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Atal Behari Vajpayee and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had always had a very cordial relationship based on mutual respect. The latter, though, would not hesitate in injecting some mischief in his politics if he thought it would benefit him. His hand was believed in the campaign of calumny against then Prime Minister Vajpayee during the Assembly election campaign of 2003 which saw the end of Digvijaya Singh’s ten-year rule in Madhya Pradesh.

Digvijaya Singh was continuously talking that the BJP would resort to communal riots while the BJP leaders, Kailash Joshi and Uma Bharti included, were trying to confine their campaign to the Digvijaya Singh government’s failures in the past nine years and were feeling shy of using the language of Narendra Modi and Pravin Togadia.

Though communal flare up in Ganj Basoda was controlled by the police promptly, Digvijaya Singh had blown it up out of proportion with the refrain ‘didn’t I say’. While parroting ‘didn’t I say’, he continued to ignore the nitty-gritty of administration (his own expression). When the situation in Dhar and the adjoining areas took a turn for the worse, his administration was found wanting in preparedness. The result: he had the blood of some tribals and Muslims on his hands.

He had definitely succeeded, at least for the time being, in diverting the attention of the BJP from the people-oriented issues to the Mandir-Masjid problem and the cow. These are, however,  the issues, which the BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits know better how to exploit to their advantage. A circular issued by Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress President Meenakshi Natarajan had directed the Youth Congress units in the State to propagate the following slogans at every panchayat, ward, city and block: Atal Sarkar ki kya upalabdhi, go-maans niryat mein vriddhi (what is the achievement of Atal government, increase in beef export); go-maans ka kaun vyapari, Atal Behari Atal Behari (who is the trader in beef, Atal Behari Atal Behari); pahale Ram naam becha satta pai, ab gaiya teri vari aai (first they sold Ram’s name to acquire power, now is the turn of cow); go-Mata ki jaan Bachao, Atal ki Sarkar hatao ( save the life of cow and remove Atal government); gai hamari Mata hai, Atal Behari khata hai, videsh bhej khilwata hai (cow is our mother, Atal Behari eats it, and sends it to other countries for eating).

The copies of the circular were also endorsed to Mukul Vasnik (AICC general secretary in charge of Youth Congress), Digvijaya Singh, and Radhakishan Malaviya (PCC chief), among others.

Not unnaturally, the Prime Minister took umbrage at the slogans, directed against him, at the BJP parliamentary party meeting. Full 24 hours after the Prime Minister had given vent to his anger, Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh was denying any such absurdity having been committed by the Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress.    

Digvijaya Singh’s bluff was called by Uma Bharti the following morning when she distributed to pressmen photocopies of Natarajan’s circular. Cornered, ‘the radical-secular’ Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh then stated that the posters distributed by the Madhya Pradesh Youth Congress were not good. The enormous damage had already been done – not to Atal Behari Vajpayee but to Digvijaya Singh and his party. The Prime Minister, for his own reasons, chose Himachal Pradesh to declare a few days later his commitment to cow protection. He also took the opportunity to announce that he would prefer dying to eating beef. 

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‘Bismi Krishna’.

Do you make out anything of this? I could not.

So I asked the owner of the name what Bismi means. She said Bismi means ‘beginning of all good things’ and the word has been taken from the Quran. Krishna is from Gita. Incidentally, Krishna is also part of the name of her father – Sreemangalam Krishnan Nair.  

She said her father was a Congress leader, a rebel against all odd practices in her ‘very orthodox Hindu family’. As part of his rebellious nature, he named his eldest daughter Bismi Krishna. ‘My dad taught us not to get engaged with less important things in life, religion being one of them’, Bismi said. Her brother is named Shine Krishna (Christianity and Hinduism)

How did the other members of her ‘very orthodox Hindu family’ take to her unorthodox name? She said her grandmother never called her Bismi till her death; she used to call her Parvathi or Ruby (her nickname).

 

Her father had joined politics against the wishes of her grandparents. He was a good public speaker and used to write a column. At a very young age, he had become popular in the region. He had declared a war against ‘nasty rituals’ at home and her grandmother and other relatives could not come to terms with his behaviour; they never ‘let us mingle with the people of lower castes’. Grandfather was, however, ‘kind of ok’.

Bismi Krishna

Bismi said that people from different castes used to come to meet Dad at home. After they left, ‘my grandmother would sprinkle cow dung and wash the place. It hurt my Dad a lot’.

‘Once’, she recalled, ‘when my dad came home I was crying loud to sit with farmers and have food with them on a harvest day which was objected to by my relatives as well as by farmers themselves out of fear , Dad made me sit with them and asked them to feed me’. Gradually, the things became slightly, but only slightly, better as the other members of the family considered it futile to pick up fights with her father who was uncompromising about his beliefs.

Born in 1942 Krishnan Nair died in June 1986.  He was a member of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC). Bismi said his death was a mystery, officially it was hepatitis but rumours were there that he was poisoned.  Nothing, however, came out of the several inquiries held at the time. Her mother was in her early thirties.  ‘After the Dad’s death our life turned upside down, no visitors came (otherwise every morning we saw an ocean of people in front of our house even before we woke up in the morning).  My mom had a tough time after Dad’s death. She had submitted the resignation letter (as a Bank Manager) a few days before Dad’s death to take care of us and to adjust with Dad’s busy schedule but her senior officer hadn’t forwarded the letter to RBI luckily.’

Not only in the family, Bismi faced problems outside also. People thought she was born to parents of mixed religions. ‘Whenever I went to a bank, or some institution or anywhere, the people became curious to know my religious status,’ she said.

Hyper-active as a child, Bismi preferred to play the games like the boys. While her father supported her, the women in the family were worried whether she would get a good guy to share her life with. From the 6th standard she started playing sub junior nationals in ball badminton (which was more popular then than shuttle badminton), Prakash Padukone was the commentator in most of the national events where she played.  She won the ‘Star of India ‘award thrice. She said, ‘the saddest part was my Dad wasn’t alive to see me crowning the best player in India award.’

Because of her greeter interest in sports, she found it difficult to cope with the missed classes. Still, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Geology and B1 degree in German language. She also acquired a post-graduate degree in computer science. She got married at 18, even before she had completed her Bachelor’s degree. They have two kids with religious status of ‘No Caste, No Religion’.

Now 41, Bismi is running a small company (at Trivandrum) which deals with sports infrastructure, concept development and implementation and interior designing. She said her company was doing ‘considerably well’ till some time back; of late a lot of orders have been blocked because of her political background.

Bismi’s daughter, now 13, is also a badminton player. Read the rest of this entry »


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