Weapons of Class Destruction
By Sandeep Sahu
The humble egg is in news like never before. Whenever it has been in the news in the past, it has invariably been for its non-availability or exorbitant rate because trucks laden with the stuff were held up on their way from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh due to a strike, a public demonstration or a natural calamity. Occasionally, it has also been in news because a truck laden with egg met with an accident and people, as is their wont, carried crates of them home.
But this time, it is in the news for an entirely different reason: it has become the latest – and by all indications, the most potent – weapon of political battle in Odisha. After Food & Supplies minister Sanjay Dasburma and Law minister Arun Sahoo (twice each) and Health minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak (once) faced what has now come to be known as ‘egg-attack’ in the last few days, ministers in the BJD government have given the distinct impression that they are more scared of the white, oval shaped and highly brittle thing than bullets from an AK-47!
Chastened by two back-to-back ‘egg-attacks’ in two days, Dasburma allegedly preferred a boat ride to the fraught-with-risk travel by road on a vehicle to reach Puri for a function. Others have reportedly opted for the relative safety of night travel to make sure the Congress brigade with their new-found missiles can’t reach them. Still others have allegedly kept their tour programmes a closely-guarded secret or changed them at the last minute to be one step ahead in this cat-and-mouse game!
But things went to ridiculous lengths the other day at an event in Jayadev Bhavan in Bhubaneswar where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the first victim of the ‘egg-attack’, was the star attraction. An hour into the meeting and an hour or so before the Chief Minister’s scheduled arrival, the organizers dropped a bombshell asking everyone in the audience to vacate the auditorium and allow them to be frisked by the policemen swarming all over the place. Among those who had to leave the hall in a huff were the Chairman of the Council of Higher Secondary Education (CHSE) and the Registrar of Utkal University. (This was certainly as good an example of ‘excellence in higher education’, the theme of the seminar, as any!).
Not content with checking the bags and other belongings of dumbstruck members of the audience, including women, the cops scoured every square inch of the auditorium for the elusive egg, menacing looking sniffer dogs in tow. The guests were understandably furious, but there was little they could do other than wait for the double-check (they had all been already checked once) to get over before getting in again. After all, it was the Chief Minister, no less! (At this rate, organisers of such events will think not twice, but several times before inviting the Chief Minister in future!)
The whole security bandobast around the Chief Minister, obtrusive at the best of times, has reportedly undergone a complete overhaul to ensure that unlike two of his ministerial colleagues, he does not become the victim of an egg-missile attack a second time. A leading Odia daily reported that there will now be escort vehicles on either side of the Chief Minister’s car which, besides providing cover from ‘fire’, would have policemen with clubs to swat away potential and actual mischief mongers. (Such is the dread of the missiles that a company that offers to build an ‘egg-proof’ car, on the lines of a bullet-proof car, for the CM can virtually ask for the moon!)
Reports of egg sale being prohibited several hours before the arrival of visiting ministers have been trickling in from the interiors. Given the rate at which egg attacks have proliferated, a complete ban on the poor man’s non-veg item does not look an entirely fanciful idea. On the other side, the Congress brigade needs to set up whole hatcheries (even if illegal) to ensure an unending supply of ammunition to keep the war going!
More interesting than the attacks themselves is the debate over whether or not the humble egg is a legitimate weapon in democratic warfare. Even as the entire state leadership of the Congress has disowned it dubbing it ‘against the party culture’, the erudite Jairam Ramesh found nothing wrong with this form of protest.
Meanwhile, buoyed by the consternation it has caused in ministerial ranks, the Youth and Students’ Congress, which stumbled on this wonderful weapon during the Chief Minister’s first visit to the erstwhile Congress bastion of Utkal University last year, have vowed to take the battle (pretty one-sided so far) to the whole state. (One now understands why there were no ministers available to inaugurate the ramp overbridge at Jharsuguda railway station, forcing people to do the honours themselves on Thursday!)
Come to think of it. The most brittle of objects has managed to do what years of demonstrations on the streets and ranting inside the Assembly by the Opposition could not do: break the morale and confidence of the ruling class despite its steamrolling majority. It has truly emerged a Weapon of Class Destruction!
(Sandeep Sahu is the Editorial Director, OTV)