The first time, the PRODIGAL SHOE entered in the arena of politics was at the United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 1960. On that date, the head of the Filipino delegation Lorenzo Sumulong enraged the then Prime Minister of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Nikita Khrushchev by referring “the peoples of Eastern Europe and elsewhere which have been deprived of the free exercise of their civil and political rights and which have been swallowed up, so to speak, by the Soviet Union”.
Upon hearing this, Khrushchev demanded the Assembly President Frederick Boland call Sumulong to order. Khrushchev pounded his fists on his desk in protest as Sumulong continued to speak and at one point picked up his shoe and banged the desk with it. After banging the shoe he went to the rostrum to protest and brushed Sumulong aside. He branded him “a jerk, a stooge, and a lackey”, and a “toady of American Imperialism.” The chaotic scene finally ended when Assembly president Boland declared the meeting adjourned and slammed his gavel down so hard he broke it, sending the head flying. This incident was reported at the time by the news papers and media around the globe.
However, the most important pair of shoes that made the real history was the one thrown on During a December 14, 2008, at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq by Iraqi journalist Muntazar al-Zaidi. He threw both of his shoes at then-United States President George W. Bush.
“This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog,” yelled al-Zaidi in Arabic as he threw his first shoe towards Bush. And when he shot the other shoe he cried, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq,”
President Bush demonstrated the quick reflexes and ducked twice to avoid being hit by the shoes. Prime Minister Maliki also attempted to catch one of the shoes to protect Bush. Al-Zaidi was pulled to the floor by another journalist, before being grabbed. Soon after President Bush said some Iraqi reporters had apologized to him. “Thanks for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t bother me.” Bush said, “If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe that he threw.”
The former Prime Minister Sardar Manmohan Singh was a receiving end of a shoe missile in April 2009 while he was addressing a rally in Ahmedabad. The shoe failed to reach the target. It was thrown by an engineering student. It was found that he had done only as a publicity stunt. He had no record of any political affiliations.
In the same year, Shri L K Advani was focus of attention of a former BJP office bearer who hurled a wooden slipper at him. The attacker was identified as Pawas Agarwal. He claimed that Advani was a ‘fake Iron Man’ and did not deserve to be the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. On April 9, 2016, the Delhi chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was a shoe target while he was discussing about odd-even scheme of Car Numbers.The shoe thrower Ved Prakash Sharma was part of a breakaway faction of the AAM.
And today, a shoe was hurled at Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh during his party’s road show. Rahul Gandhi is in Uttar Pradesh campaigning for Congress party for the upcoming elections in the state. Rahul Gandhi has been organising ‘Khat Sabha’ in different parts of the state in order to interact with farmers and discuss their problems. The man who threw shoe at Gandhi has been taken into custody.
There has always been some kind of relationship between politicians and shoes. The foot wear is an intense object to express a political stand. I think the shoe will play a vital role in shaping the contours of politics in times to come.
By Naim Naqvi
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