So were the media people in Patna when they came to interact with members of CERI, the Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India. Four long hours of interaction! Generally not an admirer of the media with so much of negative experiences with them in the past, I could only see turkeys pretending to be peacocks.
But pretensions withered out much faster than anticipated. They were all friends of Priyadarshi, the man who carries on the legend of Total Revolution in Bihar and in many other parts of India. The dark rain clouds were hovering over us and no one could believe that it actually rained in Patna only for the while that we were together. Not before, not after! Rain on one side, questions on the other side.
It started raining the next day too, in the newspapers I mean. Seven newspapers covered the Conference organized by Priyadarshi, the miracle man. The next morning when he took me for a breakfast meeting with the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies, the Minister himself rushed to open the door of the car with a bouquet of flowers in his hands.
I was seeing stars. The rain had stopped by then and sky was clear. The papers had made the sky quite clear. The meaningful discussions with the media paid rich dividends. Honest media persons are hiding themselves in remote corners of Bihar. The Times of India man in Patna had already indicated things to come. He came running to open the car for me. Never seen a media man doing it for anyone. The next day it was the Minister.
Were we having a political meeting of sorts? It looked so with the State President of JDU following me and later also towing my line on Proportional Electoral System in India. If we ever thought only the journalists had folded their feathers quickly we were sadly mistaken. The President of JDU, the embodiment of humility, the haughtiness associated with Presidents not seen anywhere near him!
The Minister, such a powerful man as he was, but what a host he played. The otherwise false propaganda of media about anything Bihar was washed away in a torrent of hospitality, openness and patriotism of the JP kind. When the murk was washed away all present could clearly see light. The light of a new dawn of democracy! The President and the Minister promised everything that they could to see a new India under the Proportional Electoral system. Let their tribe increase.
Not to be outdone was the wife of the Minister who came to my rescue with her impeccable English. I was a total illiterate, Hindi I mean. I have yet to pick up necessary Hindi to communicate my ideas. Learning a language at the age of 61! It is not a joke. I am linguist, I always thought. Can pick up any language fast. But Hindi seems to defy my confidence. I shall overcome someday!
One full day of discussions and speeches by stalwarts of Total Revolution! They still carry the legacy of JP. Morarji Deasai, as the PM of India might have had the stupidity of announcing the death of JP when he was still alive. To make the anti-hero of India’s darker side of emergency rule die in the central hall of Parliament when he was still alive! It was not the effect of Morarji. It had no spirit in it.
But he lives, the hero of total revolution that mesmerized the young people of India and traumatized Indira Gandhi who wielded the ‘lathi’ and ‘castrated’ all opposition leaders, as George Fernandez would thunder later on in Bangalore. I had the rare privilege of translating his fiery speech as a young revolutionary, immediately after emergency was lifted and Mrs. Gandhi was defeated.
Proportional Electoral System! Yes, there is no doubt about it. This is what the country needs today. Even the supporters of Aam Admi party present in the hall were completely silent. Everyone had his chance. The tinkering of existing electoral system compared to a 65 years old car still running all over the country once in five years!
Some are firmly saddled in the seats of the car. They have a merry go around in the small car, which they have managed to get hold of from the British. There are many in the waiting to get into the car. But those inside only show the beautiful face of the car with its ugly underbelly and promise to let them inside when they come the next time after five years. And to appease the ambitious one they throw money, liquor, freebies and use ‘lathis’ and guns to the daring challengers.
But the car has lost its real shape. No gears to change on time! Flat tyres! Horns with flat note! Worn out seats! Only the shape of car remains. There are still those who mesmerize the onlookers of democracy that the car can be repaired and put on road for another five years. They start tinkering. Remove corruption, bring lokpal, no violence, right to recall, right to mark ‘none’ and the final blow to the vehicle with compulsory voting. What a roadshow! The young ones dance in front of the old car.
There is a need to change the car itself. The cry of CERI has not fallen on deaf ears. There are still many to listen and take the lessons deep inside. ‘Why did we not know this earlier? Is there another electoral system? Will it work in our country? Will Indian voters understand it? Will they get into Indian democracy? Are they ready to share power?’ The lightning and thunder had already started in that small hall. The rain of answers gathered momentum. English to Hindi and vice versa. Glimpses of national integration in Bihar!
Total revolution is not a nostalgic romance with ideology. It lives in Bihar in the minds and homes of many. One could see it walking around the premises of the conference venue. They all enter the house of Priyadarshi, stretch their legs and have discussions with ever flowing ‘chai’. They eat there when they are hungry. They sleep when they feel sleepy unmindful of discussions. The discussants keep on talking unmindful of the sleeping heroes.
The revolution will live on. It will begin to give new life from Bihar. The media, the politician, the ideologues, the campaigners and the ordinary converging on one indisputable future path! The Proportional Electoral System in India! There is hope only in looking forward and not in taking the steps back. Let it come and shine on the future of our children and their children.
Let democracy become alive again from the soil of the indomitable Bihar. Bihar has begun to speak. The country may soon follow suit. Who knows?