A stuffy Bar Association room towards the end of the corridor in the Dewas district court is an unlikely setting for a philosophical discussion about life, truth and brotherhood. Indian folk singer Prahlad Tipanya quotes Kabir to drive home his point in a few words.
But the doting advocates in their black coats are not done yet. They expect and goad the 65-year-old Congress candidate from Dewas to sing the message for them. And he obliges, “Jara halke gaadi haanko mere Ram gaadi wale….”
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Tipanya, who sings Kabir bhajans in Malwi folk style, was the EC’s poster boy in Madhya Pradesh, appealing to voters to exercise their franchise. When his name started doing the rounds as a probable candidate, the EC asked the government to remove his posters.
But the folk singer continues to draw attention for his melodious voice and simple appeal. When he spoke and sang at a rally in Shujalpur, Congress president Rahul Gandhi shot a video and shared it on his social media accounts.
I shot this little video of Shri Prahlad Tipaniya, more familiarly known as Sahab Bandgi, our candidate in Devas, MP…
He uses folk songs to connect with the audience and his campaigning style is a treat to watch! pic.twitter.com/BgeMg4BLCm
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) May 11, 2019
“I was busy singing, I did not know he was filming,’’ the folk singer told The Indian Express in Shajapur on Wednesday. Tipanya, a former teacher, says he has been a social worker for nearly 40 years. “Now it’s another medium to help people,” he says. When asked about his competitor (BJP’s Mahendra Solanki, a former judge), he says, “When it is a competition, it does not matter whether one is a judge or something else, it remains a competition.’’ He says he does not know much about his rival but “maybe he had an overriding political ambition that made him resign as judge and contest’’.
Tipanya says he is influenced by Kabir and follows him in life. “Kabir transcends all religious boundaries. All communities seek the supreme power in different ways. All are made of the same five elements and blood,’’ he says.
Solanki, on the other hand, says he holds his opponent in high regard “but that does not mean he will win. He is not contesting as Kabirpanthi but as a candidate of a party that does not believe in nationalist ideology.”
Manoj Saxena, an advocate in Shajapur, is certain of Tipanya’s victory. “There are three classes of people. The first is an intellectual who thinks for the Congress, the second is driven by propaganda on TV, and the third is the needy people. The first and third will vote for the Congress because it appeals to the first group and the promise of Rs 72,000 per year (NYAY) appeals to the third group,’’ he says, admitting that people voted differently in 2014 because of the Modi wave.
But Sunderlal Sharma of Vijayaganj Mandi village, about 35 km from Dewas, says the Congress stands no chance because the BJP’s writ runs in the area. He dismisses Tipanya as a “tantrik”.