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10 Slogans That Changed India (20-08-2006) 1990: Don't blame me, I didn't vote VP When Vishwanath Pratap Singh

resigned from the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet on the issue of political corruption in 1986, the Raja of Manda overnight became a saint-politician for the youth and the middle class. (He now, however, claims, as discussed in his book Manzil Se Zyada Safar that he resigned over his differences with Rajiv on the HDW submarine deal, and that he levelled the Bofors charges only after quitting the cabinet.) In his public meetings, he would feverishly brandish a sheaf of papers, claiming that he knew the names of the accused in the Bofors kickback case and the crowds would go berserk. Slogans like 'Raja nahin faqir hai, Bharat ki takdeer hai (VP is not a king, but a fakir; he is the destiny of India)' would greet Singh during his mass contact programmes. One of the first rallies addressed by Singh, along with Arif Mohammed Khan and Satpal Malik, under the aegis of Delhi University Students' Union in August, 1986, was also one of the biggest in recent memory. Recalls former DUSU general secretary Narendra Tandon, who had organised the rally: "The Congress government did everything to stop the rally. There was a total clampdown in the university. But the rally's success exceeded everyone's expectations." Tandon, an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader, was only echoing the initial euphoria that Singh's Jan Morcha evoked among the students. Here was a true inheritor of Jayaprakash Narayan's legacy who would take forward the unfinished agenda of Total Revolution, many thought. However, if a week is a long time in politics, four years can sound like an eternity. A middle class hero in 1986, Prime Minister Singh became a monster the upper caste and upper class loved to loathe for unleashing Mandal reservations on India in the summer of 1990. And, one slogan that captured this middle class angst was: 'Don't blame me, I didn't vote VP'. Stickers emblazoned with the slogan were found on bikes, cars and university hostels in Delhi. While the origin of the slogan remains a mystery (many believe it was the handiwork of some busybodies in the AICC), at least one Congress spokesperson flaunted the sticker on his car's windscreen. Says journalist Sidharth Mishra, who was at the forefront of the antiMandal agitation in Delhi University, "The student community rallied behind V.P. Singh, yet he betrayed them for purely political reasons." Singh, however, feels that politicians from the BJP, the Congress and Devi Lal's party were behind the anti-Mandal, anti-VP campaign. The privileged few, "including the upper caste-controlled media", who didn't want to share the spoils of power with their less fortunate brethren, launched a smear campaign against him, says Singh. "When China and Pakistan occupied our land, there were no selfimmolations. But when I extended the Constitutional provision of affirmative action to the OBCs, there were many. OBC youths asked me questions like: 'Aren't we the children of this country?' I used to ask my supporters to look at the bylines in the anti-Mandal articles. Ninety per cent of them were written by journalists belonging to upper castes," recalls a bitter Singh.

The caste divide ran deep, and stories of Singh as a scheming politician ("who wanted to steal the thunder of his deputy prime minister, Devi Lal") and as a Rajput warrior ("who as Uttar Pradesh chief minister rode a horse to the Uttar Pradesh-Madhya Pradesh border for a rendezvous with another Thakur leader and his Madhya Pradesh counterpart, Arjun Singh, in the aftermath of the Behmai massacre") abounded. "I'd gone to meet Arjun Singh to discuss administration issues. These were the kinds of canards being spread," says Singh. A decade and a half down the line, in 2006, it was the shadow of Mandal II that loomed large over the nation. Another Thakur leader, Arjun Singh, did a V.P. Singh, plunging the country into a caste cauldron yet again. The agenda of the Congress party's Gen Next leadership, which was trying to rework the 1980s' slogan, 'Na jaat pe, na paat pe, Indirajee ki baat pe, mohar lagegi haath pe (Not in the name of caste or creed, in the name of Indira will people vote for hand)' to 'Na jaat pe, na paat pe, rozgar aur vikas ke naam pe, mohar lagegi haath pe (Votes not on the basis of caste, but on development and employment agendas)' was set back by many years. GUEST COLUMN We changed the grammar By L.K. Advani The first movement that our party undertook was in 1953-that of the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country in which Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee lost his life. That was a time when the tricolour could not be hoisted in the state, a visitor to Amarnath and Vaishno Devi had to take a permit, and the President, Election Commission and the Supreme Court had no authority on the state. Our party gave a slogan: Ek desh mein do vidhan, Ek desh mein do pradhan, Ek desh mein do nishan, Nahin chalenge, nahin chalenge. This was the first phase of our political journey that had national unity as the central theme. The fight for restoration of democracy marked the second phase of my political life. During the 19 months of Emergency, it seemed that India would never be a democracy again. The judiciary functioned in a manner which was surprising. The censorship clamped was of a kind this country had not seen even in the British days. The Jan Sangh and the RSS acted as the vanguard of the movement for the restoration of democracy, and we finally succeeded. The Ayodhya movement, that changed the grammar of politics, marked the third phase of my political life. We fought for genuine secularism and cultural nationalism. Independent India has not seen such massive public movement and although my yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya was interrupted in Samastipur, we came to be known for our style of mobilising public opinion by rath yatra. I undertook my longest 59-day yatra when India completed 50 years of its Independence. I tried to visit as many places as possible to pay homage to revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad or [Vinayak Damodar] Savarkar, and patriots like Gandhi, Nehru, Sardar Patel, Rajen Babu [Rajendra Prasad], Rajaji [C. Rajagopalachari] and Netaji [Subhas Chandra Bose]. The message of the fourth phase was clear: We could not realise the dreams of our making

India a great country because we could not convert Swarajya into Su-raaj. National unity leads to democracy. Genuine secularism is an inviolable part of democracy. But all that must lead to good governance. The four-stage evolution in my political life underlines this fundamental principle. Even if we lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the reputation of the NDA government, which lasted for six years, had been reasonably good. We contributed greatly to the confidence that we see in the country today. The BJP has also succeeded in converting a single party polity into a bipolar polity even if it is not a two-party system. We have been able to set out the main agenda of the moment, and determined the grammar of politics. One slogan that has been the driving force of my life is Vivekananda's Charevati, Charevati (Stop not till the goal is achieved). As told to Suman K. Jha GUEST COLUMN Who needs crumbs? By V.P. Singh My politics is all about genuine needs of people. Through popular slogans, people's needs become demands, and it is these demands that get popular support. Leaders are answerable to their constituencies. For instance, a union leader speaks for workers affiliated to his union. But as one grows, the constituency he is answerable to, too, grows bigger. So do people's needs, demands and slogans. A national leader is one who has the entire country's interests and needs in mind, like Mahatma Gandhi. As a leader, I assess people's needs. Through slogans and public meetings these needs are articulated. But I would say that an agitation is equivalent to a hundred public meetings. The recent one I led at Dadri [in Uttar Pradesh] brought the farmers' issues centrestage. It is farmers, weavers and labourers whose interests are being hit with the state and the corporate world coming together in the last decade and a half. In 1990, when I was the Prime Minister, people's share in the power pie was the dominant issue. Their needs and demands, and therefore the popular slogans, pertained to the skewed relationship between the ruling minority and the ruled majority. My policy decisions addressed this anomaly, the underlying vision being that various forms of deprivations must be addressed. Unfortunately, it fell prey to the dynamics of caste politics, and issues like development became largely a non-issue. I would say that the objectives of Mandal were fulfilled, though not fully. The changed composition of panchayats, Assemblies and Parliament is proof enough that Mandal brought about revolutionary changes in our society. Today, however, there are newer groups of the deprived, and unfortunately the response of various political parties and governments has been similar: to crush their rights. Whether it is the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh or the Congress government in Haryana or the BJP-JD(S) government in Karnataka, there is no real difference when it comes to trampling on the rights of the deprived. If we have market economy in its truest from, how come the farmers are forced to sell off their lands at rates pre-decided by the government? The governments are concerned about agriculture, but not the farmer. They are bothered about the beautification of cities, but not the majority (who live in slums). The judiciary, too, of late has delivered a string of pro-rich verdicts.

I, therefore, consider it my duty to raise the demands and needs of the voiceless. As I say often, sohouliyat nahin shirkat (participation, not patronage). The deprived don't need the ruling elites' crumbs; instead, make them a part of the decision-making process. As told to Suman K. Jha 1977: Sampoorna Kranti Picture Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Lalu Prasad Yadav fighting alongside opposition Bharatiya Janata Party's Sushil Modi, and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh teaming up with the communists. Total Revolution saw the unlikeliest of such combinations for a cause. For Jayaprakash Narayan, ' (Total Revolution)' was the only way to cleanse the body politic. "The system that compels everyone to get corrupt must be overhauled," he said. His followers, including Lalu and Modi, completed the slogan: 'Sampoorna kranti ab naara hai, bhavi itihas hamara hai (With Total Revolution as our slogan, the future belongs to us)'. The first sparks of the Big Hope were seen in Gujarat in January 1974, when the Congress government of Chimanbhai Patel came under severe attack for corruption and acute shortage of essential commodities. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's failure to deliver on Garibi hatao had already made her voters impatient, while the galloping prices of essential commodities made the middle class restive. Leading the charge against the Congress government in the state were students and the youth, who called it a movement for Nav nirman (A new beginning). Lending them support were the opposition, the middle class and the intelligentsia. After a protracted battle, the state government had to go. Bihar followed, with students in Patna organising a massive march to the Assembly demanding resignation of the government. Jayaprakash Narayan-JP to everyone-rose, phoenix-like, from virtual retirement, giving the jitters to the establishment. Sensing the undercurrents of discontent against the government, JP soon launched a national movement against Indira (the "fountainhead of corruption"), crisscrossed the country and attracted a huge response. Opposition parties, the middle class, peasants and landlords made common cause with JP on an anti-Indira platform. For him, support from any quarter was welcome as long as they were committed to his ideal. The Allahabad High Court's 1975 verdict, setting aside Indira Gandhi's election, gave the opposition campaign a new impetus. On June 26, 1975, Indira clamped the Emergency. The Durga of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation had suddenly come to resemble a tinpot dictator. While she cited JP's open call to the armed forces and police to disobey the government as one of the reasons prompting the drastic measure, she also vowed faster economic growth (Twenty-Point programme, which she announced later). She was soon, however, overtaken by the dark symbol of the Emergency: her son Sanjay, who came up with his own four-point agenda, including compulsory sterilisation for population control. The Emergency tested the resilience of Indian democracy, but under JP, India fought back in style. In the elections that followed, Indira was routed and for a while it appeared JP's dream of a new politics would soon be realised. But it was too good to be true. The obsession with Indira and the adherence of the Janata Party constituents to their own separate interests proved their nemesis. JP's Sampoorna kranti dream died young, but he, like Mahatma Gandhi earlier, became synonymous with the very idea of India.

1971: Garibi hatao Any product needs periodic makeovers to reinforce its brand equity, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi was attempting just that when she came up with the 'Congress ka haath, aam aadmi ke saath' slogan in 2004. Three decades earlier, Indira Gandhi had come up with a string of measures to defang her opponents in her own party, but if something encapsulated her entire makeover strategy, it was 'Garibi hatao'. Journalist Bruce Chatwin claims that Indira told him that she used the slogan "only because people wanted to hear it". But the slogan enhanced her public image manifold. "Combined with personal charisma, her sense of timing in taking decisions made her an unmatchable leader," says Mohsina Kidwai, who later worked as her cabinet colleague and aide for many years. It was precisely this sense of timing that made her go for the jugular of the Syndicate of senior leaders in her own party who wanted the opposition (Jan Sangh, Swatantra Party and others) to support its nominee-also the official party nominee-Sanjiva Reddy in the 1969 presidential elections, after the opposition nominee, C.D. Deshmukh, had been eliminated in the first round. Accusing the Syndicate of hobnobbing with "communal forces", Indira backed independent V.V. Giri, who later won by a narrow margin. This was the goongi gudiya's revenge on the caucus that was gunning for her. In her battle for the party workers' minds (the Prime Minister had little organisational backing, a reason why the Syndicate tried to browbeat her), she reinvented herself in a leftof-the-centre avatar, and when seen against the rightist leanings of most of the Syndicate, she endeared herself to people and party workers. After the process to elect a new President of India upon the death of Zakir Husain in May 1969 had been set in motion, Indira sacked finance minister Morarji Desai (whose rightist economic leanings were no secret) and announced the nationalisation of major banks and the withdrawal of privy purse. Earlier, in 1967, the Congress Working Committee had adopted a 10-point proposal, which included abolition of princely privileges and social control of banks, among others. However, it was the all-encompassing 'Garibi hatao' slogan, used to a deadly effect during the 1971 election, that saw the birth of Indira, the mass leader. "She eventually came to be known as the amma of the poor," recalls former Union minister Vasant Sathe. But Indira also knew how to project a shining image of herself. Recalls Kidwai: "During many of our evening travels to the countryside, when the masses would fall over each other to catch a glimpse of their leader, she, sitting beside the driver, would light her face with a torch, and they would go berserk." The 'Garibi hatao' slogan, as Sathe recalls, was used for the first time by agro-economist C. Subramaniam at the 1970 Bombay Convention of the Congress and it became the party's electoral cry the following year. But there was more to it than elections. Explains political theorist Sunil Khilnani: "She found in it a simple way to propagate an evocative message to the masses, to create a new democratic populism in Indian politics. She managed to bring many new people into the political process." If Indira brought newer people into the political process, Sonia, with her 'Aam aadmi' slogan, changed the very terms of reference of the electoral battle. The similarity doesn't end here. In 1971, Indira portrayed the image of a wronged woman ('Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, main kehti hoon garibi hatao [They say eliminate Indira, I say eliminate poverty]'). Sonia did

an encore in 2004 when, in the face of vicious personal attacks by the ruling alliance, she would say: "Their (the NDA's) fight is against me. My fight is for you." What 'Garibi hatao' was to 1971, 'Aam aadmi' was to 2004. If anything, the two elections only reinforced that a political party, aspiring to rule the country, can ignore only at its peril the man Gandhiji once described "as the one standing last in the queue".