Last Sunday, October 11, prime minister Narendra Modi said Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal is India’s Nelson Mandela. If you’ve fallen off your chair, or your laptop/tablet has fallen out of your hand, please recover quick. It’s not so far-fetched, especially in election season (although for PM Modi it’s always election season). So let us count the similarities between Mandela and Badal: both started their political career in their early twenties. Nelson Mandela’s wife (at the time) was steeped in controversy: she was accused of kidnapping and murder; Badal’s family is no stranger to controversy either, with accusations of serious corruption and disproportionate assets. And, of course – jail.
At an event celebrating Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan’s 113th birth anniversary, Modi said “Badal Sahab is sitting here…he is the Nelson Mandela of India. He has spent so many years in prison & that too for political reasons.”
Keeping in mind Modi ji has to make many more speeches, we have a few suggestions. India, it turns out, has a lot of its own versions of famous historical figures.
Asaduddin Owaisi is India’s Martin Luther King Jr.
Just like Luther, Owaisi has steadfastly and unrelentingly been standing for the rights of the marginalised. Both are seen as radicals. Luther once said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Owaisi didn’t say anything of the sort but we are guessing he believes exactly that. On Yakub Memon’s sentencing he said, “I will take it to my grave that Yakub was involved but he did not deserve capital punishment.” Both Owaisi and King are detested by the hardliners on the other side of the political divide, so obviously same-same.
Kishenji (Mallojula Koteswara Rao) is independent India’s Oliver Cromwell.
He too fought for the ideal: Power to the people. Both took up arms against the ruling authority to defend their versions of democracy. Even after their deaths, they continue to inspire others to act in the name of ideology. Both are seen as disrupting and rejecting present day structures of governance and both reveled in violence. So, same-same.
Somnath Bharti is India’s Winston Churchill
This is the most similar for sure. Churchill was known for his take on the natives and those with a darker skin colour. Bharti has proven himself to reflect the same attitude with his wanting to reform the uncivilsed. Also Churchill loved his pet dog Rufus (a miniature poodle) so much that when Rufus was killed by a car, a replacement was arranged and given the name Rufus 2. Bharti and his dog Don’s love is the stuff of legends, enough to make his wife jealous (Bharti’s, we mean). Woof-woof, same-same.
Chetan Bhagat is India’s George Orwell.
He too has written polemic work, especially during his post-Two States era. Both writers leave a lasting impression on their readers. Just like Orwell, Bhagat enjoys an un-questionable cult following. Both wrote books and columns in newspapers. Orwell was also a journalist and Bhagat regularly writes for India’s leading daily The Times of India and dear god! the similarities continue; The Times ranked Orwell at number 2 in the list of the 50 greatest British writers and amazingly enough Chetan Bhagat was described as the X factor on Jhalak Dikhla Ja by Ekta Kapoor. So much same-same that I think Bhagat has Orwell’s atma in him.
Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga is independent India’s Bhagat Singh.
Both think of themselves as revolutionaries. Both have pointy mustaches although Bhagat Singh’s pointed upwards and Bagga’s points to the ground (because he is grounded). If these similarities don’t cut it for you, both are seen as ultimate patriots by the most patriotic patriots in the land of patriots. Same-same no?
Kumar Vishwas is India’s Jimmy Carter.
Just like Carter, Vishwas knows his poetry. And like Carter, Vishwas fancies himself as a writer. And the comparison doesn’t end there. Just as Carter has been known to criticise Obama for his policies, Kumar Vishwas never misses a chance to point fingers at the BJP. Of course the fact that Vishwas is a political nobody and Carter is one of the most well-known American Presidents will only convince Modi that Vishwas is indeed India’s very own Carter. Carter believes America’s political system is plagued by corruption. Now where have we heard that before? Same-same for sure then.
Azim Premji is India’s Bill Gates.
Not because they both are billionaire-geniuses. Not even because they are known for their philanthropic work. If you were thinking that it has to do with the fact that they both are on the same Forbes list of richest people in the world you couldn’t be more wrong. Then it must be because they are both innovators in the field of technology? No sir, not even close! Those parameters are way too serious for Modi to even consider. Premji is India’s Gates only and only because, just like Gates, he too was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Same-same, right?
So it’s not just #YOBadalSoMandela, there are others too. Let us know if you think there are others in India who we can hold up to the world as exemplifications of the world’s finest.