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|November 23, 1998||
'When a shoe starts biting, there are two things a person can do. Either mend it or throw the shoe away'
Archana Masih and Vaihayasi P Daniel in Bhopal
For Bhopal's Akash Sound System there could not be better publicity. "This wonderful speech by honourable Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was brought to you by Akash Sound System," repeated an All-India Radio kind of voice.
Under giant posters of the four BJP candidates from Bhopal's assembly segments, the Vajpayee rally at the Lal Parade ground took off dot on time.
Vajpayee set the mood with his usual commonly identifiable examples. "When a shoe starts biting, there are two things a person can do. Either mend it or throw the shoe away."
Explaining that he had been observing the Madhya Pradesh government for 5 years, he stressed that the Congress was nothing but a spent force. "These are its last days in MP, though the people of Orissa will have to bear with it for a little more time."
Sharing the dias with Narendra Modi, the BJP general secretary who is in charge of the party's campaign in MP, Vajpayee was in no mood to spare the Congress on the cool winter night.
The artificial salt crisis. Corruption. Political inconsistency.
"It was the BJP that introduced the Lok Pal bill in Parliament, because the Congress didn't have the guts, for they feared their own PM might end up in trouble. But, we the BJP will not spare the culprit, neither will we trouble the innocent."
The crowd seemed to love this one. Some nodded in agreement, a few others clapped.
Next came the questioning of the Indira Awas Yojana and the Rajiv Rozgar Yojana -- and how it had failed to benefit the people. "Rajiv Gandhi once told me that if Rs 1 left Delhi, by the time it reached the village it would be reduced to 15 paise. So you see, Hamare yahan loot ki choot hai" (people are free to indulge in corruption)."
The crowd clapped again. Kanke Lal, the peanut vendor outside the ground, seemed to agree with the PM. More so, because Vajpayee had brought him better business tonight. "I make Rs 20 everyday, but today I have earned Rs 40 already," he said. Kanke Lal went on to make a startling confession -- that he had not visited Bombay for the fear that someone would sell him for a heavy price!
Vajpayee moved on to his government's achievements. How the 30-year-old Cauvery waters dispute had been solved by his 8-month-old government. How his government was working towards providing complete crop insurance to farmers. How there had been no riots, and provided a rhetorical status of the Indo-Pak equation.
"We tell them (Pakistan) that friends can stop being friends, but how can neighbours stop being neighbours. We tell them you have surplus electricity, why don't you give some to us -- we will give you a good price. You have less wheat, why don't you take some from us and have some of our rotis rather than importing them from far flung Western nations."
Vajpayee cautioned the people from being swayed by rumours spread by the Congress and explained how that party had failed to provide required literacy, health and education in 45 years.
"As the government in power, we have before us the failing of the past 50 years, and we are trying to set that right. The Congress is laying the burden of their failure on our shoulders. I have come to appeal to you to help us from the government so that we can change the face of MP."
The crowd thundered, Vajpayee disappeared within seconds. The crowd didn't take long to disperse due to the efficient management of the police force. Dhurries for seating the crowd were quickly folded -- so quickly had the spectators streamed out that some men found it convenient to urinate right in the middle of the ground.
"Yes, yes, the BJP will definitely form the next government," said Neelkanth to his group as he walked out.
Yet there were a disappointed few. "He didn't say anything new, just the same old stuff. There were not enough people too, half the ground was empty. For a PM, that's too disappointing a showing," said a government employee.
As for the four Central Reserve Police Force personnel from Kashmir deputed on election duty, the PM's success would only be evident if he could bring peace to the valley.
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