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September 10, 1999


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The Rediff Election Interview/ Nitish Bharadwaj

'I understand India bloody well'

Nitish Bharadwaj Nitish Bharadwaj first earned national attention when he played Krishna in B R Chopra's television epic, Mahabharat. In 1996, the dentist-turned-actor contested the general election as the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Jamshedpur in Bihar.

Though he won that election by 55,137 votes, he did not contest the 1998 poll, and many thought his honeymoon with the BJP was over. But he told Syed Firdaus Ashraf he was then busy with his television serial, Geeta Rahasya.

He has returned to the electoral fray and will contest the Rajgarh seat in Madhya Pradesh. His main rival is the sitting Congress MP, Laxman Singh, whose brother is Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh.

Bharadwaj ran into the trouble with the Election Commission early in his campaign. The EC felt the telecast of his serial should be stopped by Doordarshan till October 10 because it may influence voters. In this interview with, Bharadwaj discusses his grievances with the EC and his prospects in Saturday's election.

Why did you not contest the last general election?

I could not contest the last election because I was busy with my serial Geeta Rahasya. I had to can 25 episodes. So, there was no time to contest the election. The serial is now on air. I have future episodes ready, so, I have the time to contest the election.

Why did you change your constituency from Jamshedpur to Rajgarh?

When I did not contest the 1998 election, another candidate won the Jamshedpur seat. That lady is a sitting MP, and it is ethically incorrect for me to contest that seat when she is contesting once again. Moreover, the party thought Rajgarh is the right place for me.

What are the issues you are highlighting this election?

Nitish Bharadwaj This is a Lok Sabha election and the issues in a Lok Sabha election is not like an MLA election. The main issue I have highlighted is the hollow claim by the Congress that it can form a stable government. If you are sitting on a chair comfortably and the Congress comes and cuts off its legs one by one then you cannot claim the BJP has not provided a stable government. Who has created this instability? The Congress.

I have highlighted the experience of its prime ministerial candidate. The Congress is saying it will elect its prime minister after the election. Their obvious choice is Sonia Gandhi. I have said on one hand you have Sonia and on the other is Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I have questioned her political experience compared to that of Mr Vajpayee. Indira Gandhi was a dynamic lady whatever her ideology may have been. She knew the Indian ethos well, but Sonia Gandhi does not understand the ethos of India.

The same thing can be said about you, since you are an outsider to Rajgarh.

(Angrily) Outsider, how?

You have not lived in the constituency.

I am an insider of India. And, if you guys start calling me an outsider, who is she? I am asking you a counter question. If you call me an outsider, why don't you have the guts to call her an outsider? I am not a foreigner, but an Indian. I understand India bloody well.

I have been an Indian all my life, I have toured all over India when I was doing theatre. I know rural India because I used to perform street plays since school. When you have 45 years of Congress Raj then you have the same problems in all the villages of India. You don't need more than two days to understand these problems.

What are the problems of Rajgarh?

The biggest problem is it is not developed at all. There is no water. It is barren land and agriculture is badly affected. It needs development and irrigation has not taken place in the last 52 years.

Don't you think your Congress opponent is very strong?

Journalists have told me there is gross misuse of power by him and therefore I have a good chance.

How difficult has it been for you to campaign in Rajgarh?

Very difficult. The constituency is huge and there are many villages. I can't reach them because there are no roads to go there. So, I am not reaching my electorate even though I want to.

What was it like being an MP for 18 months?

Good. I liked it. I am happy about my performance. I have documented proof of that. Debates in which I participated. There are different speeches varying from three minutes to 45 minutes. I wanted to be a good MP. And I think I did it.

It surprised many parliamentarians because past experience does not show that film people speak in Parliament. Many senior MPs told me I performed well. As an MP, I raised the problems of employment to mining to radiation in the Lok Sabha. The Pakistan arms deal and many international issues.

The Election Commission has given orders to yank Geeta Rahasya off the air.

Nitish Bharadwaj I feel very strongly about this. I don't understand the logic that anybody sympathising or contesting the elections should not be shown on television during the notification period. I think it is unconstitutional because the Constitution has given me the right to employment. So, you are taking away my fundamental right because my serial has nothing to do with my political inclinations.

Secondly, Doordarshan is not the only channel. There are so many private channel. Hundreds of programmes and thousands of people discuss such things. They tend to influence the people much more than one serial which has no political inclinations.

If at all, Geeta Rahasya discusses anything, it talks about binding the nation. It says casteism is humbug and should be looked at in the correct perspective. It discusses the true meaning of religion. My dharma does not mean only Hinduism, there is a much wider perspective. So, how does it influence voters?

What did you tell the Election Commission?

My question to them was: If Ratan Tata tomorrow decides to contest an election, would they stop the entire operations of the Tatas in India? It means that no hotel room owned by the Tatas would be booked. No Telco truck would run because the moment you see a Tata truck you are influencing voters.

I feel the EC is trying to armtwist Doordarshan because Doordarshan listens to it. Other channels don't listen to them. Moreover, if television influences people, then Rajesh Khanna and Shatrughan Sinha would have won every time. But that didn't happen. So by stopping four serials you are not doing anything, only causing financial damage to one person.


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