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Millennium Post

Frothing at mouth won’t cure politics

Poll-time Indian politics is witnessing a deep winter and a queer spring at once, at least during this season of electioneering. While on the one hand, the top two political parties and their vernacular spin-offs, regional allies and ideological headquarters, are hell-bent on hyperventilating over scurrilous issues, paying lip-service to self-righteous and pedantic agendas in the garb of oppositional opinion, and basically resorting to the basest of divisive instincts as a means of sailing through this general election, commentators and newer political formations are waging important battles against this systemic malady. Slander-mongering, instead of being a disregarded practice of a lunatic fringe, has usurped reasoned political discourse as the mainstream ritual adhered to by the bigwigs of all camps, their tallest leaders and campaign heads. Far from ostracising and shunning the peddlers of hate, almost every political party, chiefly Congress and BJP, have been mainlining the merchants of divisiveness, abusing our democratic system and staging faux lividness at each other’s expense. For example, instead of resurrecting the great ideal that lies beneath the concept of secularism, parties, and their ideologues, or spokespersons masquerading as independent mediapersons, have been busy declaring that ‘secularism is dead’, pretty conflating secularism with its exact opposite, communalism. And, if an academician comes out in support of the constitutional ideal and lays bare its myriad distortions, s/he is hounded out and subjected to an intellectual witch-hunt, in addition to getting branded as a stooge of the central government. On the other hand, the many allegations of corruption against the son-in-law of the Congress first family are only dealt with in a rhetorical manner, without chalking the exact measures that would be taken in case the current political opposition assumes power at the centre. Hence, all the hue and cry becomes mere poll-time hyperbole that loses relevance beyond 16 May and is conveniently forgotten to suit the entrenched elite cutting across party lines.

That surely is unfortunate. Inflammatory speeches no longer inflame but merely add to the discursive drivel that we are made to sieve through in the name of political participation or opinionating. In flagrant violation of the model code of conduct, poll-time behaviour of our top leaders has not been very different from those whose verbal excesses have been the talk of the town and have incurred legitimate wrath from the public as well as EC. However, what have been deliberately drowned in this cacophony of political hate-mongering and intentional dilution of the discourse are the actual questions, such as how to tackle relent price rise, rising cost of basic facilities like health and education, growing income inequality, rising corruption in public and private machinery, address the widening gap in gender and community relations, escalating violence against women and other minorities, among many others. We need to know who among us is asking the right questions, is providing concrete plans of action and take up issues that make a substantial difference to local as well as national problems. Instead of hiding behind ‘fuzzwords,’ and chattering ineffectually about implications of threatened ideals, we must bring back sanity and rigour to our talking points.              

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