you. I am just here to pray for your votes. Please vote for me.”
Political harakiri, you say? But after all these years, cannot we at least mature to a point where we appreciate that honesty?
(Note: The opinions expressed here are of the author and not of the apartment community)