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|Date 23, 2002|
The Rediff Special/Basharat Peer
'I will make my rival disappear'
Oddly enough, everyone in the traffic jam was smiling.
Even the enormous smoke belching trucks honking constantly, could not force the people rooted to cars and scooters to take their eyes off a man, in pristine white with a fancy headgear, standing on top of a ramshackle jeep.
One moment, the man was waving a rose before their eyes, and in the next there was nothing but thin air.
Astounded gasps and spontaneous clapping greeted every trick of the constantly smiling man, who kept greeting every roar of the crowd with folded hands. The crowd waved back with fervour.
The man, O P Sharma, is a national award-winning magician.
But, that wasn't why he was treating the crowd to his basket of magic tricks. He is the Samajwadi Party candidate from the Govindpur assembly segment in Kanpur, and magic is his way of reaching out to the people to canvass for votes.
He finishes his unique campaigning in the traffic jam by putting the flags of all political parties into a black bag, and miraculously taking out a Samajwadi Party flag.
As his rickety jeep festooned with posters saying 'Vote for Jadoogar O P Sharma' moves ahead, children bawl for more.
Sharma obliges and his tricks are greeted with squeals of delight. After satisfying himself that the kids are happy, he moves ahead again.
Suddenly, his vehicle takes a turn and enters a bylane, which is dominated by a towering, strange house.
It is Sharma's abode and has quite aptly named it Bhoot Bungalow. Tread here at night and you might as well take it for an abode of ghosts.
He has a huge spider's web made of iron as his porch gate. The front portion of the house is a giant skull, painted in white and the windows have smaller skulls engraved on them.
Sharma proudly said, "I designed the house myself."
Having worked for the Kanpur Ordinance Company for 30 years, Sharma is trained engineer, who specialised in gun designing.
"I used to design small arms and their parts," he said with a look of nostalgia.
But, the magician doesn't believe in superstition and takes pains to demolish the myth that magic is supernatural.
"Magic is a scientific art. We have mesmerism and hypnotism, which are acknowledged by the psychiatrists," he said.
Asked what holds him spellbound, he promptly replied Internet. With the excitement of child he added that he has two unique email ids, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Sharma's affair with magic started in his childhood, when his elder brother taught him a few tricks.
Sharma was so impressed that he decided to make magic a partner for the rest of his life.
Picking up the basics from street magicians, Sharma continuously enhanced his skills by reading the books of Franz Hararay and David Copperfield, and by attending numerous conferences.
In 1971 he held his first commercial magic show, which tasted success. His appetite for live shows grew and he never looked back.
His drawing room is chock-a-block with an array of trophies.
Asked what prompted him to enter the tough and tumble of politics, he said that a couple of years back, while at Bombay for a show, he received a call from Mulayam Singh Yadav, who was then Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
Sharma immediately flew to Lucknow, where Yadav felicitated him. That put him under a spell, resulting in a love affair with Samajwadi Party.
"I have enough money. I entered politics not for money. For sometime I wanted to do something for the people and that is why I entered politics," he said.
When he agreed to become the Samajwadi Party candidate for the Govindpur seat, his rivals weren't amused and said that he would use his magical powers to tilt the electoral scales.
His rivals were scared because Sharma during a show held recently had invited the sitting Govindpur BJP legislator and now his rival, Bal Chandra Mishra, to sit in a car placed on the stage and made him disappear.
Next moment, the dumbfounded audience found the MLA walking down the aisle of the theatre.
"I assured them, I would not do anything unethical," he said. But with a wink, he added that he has to powers to do it though.
Sharma has been drawing huge crowds. Fellow magicians have supported him and P C Sorcar even campaigned for him
However, not many believe that Sharma's magic can work on the political stage.
He acknowledges the BJP's strength in the constituency, but asserts that the SP has its own following.
"The reaction from the people has been amazing. I am sure I will win," he said.
"Once, I made Mishra disappear from my stage and made him return. This time I will make him disappear from the legislative assembly and he will never return again," Sharma said.
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