Utpal Borpujari

May 6, 2009

Khadi-inspired designer comes up with ‘Election Collection’

By Utpal Borpujari

There was a time when Khadi was the favourite fabric of politicians. But even as iconic fabric identified with Mahatma Gandhi has acquired a designer image in recent times, it has to a great extent fallen out of favour of politicians.


That is what Delhi-based Sunaina Suneja, a designer with a focus on Khadi, seeks to change, not only appealing the government to announce a “National Khadi Day” but also appealing to voters to wear Khadi on election day.


That is why Suneja has come up with the interestingly-titled “Election Collection” of her latest designer dresses made of Khadi, the idea being to remind people about the role the garment played in the national consciousness during the Independence struggle and also the responsibility of the present generation towards the nation.


“I work a lot with Khadi and thought elections could be an important occasion to promote this fabric that only India produces by connecting it to the concept of voting,” Suneja told Deccan Herald here.


In a pun on how various political parties fight “versus” one another during elections, she has named her latest collection “Politician Khadi vs Aam Aadmi Ka Khadi”. The collection would be showcased at a six-day exhibition beginning Friday in the capital.


“Both politicians and the common man wear khadi, and I thought why not have little fun on how parties contest against one another,” the Jawaharlal Nehru University alumni says on the theme.


Suneja has launched her collection keeping in mind the V-day in Delhi, which is May seven. But she adds, “Of course, one wants Khadi to go all over the world. It’s a very, very strong and beautiful fabric and India is the only country to produce it.”


On the trend of politicians now preferring other fabrics too, she says, “I think everybody needs to wear it. But you wear it because you believe in it. Khadi comes with a big message with it, and is identified with the life of Mahatma Gandhi.”


But was not Gandhi’s Khadi represented the most-simple lifestyle, while now Khadi is acquiring an upscale, “designer” label also? She has her answer ready to that, “We have evolved so much in the last 60-odd years as an independent country. This change in Khadi’s appearance is also part of that. If it is well-tailored, well-designed, it can be worn along with the best of garments anywhere in the world”


Suneja has also appealed to the government to declare a particular day of the year as the “National Khadi Day”, and is waiting for the response. “Working with and researching the making of Khadi is a very humbling task. Its production is such an awe-inspiring enterprise to even the uninitiated,” she says.


 Suneja’s earlier collections based on Khadi include “Shades of Indigo Part II”, which showcased the wonders of the dye. She has also participated in the “Afrikhadi” project launched in South Africa during 2004-2006.


(Published in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 06-05-2009)



April 30, 2009

Protégé fronts Diggy Raja’s fight against younger brother

By Utpal Borpujari in Rajgarh (MP)

Narain Singh Amlabe, according to his election affidavit, is one of the poorer candidates in these general elections. As against numerous crorepatis, he owns just 22 cows, four buffaloes and a bullock cart, apart from Rs 305 and Rs 1,307 that are in his two bank accounts.


But if he had the services of a talented dialogue writer in the mould of the Salim-Javed duo, he would have perhaps told Laxman Singh, his BJP rival, “Lekin mere paas aapka bhai hai.”


Indeed, Amlabe, a protégé of AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, is facing off against Lakshman Singh, the sitting BJP MP from Rajgarh Parliamentary seat in Madhya Pradesh.


But in reality he is just a front for “Diggy Raja” who is shedding a lot of sweat to ensure his younger brother’s defeat in this battle of royal intrigue being played in the palace of erstwhile princely state of Raghogarh.


And the experienced former MP chief minister knows it is not going to be an easy task, especially since Lakshman Singh is taking advantage of the current BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s ongoing public goodwill.


Naturally, Digvijay Singh has chosen not to be coy about opposing his brother unlike Arjun Singh, another leader with “royal” blood, who took an ambivalent stand on the issue of his daughter Veena Singh contesting as an independent against the party candidate in Sidhi.


He also has not chosen to be politically savvy like the Gwalior royal family, whose members avoid contesting or attacking one another even while espousing diametrically-opposing political ideologies.


Singh is actively campaigning for Amlabe throughout the constituency, describing him as his “brother”, making it quite apparent that Laxman Singh, who is seeking his sixth entry to Lok Sabha, no more enjoys that privilege in public despite sharing blood lines.


He even tells the crowds that his brother deserted him at a time when the going was bad – just after the Assembly election drubbing in 2003.


The two brothers fell out when Lakshman Singh, known as “Chote Raja” or “Chunnu Raja”, left Congress just weeks before the 2004 General Elections and entered the 14th Lok Sabha as a BJP MP. Four times before that, he had represented Congress in the Lower House.


With Digvijay Singh having declared in 2003, after Congress lost the Assembly elections in MP, that he would not contest any election for ten years, it is Amlabe who has become his mascot in the fight against the younger brother.


Being a high-profile AICC leader, Diggy Raja has taken it as a matter of personal prestige that he delivers his home constituency to the party, though going by the scheme of things, his brother continues to have the upper hand in the area this time round too.


Amlabe, in his effort to project himself as a true son of the soil, as against the BJP candidate from the palace of Raghogarh, is even using a bullock cart to campaign, pointing out that he is one among the people while his opponent flies around in a chopper.


Lakshman Singh’s campaign has been quite high profile as compared to his, with senior BJP leaders, including the chief minister, holding meetings at various places in the constituency. Digvijay Singh, meanwhile, is criss-crossing the constituency, having held nearly 100 public meetings till now.


However, quite interestingly, the feuding brothers still share the palace in Raghogarh, and some cynics claim that their fight is only for public consumption. That is a matter of conjecture though, and for the time being, it is all about which brother will pull in the maximum number of votes.

(Pulished in Deccan Herald, www.deccanherald.com, www.deccanheraldepaper.com, 30-04-2009)


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