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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 5 February 3, 2024

Coming Elections & Hurdles for the Opposition / Vyjayantimala Bali | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 3 February 2024, by Humra Quraishi


1 February 2024

Will there be any Opposition left before the general elections? The way hurdle after hurdle gets thrown in, in the Rahul Gandhi led Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, carry definite pointers that there are efforts on to sabotage the Yatra. Though Rahul Gandhi seems determined to carry on against all possible risks and threats, but the big question that looms large is this: Why is the Right-Wing government so very rattled to see the masses participating in the Yatra and doing so, so very spontaneously and eagerly! Their enthusiasm carrying relays to the fact Rahul Gandhi’s popularity holds sway and could possibly counter the political ploys and tactics of the Right-Wing …But, of course, not to be overlooked the fact that the entire machinery is under the control of the government! And now with arrest of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, apprehensions spreading out. Doing the rounds is the obvious – at the rate the Opposition is getting targeted, will there be any elections! Fair and free from fear! Or will democracy be totally throttled, paving the way for dictatorship.

Relays of the tough-turbulent times to come seem writ large as in the recently held elections to the Chandigarh mayor’s post, AAP and the Congress candidates have accused the BJP of using manipulative means to the end results!

Also, stands out the fact that senior Opposition leaders are forewarning that violence could be used by the ruling brigades to create an atmosphere of fear. Though let me hasten to add that, that fear-laden atmosphere already well exists! Every single day the common man is the target, more so if he or she is from the disadvantaged communities or segments. Where does he or she go for help! Who’s there to hear those cries of our fellow citizens in these homeless- jobless-penniless times, as homes and shops and age-old structures of the poorest of the poor are getting bulldozed!

Unease and apprehensions coming to the fore as hundreds of activists and retired civil servants and lawyers are coming up with genuine doubts about the EVMs and the connected aftermath…coming up with the relevant questions – will there be transparency and accountability?

Well deserved Padma Vibhushan for dancer-actor-politician Vyjayantimala Bali

One wishes PadmaVibhushan should have come years before Vyjayantimala Bali 90th birthday. Not just a very talented dancer and actress but she carries grace and a very impressive personality …I had first her in 1990. It was in the spring of 1990 that I had set out to interview Vyjayantimala Bali in New Delhi. To be nearer precision at the Kamani Auditorium where she was rehearsing for her solo performance ‘Om Shantih ! Om Shantih ! Om Shantih !’ …It was just a day before the show but she looked rather relaxed …Dressed casually in a cotton shalwar kameez, with her short hair tied firmly back in a pony-tail, she talked spontaneously whilst checking the music, directing the floor manager and checking the slides. Not the least ruffled, she’d kept offloading: “Through this form of art, my dance, I want to convey the message of peace … I carry my ‘Om Shantih books, manuscripts on dance, just about everywhere. I am doing research-study on the traditional temple dance forms. I am curious and want every detail explained to me through scholars and pundits. I’m concentrating only on the ancient forms, for why go creating new forms when there are so many of the ancient…I feel there is something very spiritual about Bharatanatyam, otherwise how could it have survived through the ravages of time … I have so many thoughts brimming in my head and time just passes off in a twinkle.”

And with that take off these other details followed — as a shy five years old she had performed Bharatanatyam for the Pope in Rome. As a studious “introvert” class tenth student her dance performance in Madras/Chennai had caught the attention of the producers of AVM production. And her very first film ‘Bahaar’ had left the audience spellbound! Of course, her other 54 or more films continued to do the same, till 1968 when she‘d opted for marriage. As she’d quipped, “thereafter I did not retire but relinquished films.”

Of course, later she’d made inroads into the political world and as Member of the Parliament she’d represented the South Madras constituency. As she’d detailed- “Well, my husband thought that I had the makings of a politician, so he wanted me to join politics. In fact, it happened slowly — in the beginning we toured Tamil Nadu and saw the chaos spread around and how funds were being misused and people’s disillusionment with the administration …Wherever we toured we saw for ourselves another reality: how people loved Mrs Indira Gandhi and so when we visited New Delhi we met Indira Gandhi and told her the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu, and even told her about my own inclination towards joining politics. She’d smiled encouragingly …”

On whether there were any apprehensions — with her being a former film star turning into full-time politician? She’d said: “People knew I am a very serious person. It wasn’t that I was just about hopping from one profession to another …After all, I quit the film industry in 1968 and I entered politics years later — in the early 1980s …Also, people knew about my integrity. So there was no problem.”

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