Measuring a government’s achievements in its first year has to be inherently speculative. But some things can be put down to Narendra Modi’s account with a degree of certainty. He has in his first year as Prime Minister, never worn a Muslim cap although it is difficult to identify a cap of that denominational description.
Time was when a dopalli topi or a white muslin cap was standard headgear among Hindus and Muslims alike. In winters, muslin gave way to wool. A variety of headgear was on exhibition at prime ministerial Iftar parties, a standard Congress fare, but which mushroomed in direct proportion to Congress decline.
Mulayam Singh Yadav, an equally eager Muslim vote hunter, went on an Iftar feeding spree too, wearing funny hats. But he also struck a high cultural note to accentuate his secular identity. So far political leaders had mobilized the clergy from Deoband, Imam Bukhari of Jama Masjid and sundry Mullahs as potential vote gatherers. Mulayam Singh was persuaded that Muslims along with a religious identity also had a cultural dimension. They were, in other words, amicable to charms of Urdu poetry as well.
It turns out that in UP there is an Urdu poet buried behind every culvert. In the contemporary era there have been some very famous poets. Someone mentioned the name of Josh Malihabadi. But he had blotted his copy by going over to Pakistan where Faiz Ahmad Faiz beat him hollow in the popularity stakes. Next in status would have been Firaq Gorakhpuri. But his full name was Raghupati Sahai. Mulayam asked shrewdly: how would that affect voters?
This article has appeared in the Rising Kashmir..
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