BJP MP Paresh Rawal’s bold Hindi play staged in the auditorium of the Parliament House took several of his own party MPs by surprise.
BJP MP Paresh Rawal’s bold Hindi play, Kishan v/s Kanhaiya, staged in the auditorium of the Parliament House library this week, took several of his own party MPs by surprise. Some of the 80-odd parliamentarians present seemed shell-shocked. In contrast, MPs from West Bengal, particularly the communists, were most appreciative of Rawal’s production. Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan had invited all MPs to see the play, which is produced by, and also stars, Rawal, an MP from Ahmedabad East. The humourous script took several digs at superstitions in the Hindu religion. It questioned the need to waste money pouring milk on the Shivlingam. Despite the beef ban in Maharashtra, Rawal was irreverent about the belief that Hindus who eat beef go to hell. The Bajrang Dal had threatened to disrupt the play, but did not follow up on its warning perhaps because of the heavy security around the Parliament House complex. The fact that Rawal is a protégé of Prime Minister Modi, who nominated him to a seat held previously by Harin Pathak for seven terms, may have protected him from protests by the Hindutva brigade. Modi did not attend, but Mahajan clearly enjoyed the play on which the Hindi film Oh My God is based as well. She presented a trophy to Rawal and his troupe at the end.
Mission not accomplished
BJP president Amit Shah is more focused on the party making a breakthrough in states where it has traditionally been weak than he is on his membership drive, which has crossed the 10-crore mark. Most of the states where the BJP has limited presence are along the east coast. Shah has appointed central ministers to handle the difficult states. Prakash Javdekar has been deputed to look after Telangana, Mahesh Sharma has been put in charge of Odisha, Nirmala Sitharaman, Bengal, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Kerala, Piyush Goyal, Tamil Nadu, JP Nadda, Andhra Pradesh, and Dharmendra Pradhan, Assam. Shah is confident that his strategy will work, but the results of the recent West Bengal municipal elections came as a dampner. The BJP won not a single municipality, while the TMC won 70 out of 92. In the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the BJP won just seven wards out of 114. Shah’s grand ambitions in Bengal have received a major setback.
Apart from Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, there are other historical figures among the freedom fighters whom the BJP government is keen to appropriate. A committee headed by home minister Rajnath Singh has been set up to commemorate the lives of handpicked heroes in different ways. Those to be honoured include Maharana Pratap, the legendary warrior of Rajasthan; Tatya Tope, who came to the rescue of Jhansi’s Rani Laxmibai during the 1857 struggle against the British; and Rani Gaidinliu, Naga spiritual and political leader, who led a revolt against the British and is part of folklore in eastern India. One of the icons included in the list, however, is a bit of a surprise: Bhisham Sahni, maker of the TV serial Tamas, which dealt with Partition. In the 50s, Sahni, brother of actor Balraj Sahni, was an active member of Indian People’s Theatre Association, which was a progressive and left-centric group strongly opposed to saffron politics. Sahni was also co-founder of Sahmat, founded in memory of leftist theatre artist Safdar Hashmi. Sahmat actively campaigned against the Modi government in Gujarat following the 2002 riots.
Not yet best friends
The formalities of the merger between the JD(U), SP and RJD are yet to be worked out, including the selection of the symbol and flag, and who gets what post in the merged parliamentary party. But already, Lalu Yadav is getting suspicious of Nitish Kumar’s intentions. This is because the Bihar chief minister has been extremely gracious in thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for central assistance after a major storm in Bihar, which killed 55 recently. Kumar received calls from both the PM and the finance minister expressing concern. Home minister Rajnath Singh flew down to survey the damage along with the CM. A report put out by a major Hindi news channel claimed that the RSS had asked the BJP to patch up with Kumar. The report was not contradicted. Three weeks back, there was a rally in Patna of the united Janata parivar. Yadav attended, but Kumar was missing, although his party representatives were present. The buzz in Bihar is that Yadav and Kumar avoid appearing together on the same stage.
The all-party delegation from Tamil Nadu, which met Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week to protest against the Karnataka government’s move to build a check dam across the Cauvery river at Mekedatu, was unusual for two reasons. The delegation included members of both the UPA and the NDA, including the BJP, Congress, TMC, DMK, MDMK and DMDK. The delegation was led by actor Vijaykanth of the DMDK, who was given the go ahead by M Karunanidhi, although Vijaykanth’s position as leader of opposition in the assembly is in dispute. The only party missing from this show of unity was the AIADMK, which sent a separate delegation. However, the AIADMK joined its arch rival DMK in Parliament in raising the issue.