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Shoeing: Why so common in politics?

By Aprajita Snatak

New Delhi, Apr 18 (UNI) One, two buckle my shoe, three four throw it for sure!

And the target is Neta.

True, shoe hurling incidents, though not pleasant in Indian politics, surely leave a mark whatsoever as some make headlines in the present and some become history.

On Thursday again, such an ugly incident was witnessed at BJP Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narsimha Rao’s press conference here when a Kanpur-based surgeon and a supposed Modi critic hurled a shoe at the BJP leader Mr Rao -- who certainly does not enjoy the status of P Chidambaram who faced the same ignominy in 2009.

Mr Rao and other BJP leaders were addressing the media on the decision to name Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as the party candidate from Bhopal when the man hurled the shoe.

The man, identified as Dr Shakti Bhargav, hurled his shoe from the left side at Mr Rao, who had party general secretary Bhupendra Yadav sitting on his left.

In India, to start with, the one such infamous incident dates back to April 16, 2009 when BJP worker Pavas Agrawal hurled a slipper at BJP leader L K Advani. Agrawal was arrested for interrogation.

Agrawal was a former district vice-president of BJP from Katni town in Madhya Pradesh.

Prior to that on April 7, 2009, journalist Jarnail Singh, who worked at a Hindi daily, hurled a shoe at the then Home Minister P Chidambaram.

The scribe said he was protesting against CBI's clean chit to senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler accused in 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. Singh was then freed by the police after a brief detention.

The shoe missed Chidambaram, who lent back to avoid it. He later smiled and asked security guards to take the reporter out of the room but was cautious and said "mildly mildly".

The then Home Minister said the CBI was not under his Ministry, and no ministry of the government had put any pressure on the CBI.

He said, "It is for the court to accept or reject or ask for further investigation by CBI. Let us wait for the court decision."

When Jarnail Singh persisted with his questions, Chidambaram told him "no arguments, you are using this forum".

Following this the journalist lobbed his shoe saying 'I protest'. Thrown underhand with little force, the shoe narrowly missed hitting Chidambaram. The action caused a flutter in the hall.

Chidambaram responded to the situation in a composed manner and said the journalist should be removed from the media conference hall.

He told reporters, "Let not the action of one emotional person hijack the entire press conference. I have answered his questions to the best of my ability."

Later, the scribe contested as Aam Aadmi Party candidate for the West Delhi Lok Sabha seat and lost but in 2015, won the Delhi assembly elections.

On April 26, 2009 the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, generally appreciated as an upright and soft-spoken politician even amid his opponents, also faced a shoe attack during the 2009 general election campaign in Ahmedabad.

A computer engineering student hurled a sneaker at him but it fell short of the dais from where he was addressing his first poll rally in Gujarat in April, 2009.

The incident left the Special Protection Group and other security personnel in a tizzy, however, Singh maintained his calm and asked the police not to register any case against the student identified as Hitesh Chauhan, a 21-year-old resident of Bapunagar.

The incident was condemned by the opposition BJP and was called an "unestablished way of protesting against democracy.

On June 6, 2011, an attempt was made by a journalist identified as Sunil Kumar, a scribe from Nav Sanchar Patrika of Rajasthan to flung a shoe at Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi.

It was reaction after Delhi Police ordered dismantle act against Yoga guru Baba Ramdev's agitation against corruption. The attacker posed as a scribe.

In the same year, on October 18, a man identified as Jitendra Pathak of Jalaun district hurled a chappal at Arvind Kejriwal, the then Aam Admi Party leader, after he alighted from a vehicle and was about to reach the dais at Jhulelal park.

The man, who was stated to be around 40 years, claimed that he was not associated with any party. However, unconfirmed TV reports said that the man had been a Congress Seva Dal functionary till 2009.

He was quickly overpowered and allegedly roughed up by volunteers before being rescued and detained by the police in a temple within the park vicinity. He has been taken under preventive custody. Team Anna core committee member Sanjay Singh told reporters that Kejriwal had "pardoned" his attacker.

Prashant Bhushan, a key member, was attacked by members of a right-wing group in his Supreme Court chambers on October 12, allegedly over his remarks advocating plebiscite in Kashmir. Though Kejriwal went ahead with his programme, telling people that if Jan Lokpal Bill was not passed in the Winter Session of Parliament then, social crusader Anna Hazare would come to Uttar Pradesh and appeal to people not to vote for Congress in the forthcoming assembly elections.

A shoe was also thrown at the then Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi during an election rally in Dehradun on January 23, 2012. One person was detained for throwing the shoe.

"If some people think that throwing a shoe will deter me and force me to run away, then they are mistaken. Rahul Gandhi will not run away," Mr Gandhi had said then.

On January 11, 2017,when the then Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, was addressing the people in Ratta Khera village of his constituency, a relative of Sikh preacher Amrik Singh Ajnala flung the shoe at him to agitate against 2016's burning of Sikh holy books and yelled at the speaker.

A similar incident happened to Badal in 2014 also.

International politics is also not aloof to such shameful incidents and it is said that shoeing received attention after Muntadhar-al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then US President George W Bush in a December 14, 2008 press conference in Baghdad, Iraq.

Since the al-Zaidi incident, similar incidents in Europe, North America, India, China, Hong Kong have been reported.


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