In election time, the Amby still rules

November 19th, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) As they battle for power in Delhi’s assembly elections, a Mercedes Benz, a Toyota Prado or a Scorpio SUV have become common sights. But for many candidates, the good old Ambassador still remains a favourite.There are many like Vijay Jolly — a rising star of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who is taking on Delhi’s Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in the very heart of the city — who enjoy driving their luxury cars.

“I have a Mercedes Benz E class, a Mahindra Scorpio, a Honda Civic, a Hyundai Santro and a Maruti Van,” the businessman-politician rattled off the names of the cars he owns.

Like him, Mahabal Mishra of the Congress party drives a Toyota Prado. His colleagues Subhash Chopra and Kiran Walia drive sedans — Chopra owns a Skoda Octavia and Walia an Opel Astra.

But while luxury cars hold their own place of pride, it’s the old and sturdy Ambassador car that most politicians list as their all time favourite - at least when it comes to work.

Dharam Deo Solanki of the BJP has been driving an Ambassador for 30 long years.

“I replace my old Ambassador with a new one every five-six years. But it is always the same car,” Solanki said, confessing his fetish for the Amby, as the car is popularly called.

Karan Singh Tanwar of the BJP is also fond of the Ambassador - and a white one at that. According to him, no other car can beat the worth of an Ambassador with the red beacon - the ultimate symbol of power.

“A white Ambassador with a red beacon is worth more than those luxury sedans,” Tanwar said.

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit does not own a car but travels in the white Ambassador provided to her in her official capacity.

The Indian politician’s love affair with the Ambassador began decades ago when it ruled the Indian streets - along with the Fiat. But unlike the Fiat, the Ambassador enjoyed government patronage.

In the process, it became the de facto official car. Down from the prime minister, everyone who mattered in the administration had one. It did not take long for it to be associated with power - and prestige.

Then came the Maruti, posing the first serious challenge to the Ambassador. And as the economy opened up in the 1990s, the Ambassador gave way to other cars even in the government.

But it still retains much of its old time charm - and so does, to some extent, the Fiat.

Prem Singh of the Congress - who has created a record by winning 10 consecutive elections from the same constituency - is one who cannot get over his 1970 model Fiat car.

“This car has a special meaning for me. It is sort of lucky for me. I drove our former prime minister Indira Gandhi as well as Babu Jagjivan Ram in this very car,” Prem Singh told IANS.

As is obvious, the Fiat is his favourite, although he owns a host of other cars, including a Tata Innova and a Honda CRV.

Another candidate in Delhi who owns a fleet of cars is Kanwar Singh Tanwar of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). But come election and he ditches them all to ride the humble bicycle - to reach out to those who live in the many lanes that are too narrow for his luxury cars.

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