Now for modicum of political sanity
First as tragedy, then as farce: the saying aptly describes contemporary Indian politics, its myriad unaddressed historical fallacies and ill-decisions, its bleak current landscape of turning abiding misfortunes into instruments of electoral sportsmanship. In the penultimate phase of our nine-phase parliamentary election, we need to ask for how long we want to put up with this dwindling of political discourse, this collective lowering of the bar of Indian politics to an unimaginable nadir. All the screeching and scratching over competitive belligerence aside, we need to question if our parliamentary contestants and ministerial aspirants have, systematically, strategically and persistently tried to abuse individual and shared traumas, discriminations and sensitive identitarian issues. We need to ask if prime ministerial candidates can afford to invoke the worst of the prejudices and the sorest of memories in a derogatory manner, simply as fallback measures in the slog-overs of the electoral game. The case is point is Narendra Modi’s barrage of comments starting from reinserting the hitherto shunned reference to Ram Rajya, stoking the delicate ethnic situation in Assam with the stirrup of vitriol against Bengali Muslims, as well as resorting to his caste origin in the last leg of a prolonged election. Modi, who has doggedly stayed away, at least in this poll season, from verbal adventures with pernicious religious symbolism, asking his minions to take care of that aspect of high-voltage election rallies, has now fallen back on bringing up all these volatile and bitterly divisive issues. Is this becoming of someone who expects us to believe that he’s a suitable prime ministerial aspirant, a strong one at that, but seeks to reinvent himself in a dynasty stronghold like Amethi only by giving fresh blood to the most vituperatively divisive religious and caste matters?
It is regrettable that despite Modi being at the helm of affairs, there’s no modicum of sanity and tolerance in the current political and electoral process. Shouldn’t the BJP prime ministerial aspirant have engineered his transformation from a riot-plagued chief minister and saffron strongman to the epitome of ‘development as freedom’ more carefully? Shouldn’t he have judiciously refrained from mimicking the political opponents when they branded him as a tea-seller, letting the people decide on who is playing low-level politics and who’s not? What’s the point of brandishing the Gujarat development model when he’s once again forwarding arguments that look like last-minute reinforcements of bad political etiquette? While taking on the Gandhis in their home turf is a sound political idea, and a daring one at that, shouldn’t Modi have upped the bar instead by focusing on the state of development, of the lack of it, in Amethi? It is unfortunate enough that Indian elections have adopted a presidential style of campaigning while still functioning within a parliamentary setup, riding on personal charms and cultish fads of telegenic leaders instead of whipping up actual economic and sociopolitical issues. The gigantic scale and staggering diversity of our democratic fabric have been rendered a lasting blow by this unwieldy turn of political events. Perhaps it’s time we demand a course correction.