The Foot Soldiers

The other day Tim Sullivan, Chief of the South-Asian bureau of Associated Press, asked me What Rahul Gandhi does for his living. The question blew at my face. I never gave it a thought as what exactly Rahul Gandhi or any other leader does for his living.

“No, how he runs his house? How he pays his kitchen bill?,” Tim tried to make it more simple realising probably I was not ready for this question.

Rahul Gandhi”s name was a metaphor. What Tim wanted to know what Indian politicians do for their living?

“Nothing”, I replied. “He is Member of Parliament and gets stipend (around Rs 12,000 per month) and other expenses,” I said

When I said this I reminded one young Congress leader an energetic chap Vishwanath Chaturvedi “Mohan” whom I met almost a decade and half back when I was a cub reporter covering Lucknow University and allied colleges. “Mohan” was a young student leader of a degree college. He was not a brilliant student but had managed to get a law degree.

The same question I had asked him once when I met him outside Congress office. Sipping tea I just said how he makes his both ends meet. “From where you get money”?, was my laconic query.

“I get it from my father. He sends me money every month. Without his support I would have died by this time,” he said giving a hearty laugh showing his paan-stained teeth.

Mohan later made headlines when he filed Disproportionate Asset case against Mulayam Singh Yadav in the Supreme Court. The case is still on.

He had told me the agony of foot soldiers of the political parties. Majority of these “karyakartas”, when join political parties, are unemployed. They are forced to spend money from their own pockets. Sometimes they get support from their parents while sometimes they borrow money from their friends. He cited a case of a “dedicated” party soldier who was forced to sell of his ancestral farmland to pay his debts.

“No political party pays a penny to its “karyakarta”. He has to make expenditure from his own pocket. It is an unwritten law of Indian polity,” a BJP leader said. This leader too had started as “karyakarta” but now owns a petrol pump and a gas agency.

Whenever I see young people in political rallies or meetings with their hands pumping air and grimaced face shouting slogans I know just one or two of them would climb the political ladder. The rest would melt into oblivion.

I do not know as why Mohan struck me when Tim asked about Rahul. But that questioned reminded me of foot soldiers who sacrifice their lives for the party but they get nothing. A few moneyed people would “purchase” party ticket or a family member of a senior leader would get good post in party hierarchy leaving these foot soldiers in a lurch.

Jai Ho!

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