India abounds in Himalayan resorts of various altitudes, shapes and sizes. They have different life styles. But a common enough signature that attracts attention is the high incidence of drinking alcoholic beverages.
One such resort boasted of a politician who reached the pinnacle of his career because of, and not in spite of, his inalienable inebriation. Dev was handsome, charismatic, and sported an attractive flourish of his own in whatever he did.
Dev refused to call himself a bachelor, and chose to maintain his status as 'unmarried.' To him, a bachelor conveyed the idea of one eligible for marriage which he avowedly was not. Again, unmarried should connote that he was married, though unofficially. He did not marry his live in partner so as not to pull her into the “minister today, jailbird tomorrow” kind of political vortex.
He wanted those of the generation next to call him 'kaka,' and not 'mama,' though both the words mean 'uncle.' He refused to discuss the subtlety behind such an assertion.
One of his inner circle friends later decoded the relational nuances involved. A kaka is father's brother, and a mama is mother's brother. Conceptually, one can forge a fonder relationship with a sister-in-law even if it could spur off qualms of conscious; but for the sister it had to be an unmixed affection.
|Photo - www.superstock.com|
Throughout Dev's tumultuous sojourn from being a trade union leader to general secretary of a political party to a legislator for the state and finally, to a cabinet minister, the bottle was his constant companion. He had no compunction about making it a public affair.
The bottle came under the most intensive scanner during the run up to the last election he fought. The rival candidates filled up the campaign trail with damaging posters and paintings of a sozzled man sleeping in a gutter, and in many other similar poses.
Dev had a tough time controlling his volunteers from tearing off the posters. His instruction was to make sure that the defaming posters remained intact till the day of the polling. “Guard them with your life,” he pleaded. None knew what ace-strategy he had up his sleeves.
This threw the rival camp into utter confusion. Unable to fathom what was going on, they tried to retract. Now the defamed were hell bent on protecting the insulting posters, and the paster were equally desperate to remove them.
On the last day of campaign Dev approached the microphone with a leonine swagger, and greeted the massive congregation.
The gist of the relevant portion of his speech : 'Look around yourself; look at those posters; I have been defamed and insulted for drinking. But I will not apologize. We are the Himalayas; we have a distinct lifestyle of our own. Some overdo it, some don't. I was a heavy drinker when five years ago you reposed your faith in me. Now look at those posters again, and ask yourselves, have you not been defamed and insulted?
|Photo - The Himalayan Beacon|
Now here is my last appeal: let only the drinkers vote for me; teetotalers vote for the rival candidates.'
Dev won the election by a thumping majority polling the highest number of votes of his career. What better strategy could there be in a constituency where an overwhelming segment of the voters not only drank, but loved to drink?!
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE