Top leaders compete in slander-mongering
Never before had top guns of political parties stooped so low in their poll campaigns to catch public imagination for votes. Whatever be the purpose behind these atrocious campaign cries, few will disagree that none of those jokers deserve to be the country’s next chief political executive at least in terms of their public display of mannerism. The essence of the current election campaigns by political leaders – national or regional – irrespective of their education, family name and positions held in their respective parties and government, now or in the past, is a no-holds-barred personal attack against the other using some of the most venomous tools of communications such as hate speeches, spreading lies and falsehoods, calling names, using broadsides and gutter-side language, dirty jokes and gestures and fooling public with misleading statements.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter, Priyanka Vadra, called this election ‘a war.’ A war it is. Priyanka was caught in camera with a Congressman, who threatened to shoot AAP’s Kumar Viswas contesting Rahul Gandhi in Amethi. A FIR has been lodged against the Congressman. The party, led by the Gandhi family, is firing all cylinders at its arch rival, BJP, and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi. There is no difference between the so called foreign-educated, well-groomed leaders and half-educated low-background self-made Netas in so far as their public behaviour and utterances are concerned. Imagine the Congress party’s prime ministerial aspirant attacking the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in such a Hindi slang as ‘Hindustan ko ullu banana band karo’ or the latter calling the INC poster boy a baby who can’t think beyond toffees and balloons.
Hurling political insults by using spiteful barbs like khooni panja, zeher ki kheti, impotent have become the order of the day this poll season. As the war of words gets nastier with each passing day, the public are getting to see the ugliest side of our honourable politicians. Members of net savvy younger generation have coined a term for this variety of netas. They are referred to as ‘barb’arians of Indian politics. As a popular website described: ‘Politics has gotten personal and beyond. Netas grab every opportunity that comes their way, taking potshots at each other over the past, caste, masculinity, machismo and more. There’s no room for regrets here; an apology is out of the question.’ On a question of his refusal to wear a skull cap, Narendra Modi said he would like to be rather hanged in public than wear a skull cap to falsely appease Muslims.
The so-called ‘Model Code’ of the Election Commission to which all parties and politicians are supposed to adhere to says that while a candidate can criticise the policies of another candidate, they are not to get involved in personal attacks. However, on field, the netas and netris of all political parties seemed to have formed a common front making the campaign rhetoric increasingly jagged and personal. While some of leaders have gotten away with openly threatening the Election Commission for ‘exceeding’ its powers with jibes such as dekh loonga, meaning ‘officers watch your steps, we will see you after the election’, only middle and lower level leaders faced the wrath of the commission for violating the model code. Barbs from the big ones go unchallenged. A Congress candidate was arrested after saying he wanted to chop Modi into pieces, while a BJP leader said he wanted to strip Sonia Gandhi and her son and ‘send them back to Italy.’ Amit Shah, a senior Modi aide, who was barred from election campaign after he was accused of telling Muzaffarnagar voters in Uttar Pradesh, a recent witness to bloody clashes between two religious groups leaving scores dead and thousands homeless, that the election was about getting ‘revenge’, was let off after he tendered an apology.
Rahul Gandhi has been levelling serious charges against Modi for giving away land at throw away prices to the business groups such as Adanis and Tatas in Gujarat hinting at political collusion and corruption. On the other hand, BJP candidate Uma Bharati threatened to ‘jail the Congress president’s son-in-law (Robert Vadra)’ if her party comes to power. Congress has been throwing an indirect challenge at BJP to show the guts to act against Robert Vadra and be prepared for the worse for its former prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya. Political jibes and barbs by tomorrow’s prime minister aspirants are freely dragging the names of business barons Ratan Tata, Kumar Birla, Mukesh and Anil Ambani, Gautam Adani, Prasant Ruia and Anil Aggarwal among others for their alleged corrupt links with regional and national political rulers favouring them with allotment of national wealth worth billions that belonged to the poor in their election speeches making these businessmen appear as national villains of corruption and malpractices. The lead in this kind of speeches against business barons was first taken by Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal to register a stunning electoral success in its very first appearance in last year’s Delhi state election. However, in the current Lok Sabha poll season, Rahul Gandhi has wrested the initiative from Kejriwal using corruption and business bashing as major campaign ammos to reach the heart of ordinary voters. Yet, the truth is that it was the Congress government under Rahul’s grandmother that the centre first started the multiple incentive scheme, including concessional allotment of land, power, finance, tax benefits, etc., and induced states to form their own incentive schemes, including sales tax exemption, that competed against each other through their own state industrial development corporations backed by funds from the national government-managed Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI).
It is irrelevant, whether or not the Congress party’s prime ministerial probable knows the history of the country’s industrialisation that also acted as the breeding ground of corruption and business-politics nexus. The point he presumably wants to make that BJP is not too far behind Congress in promoting corruption. Probably, the message is if Congress has helped the Ambanis, so is BJP helping the Adanis. Businessmen are not amused. Some of them are damn scared. They don’t know what is awaiting them after the election. They may not be fully convinced that the election campaign is all about a political stage craft where oratory and propaganda generally end after poll curtains are finally drawn and sworn enemies don’t even blink to invite each other to form a coalition and government. However, the history showed how the post-emergency Morarji Desai government made a failed attempt to nationalise Tata Steel to teach Indira Gandhi supporter JRD Tata a lesson. Is Priyanka Vadra’s war cry is to establish that all are fair in love and war? The political revenge is not new in Indian democracy. During the Emergency, Indira Gandhi had sent most of her political rivals and their business friends to jail. After her defeat, the Janata Party government got her arrested and sent to Army custody. The questions that are haunting many are: will the nasty election war end with the final campaign on 12 May and will the next government act revengefully? IPA