When the media these days happens to get close to the powers that be, there is a sense of apprehension or even awe associated with every question thrown at the leaders. In return, the quotes (bytes) they get from the leaders are almost banal, sometimes even controversial. There has rarely been any interesting repartee or even a scent of humour associated with these in recent times. The entire media-politician issue has boiled down to basics, somewhat too formal.
Then there were those times when politicians used to be witty, used to give such brilliant bytes and quotes to the media. There were also funny incidents that generated laughter, harming none. Those were the times when politicians had the stomach to take in criticism as well as give back in the same coin.
Once, when Lalu Prasad Yadav, then Chief Minister of undivided Bihar, was asked about the pathetic condition of roads in the state, he had replied: “Jis desh me carwa nahin hai, us me roawda le ke kya karoge? (In a land where there are no cars, what will you do with great roads?)” The same leader, also on roads, had also promised his electorate that he will make roads so good that they will be “Hema Malini ka gaal jaisa. (They will be like the cheeks of Hema Malini, film actress).”
Even if you don’t believe them, the sheer humour in that was a treat for the ears and the eyes. Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had the stomach for that.
When asked if he would be riled at critical and controversial questions thrown at him, he said “I will make no controversial comment, however many controversial questions are thrown at me.”
Of course, he had made controversial comments in his career. Such as his answer when asked to comment on a rape case. He had said: “Boys will be boys.They commit mistakes.” It is certainly not funny, even offensive, but candid, nevertheless. Not to be left behind, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had once said: “I am not God, nor am I Phantom (of the comic book fame). I am ready to accept any criticism. I have been in politics for decades. Each and every day, in several media, there is criticism of me.”
Another comment, from the Late Shiela Dixit, once Chief Minister of Delhi, had generated mirth. She had said: “Rs 6,000 per month is enough to feed a family of 5.” It was offensive to the poor, at the same time hilarious, despite its sheer insensitivity.
Then there was a comment by Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former health minister, who had said: “When there is no electricity, there is nothing else to do but produce babies.”
A personal comment by Sriprakash Jaiswal, a former Union coal minister was also picked up by the media quickly. He had said: “Like an old victory, wives lose charm as time goes by.”
Samajwadi Party MP Mohan Singh, who had defended his party in the Walmart lobbying row, had said: “No Samajwadi Party member can be lobbied by Walmart.We don’t have any leader who can speak English…” Pretty frank, that. These are some examples, though they fade in the face of extremely witty comments from the past.
Winston Churchill, of course, was the best at this. He had once said: “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year, and to have the ability to explain why it didn’t happen.” Former US President Ronald Reagan was as apt, VIEWS ON NEWS November 1, 2021 5 as he was bold. He had said: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
That has been the standard of repartee and comments that we miss in the media these days. That is except a somewhat recent incident, from 2014, when social activist Kailash Satyarthi had won the Peace Nobel Prize (shared with Malala Yusufzai of Pakistan). The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP somehow believed that that their own leader Kailash Vijayvargiya had received the prize and commented “We wish him all the best.” The Congress went a step further, with some of its leaders saying: “They are in power at the centre and also in the state. They award their own people.
They are abusing their power. We condemn this” Of course, Vijayvargiya enjoyed his moment of glory and said that this comedy of errors kept him amused for two days. We surely miss these moments.