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The Curious Cases Of Shoe-Throwing In Indian Elections

Posted on April 10, 2014 in Politics

By Saanya Gulati: 

With elections underway in some constituencies, campaigning in full swing in others, drama and excitement is inevitable. So, with the sudden outburst over the egging, inking, and slapping of Arvind Kejriwal, let us remember that this phenomenon is not new to Indian politics, especially during elections.

shoe throwing

In fact the antics of slapping and shoe throwing is popular even in politics overseas. Remember the angry Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at George Bush in 2008? Well, that’s where it all started. Ever since, politics has witnessed a barrage of such episodes. In fact, 2009 saw at least five shoe attacks against politicians across the world! This made for some hilarious media coverage and not to mention, great entertainment.

Here is a list of politicians who served as public punching bags in the past few years.

1. Rahul Gandhi
Even our very own Shehzada has not been spared the shoe. This incident occurred at a rally in Dehradun in 2012. In typical Rahul Baba style, his response was: “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

And here we thought third person references were reserved for Times Now!

2. P. Chidambaram
Inspired by the Bush incident, this one followed a few months after, at a press conference in Delhi.

Unlike most shoe-throwers who have poor aim, this one gets quite close. But the footage is worth watching just for Chidambaram’s unfazed expression. Not only does he gesture to those in the crowd to sit down, but he continues his speech as though nothing out of the ordinary just happened!

In an interesting twist of events, the journalist-cum-shoe attacker, Jarnail Singh, is also the Aam Aadmi Party candidate for West Delhi this election! Perhaps someone told him that: “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw shoes”

3. Naveen Jindal
The chairman of Jindal Steel, and Member of Parliament (MP) from Kurukshetra was addressing an election rally in the constituency, where a retired school principal in the audience hurled a shoe at him.

Some accounts say that the attacker was protesting the policies of the Congress, while others report that it was personal revenge against the MP for not getting his son a job in Kurukshetra University. Was no one worried about the fact that this man was once a school principal? Truly leading by example!

4. L.K. Advani
BJP old-timer, L.K. Advani, joint the shoe-victim society in April 2009, also known as peak shoe-throwing season, while addressing a rally in the Katni district of Madhya Pradesh

There are two important facts about this incident. The first is that the shoe-attacker was a former BJP office bearer, who called Advani a ‘fake iron man’. The second is a mere technicality, but a true testament to India’s diversity: the attack was with a wooden slipper. Yes, it sounds painful, but like most flying footwear episodes, it missed the target.

5. Manmohan Singh
On one of the rare occasions that Manmohan Singh decided to make a public appearance, our Prime Minister too became a victim of the shoe-attack. This was during an election rally at Ahmadabad in 2009.

The PM told the police not to file a case against his attacker. Perhaps because the shoe missed him too! A piece of advice to future shoe attackers: watch the Bush video. He had to duck to avoid the shoe from hitting him hard in the face!

After the Manmohan Singh incident, Priyanka Gandhi went on record to clarify, that ‘shoe throwing is not our tradition.’ Maybe she missed the pattern.

6. Bhupinder Singh Hooda
Haryana’s Chief Minister has suffered not just one but two shoe attacks, and was recently slapped by a youth on a road show in Panipat. He features in the Shoe-Victim Society’s Hall of Fame.

Most media reports do not cite any reasons behind these attacks, apart from ‘frustration’ and/or the mental condition of the shoe-throwers.

7. Omar Abdullah
The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir was subject to a shoe attack on Independence Day, in 2010. Perhaps shoe throwing is more liberating than we imagined. But the attacker’s aim was so poor, that the footage has even circled the shoe — it was so far away from the CM!

So, while 2009 was the year of throwing shoes, 2014 seems to be the season of eggs, ink, and slaps. The proximity to Holi may be an explanation, which regularly features eggs and colours. Is the egging and inking of AAP leaders then an expression of the public’s jubilation?

Of course the list does not stop at our borders. Tony Blair, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Musharraf, Wen Jiabao have all been victims of shoe attacks in the past. To make matters more exciting (or scandalous!) there are even some politicians in Taiwan and Greece who have slapped others. Clearly, politics is never devoid of entertainment!