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Ticket to ride - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
26 November 1996

Title : Ticket to ride
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : November 26, 1996

Ram Vilas Paswan's recent public relations shindig in
Delhi has had only one useful result: it has disabused
the public of yet another of its cherished
misapprehensions. There exists a sort of nebulous belief
that shameless appropriation of the state machinery had
gone out of style after the heyday of the Congress. Now,
Paswan assures the nation that he will never let this
hallowed tradition sink into oblivion.

The financial and administrative irregularities that have
become the most newsworthy points of his Dalit meet are
as had as anything seen in Indira Gandhi's era. To start
with, Paswan tried to commandeer three express trains and
one mail train to bring in people to root for him. Then
he slashed ticket prices by half for the faithful. And he
served up refreshments courtesy the Northern Railway
Catering Service. He behaved more like a two-bit tour
operator turning to sharp practice in order to drum up
business than a Minister for Railways who is accountable
to the people. The courts have protocols already in place
to deal with such people. Earlier this month, the Supreme
Court assured Sheila Kaul that it was only putting a
figure to her fine - the precedent for the legal process
involved had already been set up in the case of the State
vs Satish Sharma. Now, perhaps the courts ought to apply
that same process to Paswan and at least recover the
ticket money that has been diverted from the Railway's

But especially disturbing is the purpose of this rally.
Usually, a leader holds mass political meetings to
reassure his constituents that they have not been
forgotten and that they still constitute a political
force. In this case, it was Paswan reassuring Paswan that
he has not been forgotten, in a Government whose public
faces are worn by other people. For this extremely
limited purpose, he has tried to drive the Northern
Railways into chaos and inconvenience thousands of
legitimate travellers. That this was entirely a self-
seeking venture is beyond all reasonable doubt because
Paswan lost interest in the rally the moment it was over,
leaving his flock to find their own way home, raising
Cain all the way. While they overran the Purshottam
Express to Puri, holding up the train into the wee hours,
while they and legitimate passengers took it in turns to
threaten suicide on the tracks, Paswan slept the sleep of
the just. Finally, another irregularity had to be
committed before the train could get going: an unpaid -
for sleeper coach was tacked on. No one can reasonably
suggest that rallies be done away with. they are a fact
of Indian political life. But it ought to be remembered
that rallies here are carefully organised, not voluntary
events like the march on the Washington Monument. This
being so, they ought to be organised well, both fiscally
and administratively. And the leaders who convene them
ought to be made to foot the bill if they use the

administrative machinery, just as Amitabh Bachahan is
having to pay for security arrangements at Bangalore.

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