ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

paralyse action. Surely Indira Gandhi knows the chips are down and the battle must he joined. In fact, what is urgently needed is a little respite from the obsession with elections and all that goes with them. It is ridiculous that at this juncture bye- elections of little consequence should engage the undivided attention of leading members of the ruling party. No bye-election is going to prove anything of lasting value. The Congress Party may he bruised and battered by its mishandling of central tasks, hut it is the only party capable of tackling the CALL him by the most vicious names, there is still a certain charm in the old rascal. And of course a certain endur- ability, an historical grandeur. Thirty years, twenty-five years ago, drums wouId heat through the villages; the boats would wind their way against the fairly strong current into interior canals of Vikrampur or Kishorganj and carry the tiding: the Maulana was coming to the market-place ten, fifteen, twenty miles away, your chance of a life-time to listen to him, to be blessed by him, to be enlightened by him. Men, women and children would begin to flock from all over; they would tuck their victuals for three, four, five days in towels and trek: it the food would run out, they could buy some more in any case in the market-place. It is market day, and Bhashami would commence to speak even before the first crowing of the eariiest- rising cock. Discard all notions you ever had about what constitutes a speech. It is invocation to God, religious discourse, political economy, agricultural practices, story telling, rabble rousing all rolled into one. At the very beginning would he the prayer. The vast congregation, spread in an unplanned, untidy formation all over the field abutting the market-place, would join in: the atmosphere would be both eerie and peaceful, and the Maulana's enormously rich voire would throb against the sky. With the prayer over, he would begin on a low, matter-of-fact pitch: it is the story of the prophet, his glory and his exploits, his saintliness and nobility, his mission, his love for the poor, the story of the Prophet who was the first and greatest of all socialists, Islam being the religion of socialism. It might be all theology, but you listen to it spellbound; the Maulana's charm grips you. Abruptly, from the concept of Islamic situation at the moment. This is known to the people. In other words, the Prime Minister and her team, over the next three years, have to concentrate not on electioneering but on putting together a coherent programme for building the economy of the subcontinent. No gimmicks. Just plain hard work.

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