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|March 20, 2001||
Lancy P Correa
A tale of two Laxmans
On a day when V V S Laxman was hammering the wind out of the world-class but hapless Australian bowlers in sunny Calcutta, the weather in faraway New Delhi was turning decidedly darker for a namesake... we are talking about Bangaru Laxman, the first, and possibly for some time, only Dalit president of the predominantly Brahmin Bharatiya Janata Party. So, what's in a name, you ask?
Nothing really, but the bard's barb may not be music to the politician's ears, even if the cricketer may not really mind the allusion. While Vangipurappu was bringing glory to the country with his double century antics, Bangaru was bungling along, adding to India's not-so-lofty reputation as the corruption capital of the world.
The latter was caught on camera by a team of undercover reporters from tehelka.com receiving Rs100, 000 as a "gift to the party" (as he claimed); thus blowing the lid on the caprice, skulduggery, avarice and the mind-boggling nexus that pervades the defence establishment of India.
The unfolding defence scandal, coupled with India's showing in the second cricket test match, may actually be a god-send for the rapidly sinking Sangh Parivar and its political mask, the BJP.
Here's what I think will happen, with due apologies to our pantheon of gods.
Since Ram Janmabhoomi seems to be an issue without much punch to salvage the electoral fortunes of the saffron brigade, they will instead turn to Laxman, the legendary obedient and brave brother of Lord Rama. Calling it a movement to name a temple dedicated to Laxman, a first for the country, since, as far as I know, there are no monuments dedicated exclusively to him, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh combine will seek to appropriate more disputed structures and add to their wanton legacy of destruction-first, construction-next.
Laxman, as the lucky mascot, (chunao chhinn, if you please) may well be the ruling party's ticket to power, if they can get some of the other well-known (read patriotic) Laxmans to jump on to their bandwagon or should it be the "rath yatra", among them, of course, the common man's R K Laxman. Also how can one forget Sylvania Laxman, a light-making company that is presently obscured in darkness.
But coming back to the Laxmans who are in the news, and despite some similarities, like being from the state of Andhra Pradesh, the contrast between them couldn't have been starker.
One is young, soft-spoken, and lacking the guile and aggressiveness of his political namesake. While what can we say about Bangaru Laxman? The decent man that he is, he resigned as BJP chief but insisted that there was a conspiracy to malign him because he was "a Dalit". Come now, haven't we heard such sanctimonious humbug before? Politicians of all hues, when caught with their pants down, figuratively speaking of course, tend to take the high moral ground and profess innocence, instead blaming rivals or whoever comes to their mind.
Our cricketing hero was the bulwark of India's defiance against the fulsome might of the all-conquering Aussies, much akin to Laxman in the Ramayana, when he took on Ravan's forces in Rama's virtuous battle. So much so that India managed to snatch victory from the proverbial jaws of defeat, surprising really since it's always been the other way round with India, both in cricket and otherwise.
On the other hand, the politician Laxman, taciturn though he may be sometimes, is passing the buck for something he is directly and implicitly responsible. Instead of taking the blow on his chin, he is shielding behind subterfuge and baseless innuendo.
One braves the rough weather, the other hides from it. One despatches a yorker to the boundary, the other ducks at a bouncer, to speak in cricketing terms.
It is rare that namesakes hog the limelight at the same time, and rarer still that one makes a positive splash and the other tries to stay afloat.
More revelations on the sordid defence scandal are obviously likely, so there will be no respite for Bangaru. Vangipurappu, however, can bask in the glory of his stupendous achievement and can even afford the luxury of failing in the next test (pun intended).
Life is strange, what goes up comes down and vice versa... both the Laxmans must be experiencing these contrasting turns -- one brought down from the pinnacle and the other on the way to the acme of his career, or very nearly.
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