Himanshu Vyas, right, filing his nomination papers for the Gujarat state assembly elections from the Wadhvan constituency (Photo: His Facebook page)
It is now official. My childhood friend Himanshu Vyas has finally filed his nomination papers to contest Gujarat’s upcoming state assembly elections from Wadhvan, constituency number 62 as a candidate of the Congress Party.
For the next two weeks his life will be roses and marigolds, gladhanding and hand waving, speechifying and promising, all this while constantly smiling. Elections are nothing if they are not about exuding perpetual warmth for one’s constituents. Voters do not like surly candidates. Luckily for them, Himanshu is by his very disposition a correct mixture of amiability and authority.
The voting for Himanshu’s constituency along with many others is scheduled for December 13 and the results of all the state elections are expected on December 20. Even after discounting the fact that all campaigns look as if they are headed for a landslide victory, Himanshu stands a fairly good chance of winning this one.
There is something in the way he moves through the constricted lanes of Wadhvan and Surendranagar and surrounding villages that portends an easy victory. Here is what I wrote about him on April 21, 2012: “There is certain body type that exudes authority and power without having either. Himanshu has that body type, particularly in the context of Indian politics. I have frequently joked that Himanshu’s demeanor is such that he always seems to be on the verge of issuing an extraordinary proclamation. It is necessary for anyone in public life to be able to exude that sense of owning the space one is in.” I have seen the followers of Himanshu’s opponents belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) petitioning him for all kinds of help.
Working hours are generally long for any politician but they are particularly punishing during campaigning. The next two weeks will not let Himanshu and those around him sleep more than perhaps two-three hours. The whole choreography of daily life changes dramatically. One has no clue who is carrying and doing what for you.
Your sharply starched churidar-kurta materialize on your bed every morning, your shoes get neatly parked near your bed, your mobile calls get answered by your closest aides, your garlands get plucked from your hands automatically, juice and water bottles rise up to your mouth from different directions and your hair gets combed by someone else’s hands. In short, you are no longer in control of your life. Except sleep and nature’s calls there is almost nothing that you have to do on your own if you are a candidate for a major election in India. Sometimes I suspect that there are aides who might even volunteer to answer nature’s calls on your behalf. So that leaves only sleep.
Knowing Himanshu as well as I do, I know that he will lay out his vision for his constituency in an idiom that his large semi-urban and rural constituents can quickly grasp. While he is capable of great rhetorical flourishes, Himanshu consciously stays away from bombarding his audience with those. His message is always specific and immediately relevant to those he is addressing. It is a performing art that Himanshu has been familiar with since his childhood. I have never seen him pander. He goes to each meeting very well briefed on the constituents’ specific needs and difficulties and makes sure what he promises is delivered.
It is adrenalin time for Himanshu for the next two weeks but I have rarely seen him go off it anyway.