|HOME | NEWS | ELECTIONS '98 | REPORT|
|February 9, 1998|
Cartoonist Thackeray lampoons political opponents in style
V Ram in Ramtek
The venue: Katol town in Ramtek constituency, 50 km from Nagpur. The date: February 7. The occasion: the Shiv Sena's launch of its election campaign in this crucial Vidarbha constituency.
Sena chief Bal Thackeray was at his lampooning best at the meeting, regaling the 20,000-strong crowd with witticisms and barbs. But his best was reserved for the Congress party's star campaigner, Sonia Gandhi.
Imitating Sonia's anglicised Hindi in which she spoke of her husband's sacrifices for the country, Thackeray said she had her Hindi written in Roman script. "At least Indira Gandhi knew her Hindi," he said. "Reject this foreigner, I will ensure that she never becomes prime minister."
Castigating the Gandhi family for carting away Rs 600 million in the Bofors scam, he demanded to know where Sonia and Rajiv were during the 1971 war when all pilots were asked to be in a state of readiness. They were in fact holidaying in Sicily at that time, he told the rapt crowd.
Hitting below the best as only he can, Thackeray called Congress president Sitaram Kesri impotent, and mimicked his gait and speech thus: "If Sonia asks me to, I am willing to disrobe." The Congress president has lost his pride and manliness, Thackeray declared.
Through mime, gesture and sarcasm, Thackeray lampooned several other leaders like Sharad Pawar, Sudhakarrao Naik, Madhavrao Scindia (who he referred in Marathi style 'Shinde'), Deve Gowda, Narasimha Rao et al. His sharp digs kept the audience greatly entertained, the best being reserved for the Gandhis.
Madhavrao 'Shinde', he said, had gone flat out with a sasthtang namaskar while apologising for Babri Masjid demolition, that maybe he has also started reading namaaz by now, Thackeray commented to titters.
Finally turning to the issue of development of the Vidarbha region, Thackeray said Congress leaders from Vidarbha over the last 40 years had let the region down.
Dramatically unrolling a scroll detailing the names of 150 leaders from Vidarbha who had held ministerial positions in the state and at the Centre, Thackeray said these people had merely contented themselves with being courtiers of the ruling Congress party and Indira Gandhi, and had done nothing for the region. There were three Congress chief ministers from the region, but what had they done for the region, he asked. It was the Sena-BJP government that has done more for Vidarbha, he claimed, pointing to the developmental activity taking place all over the region.
Katol, with a population of 27,000 is as yet quiet, with nary a sign of the impending election (scheduled for February 22). No processions, blaring loudspeakers or posters at public places, and Thackeray's was the first public meeting to take place here.
Ramtek sees almost a straight battle between the Sena's Ashok Gujar and Chitralekha Bhonsale of the Congress. The latter is from the erstwhile royal family, and was till recently with the BJP, switching over to the Congress on election eve.
INFOTECH | TRAVEL | LIFE/STYLE | FREEDOM | FEEDBACK