Leaders as Saboteurs!
Leaders as Saboteurs!, Gollapudi Maruti Rao, Sir Arthur Cotton, Statue of Mahatma Gandhi. Guntur is the town that outshines any other town in Andhra Pradesh to have hundreds of statues at every street corner.
I was in Rajahmundry the other day for a shoot. There was an interesting spectacle spread all over the town. Every statue of political leaders at every street corner was fully covered with cloth. I was told that it was part of the Election Committee’s guide lines that they should be closed from public view during the election time. Why? Lest these leaders’ memory might influence the minds of the electorate! How ironic! Here are our supposedly beloved leaders who were immortalised by the respective parties while they were in power and here is the Election Commission which feels that the public glare at them might influence the electorate! The pity is even the statue of one of the greatest social reformer and writer Veeresalingam had also received this vitiating ignominy thanks to the ignorance of some enthusiastic official who religiously followed the rules – here is a statue and hence it has to be covered.
Guntur is the town that outshines any other town in Andhra Pradesh to have hundreds of statues at every street corner. Sometimes two or three statues stand next to each other. But trying to immortalise the memory of a leader through a statue is a very primitive concept. The greater the contribution of an individual to the welfare of the community, the longer will he survive in the hearts of the people in spite of the statues. A statue, after all, is a physical manifestation of a community’s collective ethos. Not the majority power of a particular party or an aberration of a minority’s arrogance at any given time. You don’t require a statue to perpetuate the memory of Sir Arthur Cotton, a mere civil servant who revolutionised the lives of crores of people by making Andhra ‘the golden rice bowl’ of the country through irrigation canals. C P Brown’s dictionary has no alternative even today. Thomas Alva Edison is a silent partner in the welfare of the millions literally ‘electrifying’ our lives. Or Graham Bell who had frozen the entire world into a single cohesive entity by making it tiny and accessible by his invention-wireless. There is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa where he was thrown out of a railway compartment, whose only crime being the pigmentation of his skin. And that kindled a movement – unparallel in the history of the world in liberating a nation from its stupor and who became a mentor to luminaries like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela. This is the rarest honour of another country paying tribute to the Father of our Nation.
Telangana is yet to take shape as a separate shape. One leader promised the other day in a meeting that they will remove all the statues on the Tank Bund at Hyderabad belonging to Seemandhra when once they usurp to power. A thoughtful temptation to reach the parochial elements to muster votes. But the literary stalwarts like Nannayya, Tikkana, Srinadha- do they belong only to Seemandhra or to the Telugu community at large? Do they not represent the common ethos of Telugu glory wherever they were born? Will they disown Sri Sri or Viswanadha on this count? Will they dispense with Kuchipudi dance form simply because it hailed from Krishna District? What about Annamacharya, Kshetrayya and Narayana Theertha? You refuse to enjoy the benefit of great research in the field of medicine of Yellapragada Subbarao simply because he was born in Bhimavaram. And importantly, will they not fly the Indian flag because it was conceived by Pingali Venkayya belonging to Seemandhra. Don’t they eat ‘Kakinada kaja’ the tasteful recipe of West Godavari? And then are we not all proud of P V Narasimha Rao, our only Prime Minster from Telugu state who virtually revolutionised the economy through liberalisation? Are we not proud of Pillalamarri Pinaveerabhadrudu of Suryapet? The sculptural genius of Ramappa? Somebody said that they will not sing “Maa Telugu Talli’’ song anymore because it was written by Seemandhra writer. Sankarambadi Sunadarachari has been my dearest friend. He wrote this song as early as 60 years ago when our state was part of Composite Madras. And Sundarachari doesn’t belong to Seemanadhra. He hails from Kanchipuram! And he eulogised the valour of Rani Rudrama as early as that!
The Telugus have the magnanimity of erecting the statue of M S Subbulakshmi at Tirupati. Can we dream of having a statue of Annamacharya at Cuddalore, for instance? A statue of Periyar of Dravida Kazagam is there on the shores of Visakhapatnam. Can we expect our neighboring state reciprocate such honour, say, to our Burgula Ramakrishnarao at Tiruvarur? We are forerunners in teaching the others about national integration. And our politicians, in their myopic sight, aborted our vibrating attitude to parochial limitations. They are sacrificing the larger image, resorting to populist propaganda for very limited goals.
The action taken by Election Commission sends a cruel and unequivocal signal to these parochial elements. It is a pity that the statues of these leaders, whose parties are anxious to thrust on the public, have to be shunned from public view, lest they might create unhealthy ideas in the minds of the electorate.
Politicians are trying to sell their ideas to reach the weakest vested interests of a few and create a mass frenzy while the system is helplessly trying to counteract the onslaught by reducing the damage. Will it send a message to these parties? Can this be an eye opener to these leaders who invest in parochialism for very limited, temporary benefits?