Guys.... here it is - I have received a bunch of interesting reactions to the column. Most of them positive. Most, from 'People Like Us'. Mallika Sarabhai sent a text msg inviting me to go on the campaign trail with her. I plan to do just that when I visit Ahemedabad to deliver the 'Shaping Young Minds' lecture on the 18th of April. Meera's own blog, which is like a daily campaign diary has a sweet and touching reference to my late father ... God rest his soul in peace.
More in a fresh post.... perhaps an hour or two from now. Inshallah...
Who’s afraid of Meera Sanyal….?
To that tantalizing question – ‘Who’s afraid of Meera Sanyal?” – there is only one answer : nobody. As of now, Meera Sanyal is an unknown entity . She does not belong to any political party or camp. She has not roped in a Bollywood star to campaign for her. She is not the daughter or daughter-in-law of a powerful family. She does not possess crores and crores of ill -gotten wealth. There is no godfather or godmother lurking in the shadows to back her. And the biggest strike against her candidancy ? She cannot boast of a criminal record. She has never been booked for murder or the possession of guns. So, who the hell is she? And why has she decided to contest the elections, that too from a high profile constituency ( South Mumbai)? Meera Sanyal is like you and me. An educated , professional with a conscience. Someone who wants to put her hard- earned money where her mouth is. Someone who is willing to go beyond drawing room, arm chair politics and say, “ This is who I am. This is what I stand for. As a citizen of India, I am entitled to exercise my fundamental right to contest the elections – and hello!! I am doing just that… regardless of the outcome.” Brave woman. Why brave? Meera is aware it’s a vicious jungle out there…. and here she is, a prim and propah Malabar Hill Memsaab, willing to get her hands dirty in a no- holds- barred contest where her rivals have more money, more clout, more everything. Except the one thing that counts or ought to – the right motive.
Why would someone as successful as Meera ( she’s a well regarded banker) want to chuck up a super career and jump into the political cess pool? And what chance does she have of winning? The answer to the first question comes from Meera herself, who says it was the 26\11 terror attacks on Mumbai that triggered something in her. Something compelling enough to arrive at this important decision. It has become a cliché to say , ‘Become the change you want to see..’ but in Meera’s case, it seems to be the only reason she has taken the plunge. Has she thought it through? Does she know what she has put her foot into? Let us give some credit to this intelligent person. And let us acknowledge the obvious fact that Meera is now in the system for better or worse. As an independent candidate, she may not have the same advantages as her mighty rivals. But as a banker, I’m sure she knows how to hedge her bets. It is not about winning. It is about making a point. “ People Like Us’’ are very comfortable with a Meera. She speaks English with the right accent, quotes Toffler, wears pearls and likes her tofu. ‘We’ are comfortable with Meera. Our drawing rooms are always open to people like her. But the harsh reality suggests ‘we’ no longer count. Nobody really gives a damn for ‘us’. Which makes Meera’s decision all the more praise worthy. Her supporters ( steadily growing), point out that unless ‘People Like Us’ get into politics, India is doomed. It is one way of consoling ourselves, knowing full well the mood of the nation has changed. Meera is earnestly talking about public transport and security issues, in a city that is taken over by vested interests and distant ‘Bhais’ who call the shots. Meera will have to wade into South Mumbai’s filthy shanty towns and convince those vote-for-note fellows that she’s their woman. Of course, she’ll have to lose those pearls first. And switch to earthy, home spun salwar kameezes before that. But how on earth will she communicate her objectives to a constituency that has been spoilt and nurtured over decades by politicos with pockets as deep as the ocean?
Meera wants to be taken seriously. She deserves to be taken seriously. Meera is an important symbol. And an agent of change. The change we keep talking about . We should not hold her independent status against her. Remember V.K. Krishna Menon had stood as an independent, too. If more Meeras decide to get involved in the political process, their voices will be heard. Eventually. Her entry heralds a small but significant beginning. Will Meera be casting pearls before swine? Maybe. But the effort is worth it.