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Khadi back in fashion, `Gandhi topi' in oblivion

LUCKNOW, MARCH 26. The onset of the poll season has brought the humble khadi back in fashion with politicians of all hues and colours flocking to shops stocking khadi kurta-pyjamas in the State Capital.

The famous Gandhi `topi', though, has a few takers, shopkeepers admit.

Big and small shops here reported hike in sales of all khadi wares, except the Gandhi topi, ever since polls were announced for the 14th Lok Sabha.

Haider Ali Ansari, president, Bharat Bunkar Sewa Samiti, said that the sale of khadi apparels remains static the year round but increases during elections.

Ansari, who runs a shop at the Darulshafa Legislators' Residence here, claimed there was an increase of almost 300 per cent in the sale of khadi kurta-pyjamas.

"Not only khadi, well-to-do political leaders even opt for silk kurta-pyjamas for themselves and their supporters," he added.

It is not just the typical kurta-pyjamas, but khadi in all its variations, including trousers, safari suits, shirts and sari for women, have suddenly caught the fancy of our `khadi brigade'.

Taking cue from political personalities, even apolitical mortals, including scribes, have also started donning the khadi with aplomb.

Raj Kumar Pandey, supporter of a national party from Basti, bought four pairs of khadi kurta-pyjamas so that during hectic poll days there is no urgency of washing them to wear a crisp pair each day.

"Khadi gets you instant respect from layman as well as political peers and colleagues," confided a middle-level leader of a party.

Since Lucknow is the State Capital with all parties having State headquarters, any political figure worth his salt necessarily converges here with supporters.

"Political leaders buy khadi apparels and other publicity material as per their needs before they are off to their respective constituencies for canvassing and poll preparations," Ansari added.

Harihar Tiwari, manager of Gandhi Ashram near the Vidhan Bhawan here, said since the Ashram has an annual discount season between October 2 and January 30 (coinciding with Mahatma Gandhi's birth and death anniversaries), small-time cloth traders and political leaders buy khadi in bulk during this time.

"Sales have picked up and as the final lists of candidates are announced by various parties, it is expected to rise further, he added.

Had this been Assembly elections, sales would have been much higher, averred Tiwari.

However, sales figures of the `Gandhi topi' remain as dismal as ever in the last decade or so.

Since 1989, political leaders seemed to have forgotten the `Gandhi topi'. Now there are hardly any takers of the cap, which was once considered the ultimate symbol of a nationalist leader, observed Ansari.

Even Congress, which claims to have bequeathed the Gandhian principles and values in polity has shunned the Gandhi cap.

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) spokesman Akhilesh Pratap Singh said during the freedom struggle the cap symbolised the `Swadeshi' movement and a peaceful struggle against the British.

He said Gandhiji had given a call to adopt khadi, since it was indigenous wear against the imported fabric at that time.

"Today we are a sovereign state and times have changed. Although, the Gandhi topi is not so popular among the new generation of the Congress torch bearers, political leaders will stick to khadi for generations to come," he claimed. -- UNI

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