Dogs, donkeys and some other poor political animals



I really don’t know what it is about animals and politicians.

Travelling on a day train from Nagpur to Hyderabad last week, I found many of my co-passengers, who hailed from Andhra Pradesh, outraged as they unfolded their newspapers and turned to a particular item of news.

An MLA had referred to AP Chief Minister Kiran Reddy as a `dog’. What he had actually said was, “If you place a dog on a golden throne this is what you get!’’

The papers were full of Mr Reddy’s `RachaBanda’ tours of Telangana. The programme is unique to Andhra Pradesh whereby the Chief Minister, accompanied by officials, visits various districts randomly and listens to the grievances of the people gathered at the village squares there spontaneously. The officials then have to sort out the problems pronto. Translated roughly into English, the RachaBanda programme is about `village justice’, a `rachabanda’ being a village junction (or so I am told — I, of course, do not know Telugu).

Now, as I gathered, some people, locals of a village in Karimnagar district, had brought stray dogs to one of the CM’s dos. The dogs were wearing placards which said, “Jai Telangana!’’

I do not know who that was supposed to insult – the CM or the Telangana activists who were present there aplenty attempting to disrupt those programmes with a mixture of violence and plain intimidation.

Soon after I came across this gem of a cartoon while surfing the Internet and my heart went out to those stray dogs at the Telangana functions.

And, of course, some days later to the poor, hapless donkey set to be sacrificed by Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yedyurappa to overcome his enemies. Apparently an astrologer has divined that the sacrifice of the harmless donkey (who, by the way, has wished Yedyurappa no ill) is the right remedy to escape calls for his resignation on charges of corruption.

I wonder what India’s most famous animal rights activist, Maneka Gandhi, has to say about that. Perhaps nothing, given that she is obliged to the BJP for taking her and her son, Varun, in. Without the saffron party, neither would have a political future (not that either has much of it even now). But Maneka had had plenty to say when the Bombay Municipal Corporation was eliminating stray dogs in its dog pounds some years ago, leading to a Bombay High Court verdict to just sterilise them and let them be.

But the dogs were not to be overcome. BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, then a Member of the Legislative Council, had the fright of is life one night as he stepped out of his car at this official residence and a dog bit into his trouser leg and just wouldn’t let go. Gadkari even moved a resolution in the Legislative Council the next day saying dogs had got into the habit of chasing him (and his other legislature colleagues) as they returned home and getting out of their cars, to make a dash indoors, was a frightful prospect each night (which, for Gadkari, was fraught with the additional danger that he was unable to move fast).

But, in view of the High Court verdict, the authorities could do nothing about that — until Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray complained bitterly one day that he had been kept awake several of the previous nights by dogs barking around his famous residence, Matoshree. “They are turning me into a nervous wreck,’’ he moaned.

Obviously, these barks were worse than the bites that Gadkari and his colleagues had suffered. For, now the Bombay Muncipal Corporation (even then as now) controlled by the Shiv Sena, promptly swung into action. The next thing we knew the barkings had ceased. And, of course, the dogs had disappeared.

But its been not just about dogs and donkeys. Many years ago, I recall, when the Sena-BJP government was ruling Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar had pulled off an enormously successful farmers rally in Ahmednagar. Speaking in the language he thought farmers would understand, he likened the Sena-BJP government to a languorous bull on a farm.

“What do you do with this lazy creature whose idleness and impotence become a burden round your neck? You first beat it with a stick to get it up on its feet. When he refuses, you poke it with a pin to surprise him into standing up. When the animal still stubbornly refuses, you pass a rope round his nostrils and drag him to the market and sell him off to cut your losses. That’s what the Sena-BJP government has become (impotent, he meant) and that’s what you must do.’’

Of course, then Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi was livid at that comparison. He organised another farmers rally to counter Pawar’s — in the same region, though not in the same, well, field lest the comparison of the numbers go against him. He hoped, though, that some of the same farmers would be present at his own rally. And, then, this master of sophistry who really has some ready wit at hand each time, said, “Send your cow to us and we will show you how really impotent or not our bull is!’’

Pawar’s reaction, of course, was pregnant with his silence – he still has found no answer to that one!

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