Remembering Meera Sanyal: Never stop dancing, never give up

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New Delhi | Published: January 15, 2019 3:19 AM

She taught us that we have to stand up and ‘demand’ quality candidates from every political party

Meera Sanyal

Dear Meera,

How can I/we ever thank you enough?
You made us believe that it is possible to change our fumbling, corrupt political system. You made us realise that an honest, smart person can enter politics and make an impact. We also learned—it seemed you intuitively knew—that it takes time.

Your first foray into electoral politics as an independent candidate for the Lok Sabha back in 2009 was so exhilarating and consuming—our kids said they didn’t know where we were for six weeks—and, of course, inspiring, even though, at the end of day, all we got was 10,000 votes. But in terms of mileage, it launched you, but (as you will doubtless agree), more importantly, the belief that ‘we the people’ can change things if only we stand up and not sit down till we get what we deserve.

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And while you lost, you damn sure put the fear of God into the big boys, to the point where—shame, shame—no less than the then-PM Manmohan Singh came out strongly against independent candidates; you/we had made enough noise that the Congress, which ultimately won the seat, was running scared. The lesson was never stop dancing and never give up.

And you didn’t. You went back to the bank for a couple of years—as much to help them through their own transition as anything else—but never stopped working, building your knowledge base, your understanding of politics and, of course, with your openness, integrity and, yes, sweetness, your constituency.

Enter India Against Corruption and then the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which was such a natural fit with your sentiment and approach.

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But, I get ahead of myself. I didn’t touch upon the people in that first campaign. Ashish, your parents (particularly your lovely mother, who teased me so cleverly when we first met), your son, your beautiful daughter, your friends; and all those other amazing people who showed up out of nowhere and worked night and day, day and night. It was a real party. I don’t know if you remember my telling you that since political organisations the world over—the Congress Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Conservative Party and on and on—have the word ‘party’ in their names, it clearly means that politics is supposed to be a party, it’s supposed to be fun. I wanted you to launch the Party Party; with the usual smile in your heart, you agreed and made me Party Officer for the campaign. I hope you will agree I did a reasonably good job. And, on behalf of the to-be-born Party Party, I want to formally thank you.

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Back to the rise of the AAP, which was, in my view, a seminal event—suddenly tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of people believed that democracy could work, could make a difference. You were, as I said before, a natural fit, and despite wide-ranging offers from all and sundry, you quickly became one of the leading lights of the AAP. Indeed, many, many people who I spoke to while pitching the AAP said, if only Meera were running the AAP…

But, to your credit, you always defended Arvind Kejriwal and explained to my naïve mind how committed he was/is, and how strong he had to be to keep the battle going in the face of the most vicious of strategic forces. Indeed, I believe that these forces so discoloured the AAP that, in your second Lok Sabha effort, the 40,000 votes you captured were despite the AAP tag. Who’s to tell if you had run as an independent again?

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But, you never had time for disappointment. I remember right after you told me that we should get involved on the ground—there’s so much to do. Almost immediately, you launched APLI Mumbai (with Admiral Rao) to define and manage the redevelopment of the eastern coastline of the city. I recall you telling me about the huge coal mountains—who knows, the time you spent investigating there may have been a trigger for your cancer—and (typically) the wonderful young people who had joined you to develop the plan. We thank you for this, too, and I am sure these efforts will bear wonderful fruit in the very near future.

And then, pulling out your financial rank, you put out the definitive book on demonetisation. Personally, I have always felt that demonetisation was focused solely on winning the UP election. I haven’t yet read the book, but, given your thoroughness, I have no doubt that the book is the definitive document defining the foolishness of the imperative, both technically and politically.
And now, my dear, you are off.

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And with (from one perspective, at least) impeccable timing. There’s the big election coming up; the ruling party is looking more and more like a limping horse as it staggers towards the finish line—it would be almost merciful when it is put out of its misery. Irrespective of that, we have to benefit from your lesson, which is that—today and always—each of us has to stand up and ‘demand’ quality candidates—maybe not a Meera Sanyal, but at least her younger sister—from every political party. And then, after the election, keep the party going and not let them rest for a minute to continuously deliver on our needs.
As I said, thank you darling. I’ll see you at the party.

-The author is CEO, Mecklai Financial

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