Come elections, I look forward to two things — manifestos and garlands. So far, no party has presented a manifesto. It’s an embarrassment in democratic politics. Sadly, no one is asking or talking about it. But garlands have become a talking point. The garlands this election have been outstanding as they have been outlandish.
Garlands, offered to a person as a mark of reverence and affection, have become a show of strength among politicians and their supporters. While the competition in the previous election, 2018, was kind of ‘fruity and furious’, this election it has become ‘delicious and dramatic’.
In 2018, a fruity competition began when the then Energy Minister D.K. Shivakumar visited Srirangapatna where his supporters welcomed him with an apple garland weighing 250 kg! Not to be left behind, the supporters of former CM H.D. Kumaraswamy adorned their leader with an apple garland weighing 500 kg. Now how can Siddharamaiah’s supporters be far behind? So, they outdid DKS and HDK’s supporters by welcoming Siddu with a 750-kg apple garland!
This year, apple garlands are passe. Now we have pineapples, Mysore Pak, jaggery blocks, and metro coaches! And the JD(S) supporters are always the best at garlands.
The JD(S) supporters are so good that their garlanding feat made it into the record books. They garlanded their leader H.D. Kumaraswamy with huge garlands over 500 times in a period of 33 days during his ‘Pancharatna Yatra’!
HDK received the certificate of most garlanded man from the ‘Asia Book of Records’ and ‘India Book of Records’. We are curious if HDK and JD(S) will achieve another record this year — becoming the CM for a third time with less than one-third of the seats.
The most exciting garlands that HDK was adorned with was a metro rail coach design garland and another one of spanners and gardening tools! The JD(S) workers deserve an award for creativity in garland design ideas.
When a JD(S) worker was asked why they spend so much on garlands, he said, “It’s just to ensure our leader remembers us.” Well, then, what next? The leader’s favourite food, perhaps? They have already begun with the dessert as leaders have been adorned with Mysore Pak garland, so next could be a garland of mutton chops and hara-bhara kebab? Such a garland will make them unforgettable by their leader.
Congress leaders too have been receiving these mammoth garlands, but it’s far from what HDK is getting. Congress workers recently presented one made of Mysore Pak to Siddharamaiah and D.K. Shivakumar.
Speaking of food garlands, recently, I too was garlanded. It was made of jasmine, roses, almonds and cherries, the kind of cherries you see soaked in sugar-syrup-filled glass jars. It was a very affectionate gesture. But as they put it over my shoulder, I felt like I was carrying an anaconda, the gigantic snake. In the end, I was left sticky. The cherries had oozed their sugary slurp all over me, my neck, my arms and my face. I had to wash up before I turned into an ant farm.
Political supporters are fascinated with heavy garlands as their size and weight reflect their devotion to the leader — more the devotion, heavier the garland.
No wonder Nehru once, when in Bangalore, looking at the size of the garland his supporters adorned him with, said, “I can understand heavy garlands decorating walls, but no one except donkeys can carry this which I am having.”
Well, today’s garlands can’t even be carried by donkeys. Today we use cranes. Cranes are brought in to lift the garlands, and the leaders drive up to the centre of the garland for a photo session. If this continues, we are sure the Election Commission will also keep an eye on garland spending.
Garlands in India symbolise respect and reverence, but it is also used to drive home a point. In 2018, Rahul Gandhi was offered a beedi garland (which he, however, declined) to draw his attention to the problems of tobacco farmers.
In 1974, a politician in UP was given a garland of rotis to protest hunger in the Doon Valley. But perhaps the most dramatic garland was worn by S.S. Ahluwalia when he was in Congress in 1990 — he arrived at the Parliament with a garland of bullets!
In 1980, after Janata Party squandered away an opportunity to give good governance, in the ensuing elections, Indira Gandhi wore a garland of onions, travelled across the nation and asked people how they could trust a government that was not even competent enough to control the price of an essential vegetable like onion. Her crime of imposing an Emergency was forgiven for the sake of onion as people brought Congress back to power.
Then, we have a chappal garland to express our anger. For intellectuals, there is the sandalwood-scented garland and money garland for some politicians. The repulsive craze for currency garland has disappeared thanks to demonetisation, even though black money hasn’t.
Interestingly, the BJP supporters refrain from habitually presenting extravagant or interesting garlands. BJP leader A.H. Anand said, “Ours is a cadre-based party. We do not believe in such extravaganza.” That’s not true. BJP is extravagant with its campaign spend. They just don’t spend on garlands.
When I asked a JD(S) friend about this, he mocked the BJP, saying they don’t have the ‘Dil’. It may be so, but ultimately, we, the tax-payers, foot the bill. We, the tax-payers, get no ‘Dil’ from politicians. We only get the bill.
e-mail: [email protected]