ĎI never promised to build a bridge where no water existedí

Vyjayantimala portrays Shiva as Nataraja
Vyjayantimala portrays Shiva as Nataraja

Though I was in a very disturbed frame of mind, and no way mentally prepared to fight another election in í89, Rajiv Gandhi insisted that I must return to the electorate. "No you must contest. You are a sitting member and you are sure to win." I did it for him. My guiding spirit was not there any more, as I recalled Doctor saabís words, "Even if I have to sell my last shirt, your campaign would not falter." People never imagined that I could do so much of running around And this time my political opponent was a DMK contestant, Aladi Aruna.

And one thing I must state about Dr Kalaingar M Karunanidhi, and even MGR, is that they had enormous regard for me as an artiste. Karunanidhi would still tell me, "You are an artiste first...party and all that come in later." He has always been a very generous man and even in public extended that regard. Once during this campaign, both the convoys of Congress and DMK were passing at the same time. The Congressmen said the opponents might get rowdy and pelt stones along with slogans. They advised that we should take a diversion for both the convoys were converging at the same square.

I stuck it out saying, "Nothing doing, weíll not change our direction." As we crossed each other, Karunanidhi said, "Akka" (sister), and I said, "Anna" (brother). Oh God, it was really funny. We shook hands. It was so amicable that people were stunned seeing such cordiality between two opposing contestants. It would have been most inopportune for any other parties coming face to face like this during a campaign. There would have been complete ruckus. Every body was cheering, but some faces fell, as certain quarters must have anticipated serious trouble. But I did not expect any such thing; I had no enmity with anybody. And I never decried anybody in my public meetings, even though I was advised to speak against the rival contestant. That attitude was simply against my ethos. I said, "Why should I? He has great regard for me as an artiste and I would like to maintain that. Iíll not get personal and attack anyone below the belt."

ďA part of me and my existence was to be a better human being. It helped me strike a balance between my outer and inner self, and maintain peace in my heartĒ
ďA part of me and my existence was to be a better human being. It helped me strike a balance between my outer and inner self, and maintain peace in my heartĒ

But this second run was much, much harder. I was very short of funds and halfway through I really broke down. I said I could not do it because they were all demanding, like demons, "Okay, you donít give five lakh in that area, you will not get votes from those five thousand people... How about two thousand people in the other area...? You donít pay this much, youíll not get votes." They were fleecing left, right and centre. I was totally dependent on the Congress party. It was all about manpower, money power and muscle power. I raised my hands and told Rajiv Gandhi that I just canít. He again insisted, "No, you canít do that now and back out." He tried to arrange some more funds to be distributed to these people. And how many people took advantage of that. It was too tough a job for me to handle. It was nervewracking. The worst part was that I had to seek help of my relatives to take care of this distribution problem. Right from AIADMK and Congress, they were all lined up. My house was constantly crowded with no breathing space. It was like being blackmailed. It became a matter of life and death. I was so distressed any way. But God was kind enough to give me that inner strength. I really fought tooth and nail and just threw myself into it. I said, it happen, just let it happen."

I was very disturbed that money played a determining role in politics. For that matter, it starts right at the top. It is like buying and selling people now. Perhaps, thatís why they call it horse-trading. It was a very sad situation. I regained my composure, for I was determined. It was a wonder of wonders that I made it. On the day of counting, my prayers were answered. And the more the margin increased, I looked up and thanked him. I won with a thumping lead of 1.5 lakh votes. When asked to say a few words, I was choked with emotion.

Bonding... A Memoir by Vyjayantimala Bali

I never promised to build a bridge where no water existed. In dance, you slog to get a particular mudra right; in politics, if you work hard, you are bound to see the results influencing the lots of a large number of people. Thatís why today our people know that they are voting for and whom they are voting for. Theyíll keep nodding their heads to all the contestants, but in their mind they know it all. Even when they are swayed because of money and muscle power, they know the score, for a common manís needs are greater than his beliefs and loyalty. So he prioritises what he wants. But at least he chooses to exercise his franchise. You could not take them for a ride. I found them so aware and talking of law and their legal rights. They had amazing sensibility. In the beginning, it surprised me as even the women would raise their fist, "Weíll go to the Chief Minister. You come with us." No formal education, but remarkable IQ. Itís the elite in our country that has always been the most callous, uncaring, insensitive segment of our society.

Anyway, as for Rao, no way did I ever want to approach him again. And one fine day, suddenly I got a call from a journalist friend well known to me that my name was in the pipeline for Rajya Sabha. Then came the call from PMO. "Weíve been going through hell and heaven to reach you? Just please stay near the phone." After what all Rao had done, given those bad vibes, now he was trying to do me a good turn. I wondered, "What is he up to now? What does he want to convey?" I was very tense. I put the phone down. I had to go for an inauguration, but I was just glued to the phone. Now came a call from the ministry of parliamentary affairs, "Congratulations madam, your nomination has come through."

This was 1993, after three years of political hibernation. They asked me to come to Parliament House at 5 pm for the oath-taking ceremony, since it was the last day of that session, otherwise it would have got postponed to the next session. The Deputy Speaker of Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptulla, was there with five other members. It was really funny, for as I finished, I glanced at Rao but he didnít acknowledge my greeting. It baffled me that how did this man do it? God must have put that thought in his head, though all along he made me feel he had done a great favour.

Excerpted from Bonding... A Memoir by Vyjayantimala Bali with Jyoti Sabharwal. Stellar Publishers. Pages 409. Rs 695.