Voices Friday, June 06, 2014 - 05:30
Biswajeet Banerjee | The News Minute | June 6, 2014 | 7.06 pm IST The other day Tim Sullivan, Chief of the South-Asian bureau of Associated Press, asked me what Rahul Gandhi does for a living. The question startled me. I never gave a thought to what exactly Rahul Gandhi or any other leader does for a living. “No, how does he runs his house? How does he pay his kitchen bill?” Tim asked, trying to make it more simple realising that I was probably not ready for this question. Rahul Gandhi’s name was a metaphor. What Tim wanted to know was what Indian politicians do for a living?  “Nothing,” I replied. “He is a Member of Parliament and gets a stipend (around Rs 12,000 per month),” I said. When I said this, it reminded me of one young Congress leader, an energetic chap named Vishwanath Chaturvedi “Mohan”, whom I met almost a decade and half ago when I was a cub reporter covering Lucknow University and its constituent colleges. Mohan was a young student leader of a degree college. He was not a brilliant student but had managed to get a law degree. I had asked him once asked him the same question when I met him outside the local Congress office. Sipping tea, I just asked him how he makes both ends meet. “From where you get money?” was my laconic query. “I get it from my father. He sends me money every month. Without his support I would have died by this time,” he said, laughing heartily and showing his paan-stained teeth. Mohan later made headlines when he filed a case of Disproportionate Assets against Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Supreme Court. The case is still on. He had told me the agony of the foot soldiers of the political parties. A majority of these “karyakartas” are unemployed when they join political parties. They are forced to spend money from their own pockets. Sometimes they get support from their parents and sometimes they borrow money from their friends. He cited a case of a “dedicated” party soldier who was forced to sell off his ancestral farmland to pay his debts. “No political party pays a penny to its karyakarta. He has to make expenditure from his own pocket. It is an unwritten law of Indian polity,” a BJP leader said. This leader too had started as “karyakarta” but now owns a petrol pump and a gas agency. Whenever I see young people in political rallies or meetings with their hands pumping the air and grimaces on their faces shouting slogans, I know just one or two of them would climb up the political ladder. The rest would melt into oblivion. I do not know why I thought of Mohan when Tim asked about Rahul. But that question reminded me of foot soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the party but get nothing. A few moneyed people would “purchase” party ticket or a family member of a senior leader would get good post in party hierarchy leaving these foot soldiers in a lurch. Jai Ho!
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