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Opinion

Campaign diary of an Indian celebrity

A satirical take on the woes of a fictional Indian star running in parliamentary elections and dealing with politics.

Last updated: 18 Apr 2014 10:29
Sidin Vadukut

Sidin Vadukut is a columnist and an editor for Mint newspaper. He writes and produces a podcast, "A New Republic", an oral history of the Indian constitution. His next book, "The Skeptical Patriot: Exploring The Truths Behind The Zero And Other Indian Glories" will be published in May 2014.
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Indian actress Rakhi Sawant (third right) is running for the Mumbai North-West constituency on April 24 [AFP]

Sidin Vadukut walks us through the perspective a made-up celebrity when their glamorous world clashes with the complicated world of Indian politics in this spoof.

Day 1:

Oh what a fairytale this has been. Just two weeks ago I was sitting at the Mocha Mojo in Bandra, Mumbai inhaling a strawberry hookah. Today I am about to start campaigning in Bhagavanabad as the candidate for the Citizens Counter Corruption Party (CCCP).

But that is the magic of the Indian democratic circus. It is a festival of freedom and independence in which anybody can participate as long as they have enthusiasm, energy and an ability to touch the heart of the common man.

Tonight I drive up from Indore with my small but enthusiastic CCCP campaign team.

Lives are about to change. I can sense it.

Day 2:

Due to certain techno-political reasons I am still in Indore. Just as I was about to leave for Bhagavanabad I received a phone call from CCCP headquarters. Apparently Amisha Patel joined the party overnight and there was a last minute debate over which constituency should be given to each of us.

 

I have always had cordial relations with Amisha. She is a nice, if somewhat complex girl. But I swear to god I will hunt her down and shoot her in the face if she steals Bhagavanabad from me. I have always wanted to work for the betterment of India's rural folk with their simple needs and rustic manners.

I am not going to let her come in my way.

Made several calls to the party president. Couldn't get through. But I have a made a strong case to Shashank Khare, deputy president and parliamentary convener.

Day 3:

Problem solved. Off to Bhagavanabad in a few hours. Amisha will fight from Akola North where, god willing, she will lose by at least 2 lakh votes.

People of Bhagavanabad, prepare to see your lives change.

Day 6:

How do these people live in Bhagavanabad? Why do they live in Bhagavanabad? What is the point of Bhagavanabad?

Indian Bollywood actress Amisha Patel regularly campaigns for Congress candidate Satyanarayan Patel [AFP]

Bhagavanabad is roughly as follows. There is one post office and one police station and then after 18km there is a cinema theatre hall and one temple.

Then after another 12km there are a few small shops, one village office and one branch of Muthoot Finance.

Currently I am meeting voters at the rate of 200 per day. At this rate I will have finished meeting every registered voter in Bhagavanabad by the year 2340.

Roughly distributed around this 30km line of mostly emptiness are several little communities each at least 10km from each. Some houses sit miles away from anybody else. What happens if somebody runs out of milk or sugar in the middle of the night? They shut up and go to sleep.

Day 11:

Got a call from a reporter at the Times today. She asked me what I thought of the establishment parties. I am quite proud of my response to be perfectly frank. I told her that, and I quote: "The Congress are a bunch of murdering thieves, the BJP are a bunch of thieving murderers, the Communists are insane, and everyone else is in it for the money."

My campaign team organised a display of traditional dance and music at the village office today. All the local VIPs were there. The dance was ok. But the music sounded like someone had throws cats into a running washing machine.

This place needs better art, culture and... just more of everything. There is a lot of nothing in Bhagavanabad.

Day 12:

Got a call at 4:30 in the morning from the party president. He saw my quote in the Times. He was quite upset.

I was somewhat taken aback. President Agarwal has a reputation for fierce speeches. I was expecting him to enjoy my way with words.

But he feels that alienating the major parties may cause problems later when we try to form government at the center.

He has promised to help me with my media relations at the next CCCP seminar. Date to be decided.

I spoke at a local school today.

Day 13:

Excited! The BBC wants to do a profile of all the celebrities contesting in these elections. Someone will be coming to interview me during a major public meeting organised at the cinema theatre.

Raghuraman, my campaign manager, has gone back to Indore. He says that he is very ill with dysentry and can no longer stay with me here in Bhagavanabad.

Day 21:

Exhausted. But finally getting the hang of things. I spend the first ten minutes of every speech talking about life in Bollywood. Then I slowly slip in some politics. Works mostly.

South Indian actor Pawan Kalyan was the celebrity candidate most searched for on Google, the company said in a statement [AFP]

Sometimes I feel my enthusiasm dying out. But then I look into the eyes of an old man or old woman and I am reminded again of the virtue of my struggle and ultimate aim of my efforts.

These people need a better life.

Off to Mumbai tomorrow for the party seminar and conference. And Diet Coke. There is no Diet Coke in Bhagavanabad.

Day 22:

In the morning there was tremendous jubilation at the CCCP Janata Conference. Why? Because Agarwal released opinion poll data showing a landslide victory for Amisha Patel in Akola North.She was immediately made a member of the party central committee and overall in-charge of all celebrity candidates.The day started out badly but then it got much worse.

Horrible.

Then in the evening there was a huge controversy. President Agarwal had a very public falling out with Deputy President Khare, and Party Spiritual Beacon Janaki "Jana" Janardhan.

Did not get a chance to network with party leadership at all. Back to Bhagavanabad tomorrow. I am carrying several cans of Diet Coke and Sugarfree Red Bull.

Day 25:

So this BBC fellow asks me, in public, who my favourite cricketer in the world is. I don't see how this is relevant to the realpolitik and democratic realities of Bhagavanabad. But I overlook that and say "Saeed Anwar of Pakistan".

The rest was a blur of protests, shouting, sloganeering, phone calls and lathi charges.

One thing led to another and tomorrow I will be writing an op-ed piece in the Times titled: "Death To Pakistan: Kill All Of Them For A Better India".

Day 32:

Party has split. I am now the candidate for CCCP (Jana), while previous campaign manager and current scumbag Raghuraman will be the candidate for CCCP (Original).

Day 34:

Filed affidavit today. The office was full of press photographers and everybody wanted a picture. So I had to give, take back, give, take back and give the affidavit to the Returning Officer for 90 minutes.

At one point the RO went for lunch. So Kapil Kumar from the campaign team had to go around the table and play the part of the officer's hands.

Day 38:

Today was our last campaign event. One final Q&A session before we pack up and wait for the results. Everything went well.

The last few weeks have been most exciting. I have had a chance to look at India in the face. I have peered deep into her eyes and seen the dust of her land and the damp of her rivers.

Over time I have come to realise that my job is not so much to live or work or even visit Bhagavanabad... but to live in New Delhi and be an able ambassador and advocate for this great constituency.

Indeed the real success of the Indian democratic system will be if I spend as little time as possible here, and as much as possible in New Delhi being a productive Member of Parliament and a flag-bearer for the Bhagavanabad way of life.

If I lose, I go back to Mumbai.

Fingers crossed.

1426

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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