Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Kumar Vishwas has all but seven cheesy rhymes listed on http://www.poemhunter.com, a website of global poetry — Main to jhonka hun hava ka uda le jaonga, jaagti rehna tujhe tujhse chura le jaonga (I am a draught of air, I will take you away. Remain awake, I will steal you from yourself). But he occupies the 26th slot among top 500 poets, higher than Kabir and Mirza Ghalib and many others, on the website. His CV informs about his birth in a “Gaur Brahmin family” (apparently the highest sub-caste of Brahmins in Uttar Pradesh), the only poet in the list to showcase his caste.
The lone Indian above him on the list is Rabindranath Tagore. Vishwas’s status, the website editors say, is determined by the hits his pages get. His website, Kumarvishwas.in, has other gems. “Main tujhse door kaise hoon, tu mujhse door kaisi hai; Ye tera dil samajhta hai, ya mera dil samajhta hai. Not something that needs translation for Bollywood song buffs. His site proclaims him as a “new-age poet, credited with reviving Hindi poetry among young generation”.
It appears that as the masses adored a political party, they catapulted its leader, a pedestrian peddler of rhymes, into the orbit of the greatest bards. Vishwas is not the first politician to take to poetry. His courage to foist verses on readers follows a lineage of illustrious predecessors. Former education minister Kapil Sibal believed he composed poetry as he texted and got the SMS published as a collection of poems. The Urdu poet who inhabited his Chandni Chowk constituency in the last century must have angrily considered the Right to Recall. The minister insisted poetry for him was a meditation on life. He confirmed it by celebrating his first month on Twitter with what he wanted to be called a poem: “30 days, 84 tweets/ They say I’ve reached over 2cr peeps/ As much I am on this medium sold/I gather all that twitters isn’t gold/ Here I gather plenty insights/from politics to basic rights.”
The Pokhran-II king, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, recited with valour paralleled only by Rajput emperors; Bofors crusader VP Singh did write some reasonable verses but once also cheekily compared a woman with a kettle. All of them found their muse, and publishers, only when they were in the office. The leap of AAP’s resident poet’s popularity corresponds with his party’s surge. That’s how politics trumps poetics.
But why only politicians as poets? Why so few novelists or story writers? First, the failings of language and emotion get exposed in fiction. Poetry lends no leniency either, but since it can be performed, staged and continued…