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The Rediff Special / G Vinayak

March 01, 2004

Bhupen Hazarika
Bard and balladeer, poet and politician, instinctive painter, journalist, singer, lyricist, musician, filmmaker, writer; call him what you want to.

Bhupen Hazarika is all that and more. He is the
BJP's latest catch, a diamond among stars, as Sushma Swaraj put it while welcoming him into the party on Friday.

But in many ways, say those who know him closely, Hazarika has been true to form: seizing the opportunity if it suits him, public opinion be damned.

Five months ago he was raving and ranting against the BJP for having denied him a nomination to the Rajya Sabha.

Then he was happy to do the bidding of the Asom Gana Parishad and All Assam Students Union.

As the general election approached Hazarika even discussed the possibility of joining the AGP. But he took everyone by surprise by joining the BJP.

Little wonder the AGP and AASU are livid with him. "We had stood by Bhupenda when the BJP-led NDA government insulted him and the entire state by cancelling his nomination to the Rajya Sabha at the last moment. But by joining the same party he has put us to shame," AASU President Prabin Boro said.

"It is a surprise that Bhupenda has joined the BJP. We had fought for him when the NDA government humiliated him by first releasing a list of probables for the President's nominees to the Rajya Sabha and then dropping him at the eleventh hour," said AGP President Brindaban Goswami.

"There is, of course, no question of any compromise on the political front," Goswami added, indicating the AGP would now field a candidate against Hazarika at Tezpur.

Public opinion has been negative but that is Bhupen Hazarika for you: impulsive and yet endearing as one of the most charismatic communicators in South Asia.

Earlier Interview: 'If they don't meet and talk, in about 15 years the North-East will be in darkness'

As Arup Dutta writes in a biography of Hazarika published by Rupa last year: 'Bhupen Hazarika, the roving minstrel from Assam, is a living illustration of the truth, that the flame of genius, overcoming hurdles of place and circumstances, can enlarge the space upon which to shed its lustre. Though he has almost single-handedly brought about a renaissance in Assamese music and cinema, and showcased her culture before the world, today Assam can no longer claim Bhupen Hazarika to be her very own. Not only is he the cultural icon of the entire Northeast India, but also a jewel in the pan-Indian cultural crown.'

Singing, music and lyrics apart, Hazarika is one of the rare multifaceted personalities that this country has produced. He is a thespian of no mean order, beginning his career as a child actor in the second Assamese film Indramalati in 1939.

An MA in political science from Banaras Hindu University, he is a natural and instinctive painter, an authority of global cultural traditions, an academician, a journalist, and one of the pioneer Assamese broadcasters on All India Radio. 

Armed with a doctorate in mass communications from Columbia University in New York, he gave up his teaching job in Guwahati University to take up his destined role as a singer of the masses, with a mission to change society through songs and films.

But it is debatable if the BJP will benefit much from his joining the party. Assam's politics is much too complex to be influenced by one single factor. Each constituency has its complicated permutations and equations and there is no guarantee that Bhupen Hazarika's popularity with the masses will translate into votes.

Also Read: Assam: A Special Series

If the BJP fields Hazarika from Tezpur, he will be largely confined to campaigning in the northern Assam Lok Sabha constituency since current MP Mani Kumar Subba of the Congress is well entrenched in the area.

This is, of course, not Hazarika's first foray in politics. Many of his generation know Hazarika has been in active politics before. In the late 1960s and early 1970s to be precise. In 1971, when he contested as an Independent candidate from the Mangaldoi Lok Sabha constituency, he not only lost, but bore the blame of having caused the defeat of Hem Baruah, one of Assam's most well known parliamentarians of the Nehruvian era.

Before that, he was once elected to the Assam assembly, in 1967, also as an Independent from the Naoboicha seat, an assembly constituency from where controversial lottery magnate Mani Kumar Subba of the Congress won in 1996.

Hazarika seems to believe one of his songs that he wrote more than half-a-century ago. Sagor sangamat kata nasaturilo/tathapito howa nai klanta/seyehe monor mor/ashanta sagoror/urmimala ashanta (Though, for so long have I swum/In the confluence of seas/I am not tired.)

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Number of User Comments: 2

Sub: An opportunist

Bhupen da whom I admire as a performing artist has always been an opportunist.He only made money voicing touching issues of Assam.He did nothing for ...

Posted by Diptarag

Sub: Bhupen Hazarika

Why only BJP's catch. I had seen him in Shillong and in the Northeast right from 1970s. A very talented artist deserves to be seen ...

Posted by Vinod Tuli


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