When Dev Anand Plunged Into Politics
Ali Peter John
Had a time when the country is reeling under many number of protests staged in different parts of the country against the CAA, NRC and NPR, people of my generation would only be tempted to go back to the time when Mrs. Indira Gandhi had declared the Emergency. All basic rights were suspended. All major political leaders had who she felt were her opponents and against her rising son, Sanjay Gandhi, were thrown into prisons or placed under house arrest and every voice that was raised was silenced in the most ruthless manner. There was a gag on the entire media and there were very few who could protest, like Ramnath Goenka, founder of The Indian Express, who had to go through severe hardships because of his unbending stand against her and her son and all her cronies. The country was literally living in and breathing fear.
Like there are asking now about why the top stars of the film industry are silent and are more interested in their safety zones than in sticking their heads out, there were questions asked about the leading stars of those dark times. But fear had gripped them all.
It was in this kind of her scary atmosphere that Dev Anand, the eternal romantic, turned out to be a real rabble and raised his voice in revolt against Mrs. Gandhi and her dictatorial regime. He together with his fierier the elder brother, Vijay Anand addressed a public meeting at Juhu Chowpatty and openly challenged Mrs. Gandhi to harass them. They also attacked the ruling dispensation for its hard-hitting rules which trampled on the basic human rights of all Indians.
Dev Anand was encouraged by the response he received and decided to form a political party and he did and called the party the National Party, which he announced before the press at a five star hotel. He received the support of film personality like V Shanaram, Shatrughan Sinha, G.P. Sippy and many others from every state, besides the thousands of people who attended the first public meeting. He addressed at the Shivaji Park in Bombay which got front page coverage in every newspaper and literally shook up all the political parties and leaders in the country. He received several calls from some of the leading politicians asking him not to enter the dirty arena of politics as he was not cut out for it. Some even told him that politics was not for decent and educated people like him, but he continued and even formed a manifesto for his Party.
Lok Sabha from anywhere in India and they would support him. But Dev told them that he was interested in being a part of the cloud in Parliament and raise his hand and be counted as a number. He said he would go to Parliament only if he was assured that his voice would be heard. He did not like offending anyone but indirect ways walk out against all those film celebrities who got nominated or elected to Parliament and never said a word during their entire tenure.
During the last two decades of his life, he tried his best to keep away from politics, but his past always caught up with him in some way or the other. His films were often victimized by the censors, but he fought his way out. There were attempts made to get him involved in income tax raids but these attempts too failed. His friendship with politicians like V K Krishna Menon and Rajni Patel were also held against him at times, but nothing could be done to him.
The last time some forces of politics tried a rare kind of game with him. Amitabh Bachchan had just got into politics after winning the Lok Sabha seat from Allahabad and created some kind of history and Dev was still known as the face and voice of the opposition. In the meeting within two titans of two different generations was called at 7.30 in the morning at the Sun-N-Sand hotel and since both were sticklers for time, the meeting which was attended by almost anyone who was any one in the media had packed the hall expecting fireworks. However , all their expectations were met with utter disappointment as the two masters had diplomacy kept praising each other and did not utter a word about politics or politicians. It was perhaps the first time that some of the toughest political journalists had to go back without getting any good coffee for their newspapers.
Dev however kept in touch with politics of the country and different parts of the world by finding time to read at least toward 6 newspapers in a day and never went to be before listening to the last bulletin on the BBC.
Would Dev Anand have made a better politician than the actor he was? No one asked him that question, not even me who had spent some of the best days and even nights talking about life and various aspects about life with him.
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