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Sex, donkeys and democracy

Pankaj Upadhyay in Shimla | February 21, 2003 19:34 IST

"A sex scandal in Gujarat?" Ashok Ahuja's face looked like he had just had a bite of an aloo parantha stuffed with just salt. "How does it matter to me? How does it matter to anybody in Himachal Pradesh?"

"And Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi? Would he have any impact in Himachal Pradesh?" I ventured further. "Oh! for god's sake. Himachal's own politicians are trouble enough," Ahuja said in an exasperated tone.

Ahuja, who runs a cyber café on the Mall in Shimla and a hotel-restaurant in the suburbs, was born and brought up in this picturesque city. "Till just a couple of decades back we used have uninterrupted power supply after bigger snow falls than what we saw on Tuesday. So are we progressing or regressing?" he asked. "All this talk of sex scandals is just a gimmick. It will not work. There are so many issues, but do the people who get elected have the capacity to even think through them?"

"I have a problem with democracy. If donkeys have a majority, they will elect a donkey. There is no qualification required to become a politician and this is what we get," he said.

I wanted find out why a sex scandal involving Punjab ministers had become an election issue in the state. And also what was Modi doing in a state where minorities -- Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians -- comprised less than 5 per cent of the total population.

I was also keen to find out if the scandal was more important an issue than the poor power situation in the state? Or was the scandal more important than poor irrigation facilities, inadequate transport, poor roads, poorer rural health and sanitation and a crumbling educational edifice?

I made conscious decision not to speak to anyone remotely connected with politics. I knew their answer -- 'They started it first.'

N C Nirala, a retired mines inspector, residing in the quaint little town of Mandi in the south-west of the state said, "Sex scandal? Aren't they all involved. One of you journalists the other day wrote something about Modi! I don't think it means anything to anybody."

Folding the newspaper he was reading, sitting in the Town Park, Nirala said, "Talking about sex and sleaze is not going to solve any problems. They can't fool people."

A little distance away I found Alok Rathore sitting in the sun with his friends. "People are too smart. They see through these tamashas. Those days are gone when people looked up to political leaders as wise men. They listen to everyone, promise their vote to all, who come to them. But on the voting day they do exactly as their heart tells them and mind approves," he said.

"What are all these chief ministers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, Chhatisgarh doing in Himachal? What do they know about us and our problems? It's not a parliamentary election, is it?" he asked.

My dishevelled looks must have got me C N Jaune's attention in a small eatery in Hamirpur. "What were you saying just now on the phone? You fix phones?" I was tired of walking up to people, introducing myself and popping that silly question -- "So, what do you think is going happen in this election?"

Jaune's interest in me was a welcome change. "No sir, I am a journalist. I work for rediff.com. I have come from Mumbai."

It turned out that Jaune retired as a registrar of cooperatives and had visited Maharashtra several times to study its much-vaunted cooperative movement.

And then he said those magical twelve words that made that old man suddenly look like an angel: "The two places I liked most in Maharashtra were Kolhapur and Sangli." Sangli happens to be my hometown.

"It's sad. These BJP guys have destroyed Himachal Pradesh. Modi does not understand our state. Culturally there is a vast difference between Gujarat and Maharashtra. This is a peaceful state and people value this peace," he said.

Bimla Sharma, a mother of two, waved my car to a stop on my way back to Shimla. "Thoda aage tak chhod denge?" she asked. I obliged.

Polite conversations usually start with the weather and end in politics. And so it happened this time too.

"I have no interest in politics. I have never voted. I will not vote this time too. Last two days there has been no electricity in my house. Ask (Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister) Dhumal, Modi or (Congress chief) Sonia to look after two kids when it is cold and there is no electricity. Let me see how they do it," she said.

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Number of User Comments: 22


Dear Citizen Your article is very nice. But it is we who are responsible. Today party politics means nation. If you are from Congress you ...


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Just a small diff buddy. Cricket has atleast some chance of improving:) Take care.

Posted by JustLikeThat

Sub: Corrupted Indian political system

The manifest corruption and unholy alliance between money and mafia power must be rooted out for an all-round healthy progress of the country. All political ...

Posted by Joyeeta

Sub: Selfish and dead morality

This is the direct result of what I said in the subject no fear of god as God is no where to them they will ...

Posted by Indian

Sub: refreshing

We don't have any alternate to those people.Unless we come forward to chellenge these people in the field of democracy we can't do anything.Only by ...

Posted by MKG


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