February 8, 2010 Leave a comment
Manmohan Desai was the architect of many blockbusters of Indian cinema. He also was perhaps the director who created the “template” of the protagonist(s) getting estranged from his brother / mother at an young age only to be reunited as the story meanders to it’s climax.
Since the creation of this successful template, it has been used to churn, by conservative estimate at least a hundred hindi movies. Some of the striking features of this template are the facts that the estranged siblings would live and work in the same place. They would also come in contact with each other without of course knowing the fact of their relationship. They would either be confronting each other or work in unison against a common enemy.
The story of the 3 protagonists of this essay – Amar Singh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Madam Maywati – is very similar to the template.
They operate their political wares in the most important state of Indian polity – Uttar Pradesh. I think we have to give it to the person who named the state as Uttar Pradesh, literally translated as “Northern Region”.
Accounting for 85 Parliamentarians to the Lower House, the state is of immense significance to anyone who dares to make a bid for the hot seat at Delhi. It is the state which is the most vulnerable state from both communal and caste angles. UP is often used by political parties to “test” their political pitch. If it succeeds in UP, the chances of success elsewhere are quite high.
UP is the state which is perhaps the only state having a quadrangular competition between the Congress, BJP, SP and the BSP. So each political outfit have their appointed chaperons to coordinate and handle the political theatrics and pyrotechnics. To take on the national parties – Congress and BJP – SP and BSP have their top leaders involved in the antics.
While Mayawati runs the ‘tight-ship-political-fiefdom’ of BSP, Mulayam had outsourced the function to Amar Singh. And this story is about him.
It was Amar Singh who gave Mulayam the best political endorsement in the form of Amitabh Bacchan. Amitabh took himself too seriously and planned too big for his boots notwithstanding his 6 foot plus frame. The result : Amitabh Bachhan Corporation Limited was in doldrums and Amitabh almost reduced to penury. Sensing the financial crisis, it was Amar who bailed the first family of Bollywood and slowly weaned a reluctant Amitabh into political limelight.
After having a bitter experience with Congress, Amitabh stayed away from mainstream politics but couldn’t prevent committing his wife – Jaya Bachan – to the political machinations of the SP. The credit yet again goes to Amar Singh.
The rustic, clannish Mulayam Singh needed an English speaking, reasonably suave and importantly servile follower to push his case in Delhi. While the backend of the political system was being managed and maneuvered by Mulayam, Amar represented the face of the SP that the English / Electronic media could speak to. I don’t think anyone but Amar could have defended SP’s position vis-a-vis English education and the use of computers.
Amar had his own smarts ; His biggest strength was that he could vibe with anyone. He would call BJP communal but wouldn’t have any qualms about having seat arrangements with them. Ever since the fallout Amar Singh has been going around claiming that it was he who brought the Muslim vote bank back to Mulayam. There is certainly an element of truth in this. It was actually the unshakeable faith that Mulayam had in his Muslim vote bank which emboldened him to get associated with Kalyan Singh. In the end, however, it proved to be a costly political mistake that aided Congress in the UP.
It must be said though that proximity of SP with Kalyan wasn’t championed by Amar, who in my view could have pulled it off. Amar’s running feud with Azam Khan was also cleverly used by the Congress to drive a wedge between SP and the Muslims.
Once Amitabh was pocketed by SP, BJP responded back with the ‘acquisition of Hemamalini’ for the glam quotient, Amar quickly got into his stride and countered BJP by bringing Jayapradha all the way from Andhra Pradesh. He expanded his Bollywood connections by “acquiring” Sanjay Dutt, who now calls Amar as his elder brother. Well, pushing nearly 50 and a failing Bollywood movie market, there is no time like now for Sanjay to get a well influenced political brother.
As the chairperson of Uttar Pradesh Development Council – the only official post he ever held – Amar was responsible for getting the junior Ambani, Anil, committed to major investments in the State. It is to the credit of Amar that land acquisition, a bit political bugbear in India, was never an issue in UP.
It was Amar Singh who advised Mulayam to part ways with the BSP to consolidate his OBC Yadav vote bank. Amar quickly recognized that Mayawati was too politically ambitious perhaps on par with the irresistible ‘Amma’ Jayalalithaa. And once Mayawati tasted political power, Amar realized that SP will be marginalized.
Amar, Mulayam and Mayawati represent the same “political vision” and patronize similar strategies – caste politics. There is very little to choose between them as an option to the hapless UP voter as they belong to the same political stable.
The future at this moment looks very bleak for Amar. Ditched by SP and cold shouldered by the Congress, Amar has started extending the olive branch to Mayawati. The shrewd person that she is, Mayawati has responded by reopening a case against Amar. But I trust Amar to overcome his current political existential problem and be the King maker yet again.
I don’t think there is anything that would prevent the estranged political gang of Amar-Mulayam-Mayawati to do an encore of what the famous estranged brothers in Manmohan Desai’s epic Amar-Akbar-Antony claimed to be good at.
‘Anhoni ko honi karde honi ko anhoni’ roughly translated as ‘Making the impossible possible and the possible impossible’ I don’t rule out the possibility of these political masters coming together yet again. After all politics is the art of making things possible.