It is sad that ministers behave so undemocratically even while India is travelling through a mammoth democratic exercise.
Elections to India’s Parliament have been spread across several weeks and whose outcome will be known on May 16.
With campaigning in full swing on the one hand and the actual franchise itself taking place on the other, politicians appear like characters on the stage. Some though play “parts” that are not exactly popular.
Union Minister for Tourism Chiranjeevi — whose movie roles once endeared him to the masses – could not quite get his off-screen act right on Wednesday.
He was soundly scolded by a young non-resident Indian techie, G Karthik, outside a polling booth in Hyderabad.
Chiranjeevi reached the booth at 9.45 in the morning, and walked past a long queue of men and women (some very old) to cast his ballot. He brazenly jumped the line.
Karthik, who along with many others had been waiting for close to an hour to cast his vote, told the minister politely that he should also await his turn in the queue.
Chiranjeevi was stumped, but tried smooth talking his way out of the sticky situation and into the booth.
But Karthik was adamant and scolded him. Much to Karthik’s joy and the minister’s irritation, the others in the line did not come to his aid. Rather, they clapped and egged Karthik to stand his ground.
Chiranjeevi had no option but to get into the line, and his family, including his superstar son, Ram Charan Tej, and his wife, too had to follow suit.
Chiranjeevi, who had entered politics after being a superstar in the Telugu cinema industry, later tried to control the damage by telling the media that had merely tried to enter the booth in order to check whether his name was on the voters’ list.
Politicians and many of the cinema actors too hate admitting their mistakes. Years of public adulation go to their heads, and they begin to feel like demi-gods, believing that they can do no wrong.
Chiranjeevi seemed like a nice sort when I saw him last year at the Cannes Film Festival. He was part of the India delegation.
I attended a party where the minister was there as well, and my son, who works as an executive in a Bangalore multinational firm, was upset that I had not walked up to Chiranjeevi, introduced myself and maybe shaken his hand.
Junior, who is far more political than I ever was, felt disappointed that he had missed an opportunity to exchange a few words with the minister.
But on Wednesday, when my son saw television channels breaking the news of the Chiranjeevi drama, he must have been disappointed. For, here was someone he had held in high esteem behaving so improperly.
I could certainly sense his crestfallen voice when he broke the news to me over the telephone from Bangalore.
It is sad that ministers like Chiranjeevi should behave so undemocratically even while India is travelling through a mammoth democratic exercise.
The least that the minister could have done was to have gracefully apologised. Instead, he tried covering up an incident where he was clearly at fault.
What a sad day for Indian democracy.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at[email protected]