I must write this post on Bangalore, being back after a break of three weeks. The monsoons should have begun their downpour, and the days are overcast, but the clouds above haven't much rain in them. In the meantime the flowers have left the trees, all of them save the mayflowers which came in April, which have lingered in diminished numbers in June.
Back on Bangalore's streets, I am again treated to its posters and hoardings, which feature as always not so much models and supermodels as rough-faced portly politicians whose birthdays their lackeys celebrate by greeting them on high hoardings in a clamorous fashion. The size of the hoardings has been growing over the last decade, and not a child can miss them, and, my son being no more a little boy, I wonder what answer others give their kid who asks, Who is that man, pappa? Is he a great man, mamma? What has he done? These are PG-13 posters, I'm afraid, and much parental caution—and some tact—is required while explaining the deeds of these accomplished personae.
And now the largest and the most colorful among them are those of the wealthy Sriramulu. "It is not just a walk, it is a struggle to save the very state," they cry on every street that matters. Sriramulu has finished an impressive padayatra and triumphantly entered Bangalore, and is planning a repeat yatra on motorcycle for a next edition. During the long walk he has realized that the people of the state are facing a shortage of water, and he has told that to the government in which he was until recently a minister. "Solve it! Or…" His threat is that he will field candidates from his party in all 224 constituencies of the state in the next elections.
Sriramulu has a website. Its banner says: "It's not just willingness to serve the poor, it's a desire too,i believe if you are with me we can create wonders no matter how big the obstacle." Sriramulu is a busy man as you can tell from his text, reproduced verbatim here. I ask you to go look up his website; go, go if you are a Kannadiga; see the size of his contribution while in office; see how engrossed he is in the service of the state.
You'll see that he is 24 x 7 for us; that he is 24 x 7 with us. I haven't seen him ever, but only because I don't count in his equations. I am not among the poor that he is talking to; the farmer is his other priority whereas I was raised only among concrete and pitted asphalt; and lastly, I am not a laborer either, which third category completes Sriramulu's list of priorities for his new and blazing BSR Party.
Neither am I the rich man that Sriramulu so abundantly is.
Underneath this veneer of priorities, however, there are bolder calculations and brilliant equations, all based on the strategic spread of influential castes. His walk has followed his math, which you can see from a slant, and by now a good number of others have had a glimpse of it too. The national newspapers are hushed in their reportage of the walk, 921 kilometers in 52 days, and the newsmen have also taken note that next door in Andhra a regional party has humbled the Indian National Congress. Can Sriramulu pull off a Jagan? is their question, and, "Quite possible" is the solemn answer in the mind. There is minimal protestation against caste politics. Aren't the incumbents doing it? After all?
So, when time comes, why shouldn't I vote for Sriramulu's BSR Party? Now, after I've read his website? After learning of his vision of himself, and of his so noble intentions? Don't I believe what he says there? That so many people hero-worship him? His record that is reported there clinches my vote, my conscience commands me to cast it for him, and my sense of responsibility, to put the state before self, tells me it is absolutely the right thing to do. What is this pull that I feel, then? Envy for the wealth of this one-time street fighter? Envy for his enormous pluck? His power? That he is only forty, and thus the thought of the staggering things he'll do yet, in the long years that stretch before him?
I don't know.
I believe what will happen is what happened the last time, when I couldn't vote with my voter's card, though I went searching with it to three polling stations. The polling clerks and the party volunteers ran their fingers up and down the smudgy printed pages in their hands, sweating in the heat and from the effort, but we didn't find my first name or my last name on any list. I feel relief from the thought that I mightn't be able to vote yet again, and my attitude has me ashamed a bit.