The politician who claims to be toiling non-stop for the masses is such a cliché that even the village idiot doesn’t swallow it these days. And so, when it happens for real, it inspires a willing suspension of belief. But what is happening on the street corners of poll-bound Telangana is real. TRS candidate S Madhusudana Chary is shaving customers in a barbershop. Telangana Youth Congress president Anil Kumar Yadav has helped make dosas at a street stall. Others are pouring concrete, shovelling sand, bathing people, ironing clothes and helping the neighbourhood tailor.
It remains to be seen if such direct, altruistic contact with the masses survives if these candidates come to power. But it is vocational training nevertheless. If Chary, with his barbershop skills, is ever awarded the finance portfolio, he will bring to it considerable insight about Bretton Woods-style haircuts. The gentlemen who have ventured into the arts of concrete and sand will have insider information of the building trade and sand mafias. Those who made dosas should be great at cooking up stuff, a core competency in politics. And those who apprenticed with a tailor just have it all stitched up.
Alas, the present state of politics has made cynics of us all. The candidates in Telangana are working the crowds in the time-honoured tradition of politics. But instead of squeezing flesh, they are putting a willing hand to the shovel. It is a much healthier outreach than politicians engaging in fictitious public works, or the stratagem of seeking donations on an app or publishing donor lists on a website, which are really brand loyalty exercises rather than outreach. But then again, a politician in a barbershop is a stock image from American gangster movies. There, cynicism again! The times conspire with our worst nature.