Whose May Day is it: Kaamdar or Naamdar?

Sushil Kutty

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ots have happened in the past three days. Major Rohit Shukla neutralised terrorist ‘Tiger Sameer’ in Kashmir Valley. Lalu Prasad fled an AIIMS ward to his Ranchi cell. Google put a ‘google doodle’ to mark International Labour Day. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ’15-minute dare’ and told him to bring it on.

‘Tiger’ Sameer made a fatal mistake. Thinking he was tiger-incarnate, he sent a video message to Major Rohit Shukla, challenging the officer to kill him ‘agar maa ka doodh piya hai to’. Cut to the quick, Major Shukla took a tote of the best in the Army canteen and stalked Tiger Sameer to death in 12 hours flat even as convict Lalu Prasad Yadav put up a stiff fight to stay sick at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

The best doctors of AIIMS thought otherwise. They diagnosed Lalu fit to return to his cell in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Jail. Lalu’s followers went on the rampage and pictures of a hale and hearty Lalu with Rahul Gandhi at AIIMS went viral. ‘What’s this happening?’ headlines scrolled the bottoms of television screens and made a hasty retreat, leaving in his wake notes of the folk song, ‘If you miss the train I am on/You will know that I am gone; You can hear the whistle blow/A hundred miles, a hundred miles’.

The song, which was made famous by such sublime singers as the shimmering voiced Joan Baez, goes on to speak of ‘not a shirt on my back’ and ‘not a penny to my name’. Lalu Yadav was just then, when he was fleeing Delhi, feeling like kindred spirit, with nothing but the kurta on his back and not a paisa in his ‘zeb’ pocket. But if they want, Lalu’s sons can buy Birsa Munda Jail cell, cell block and the last mile. The Lalu family, it is alleged, sits on a hard-earned Rs2,000 crore nidhi. That is cash not in the Bihar treasury and the Yadav folk have not stopped loving Lalu any less for that.

If that makes you shout, ‘Mayday, Mayday!’ don’t be shy. May 1, International Labour Day, which traces its origins to the Haymarket locality of Chicago of the 19th Century, and ‘hay’ is nothing but ‘fodder’. If Lalu is today consigned to a dark cell, that is because he made hay when the sun shone, without a single day’s hard work to uplift Bihar, unlike the hard-working farmer and the worker/labourer who took their consolation from celebrating a day assigned to them with none of the import of Mayday (Save Our Souls) lost on them.

May 1, 2018, was also the day that Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on his Karnataka election campaign. And he, too, spoke of International Labour Day. A typical politician, he latched on to every straw in the wind to catch votes! Talking of the hard-working, back-breaking labourer, Modi appropriated to himself the ‘Kaamdar’ tag, leaving for Rahul Gandhi the entitlement-loaded ‘Naamdar’ moniker.

And, because it happened to be the season for taking up challenges a la Major Rohit Shukla versus Tiger Sameer, PM Modi accepted Rahul Gandhi’s ’15-minute let’s debate’ dare, to see who comes out worse! ‘Bring it to me, bring it on home to me…’ the Prime Minister sang to Rahul at a rally in Chamrajnagar, Karnataka. But, if Joan Baez’s ‘500 Miles’ is a folk song, Sam Cooke’s ‘Bring it to me, Bring it on home to me’ is out and out a romantic number. Alas, Modi and Rahul have no love lost between them. Ask the working classes, and they will say, ‘Go for it Rahul, Go for it it’s not every day that you get the chance to make fodder of a rival. A ‘Naamdar vs Kaamdar’ debate sounds just the panacea that this country needs. Nostradamus could not have predicted better, prescribed right. ‘Naamdar’ is, of course, a euphemism for ‘dynasty’ and ‘Kaamdar’ another description of the ‘chaiwala’ who climbed into the unreserved railway bogey to sell the brew that the Queen in Buckingham Palace drinks, the best of Darjeeling with a ‘Wah Taj!’

Pitched against his ‘Namo-brand chai’, Modi believes nothing that Rahul or his mum Sonia Gandhi brews will taste good for the people of Karnataka. Taking on Rahul’s dare, Modi told Rahul to “Bring it on, choose your language, whatever lingo your tongue fancies even the one which is your mother’s mother tongue (Mama Mia!), and let it ring in Parliament, let’s talk about Karnataka. But no written notes, that’s a must, 15 minutes impromptu, let’s see who sits it out and who flees the people’s hall. Wah! What a scene it will be!”

So, there lies the log, deadweight. The 15-minute dare, a tree-trunk shorn off the bark. It is for Rahul Gandhi to pick up and, like the Commonwealth weightlifter in Gold Coast, go for gold!

(The writer is a senior journalist)