Rajnetik virodhi ya jaani dushman? A question that nags as the narrative hits a new low with highly vitriolic and acerbic mud-slinging down to gutter-sniping during the ongoing campaigning for the Delhi Assembly and CAA over two weeks. Tragically, the lines between a opponent and a sworn enemy have got blurred which has trashed basic courtesies and decencies, ended camaraderie, bonhomie and respect among healthy rivals. With the devil taking the hindmost!
Everyone and everything is game. From desh bhakts to desh drohis. It all started with JNU scholar Sharjeel Imam asserting his opposition to the CAA, “If we have five lakh people organised, we can cut off the Northeast from India permanently. If not, at least for a month… Cutting off Assam (from India) is our responsibility. Only then the Government will listen to us.”
All hell broke loose when Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur at an election rally pumped his audience stating, “Desh ke gaddaroin ko…with a rapturous crowd volleying back “goli maaro saloin ko”.
Followed BJP MP Parvesh Verma who kicked off a massive controversy by calling Shaheen Bagh protesters “rapists and murderers who will enter your houses rape and kill your sisters and daughters, kill them..” Next, he took pot shots at Delhi Chief Minister, “In Delhi, many ‘natwarlals’ and terrorists like Kejriwal are hiding. I don’t understand if we should fight with terrorists in Kashmir or terrorist Kejriwal in Delhi.”
Adding fuel, Congress Rahul Gandhi compared Modi to Gandhi’s assassin Godse stating both believed in the same ideology in a speech against the CAA. Countered BJP’s West Bengal President Dilip Ghosh, people who were destroying Government property while protesting the CAA should be “shot like dogs” as they had been in UP and Assam. Worse, he refused to recant it. The Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna also advised Union Home Minister Amit Shah to “immediately finish insects like Sharjeel Imam” and a BJP MLA wants him shot dead.
Frankly, I am not surprised as our netagan are only showing their girgit true colours throwing all public decency and decorum to the winds! Gone are the days when jibes and trolls were funny or sarcastic and netas took them in their strides. Bringing things to such a pass that we are accustomed to mud-slinging, sleazy and vitriolic tu-tu-mein-mein between political opponents and parties. Of dirty linen being increasingly washed in public. Serenaded by a frenzied audience’s seetees galore. More vulgar the better, dil maange more!
Obviously, the blame for this descent of political discourse lies squarely with Parties. Quick to crack the whip and complain to the EC all shy away from demanding the same discipline for crude and repulsive swipes at rivals. Barring a warning or ban on electioneering for two-three days the EC’s action against communal-caste hate speeches totals a mere rap on the knuckles.
Who does one fault? Given our netas have perfected intemperate language to inject poison in society over the years. Namely, dangerous and diabolical machinations of vote-bank politics, pitting Hindus against Muslims and different castes thereby creating fissiparous tendencies resulting in a communal-caste divide.
Alas, none want to address critical questions: Why are their discourses becoming more venomous and toxic? Can such language and conduct be condoned? True, election speeches are meant to rouse voters, some exaggeration and fiery sloganeering is understandable. Innuendoes and invectives too are routine components of any campaign but all previous records were broken by Thakur, Verma, Sharjeel etc who had no business to goad crowds to violence.
No matter that they may have been meant to score brownie points or incite voters to vote in a certain way. Some may shrug it off as part and parcel of political discourse. But it took on communal overtones against the backdrop of an emerging bitter poll battle between the BJP-AAP at one end and BJP-Congress plus entire Opposition on CAA.
Sadly, through all this diatribes one thing emerges crystal clear: the political skullduggery indulged in mirrors the harsh reality of our polity and is a horrendous reflection on the depth of political depravation we have come to. Wherein there is no dividing line between statecraft and witchcraft. What is correct and incorrect—political etiquette and public decency? Never before has politics denigrated to the gutter level as it has now.
Slander, sensation smear and sully are the new political dialogues and vote-catching mantra chanted by all Parties with each propounding its own recipe of harmony, according to their own warped and selfish political needs. In the hope that this acerbic sniping would bring them tripti— and power. Ends matter not the means and winning is the name of the game.
Today the Election Commission may temporarily ban Thakur and Verma from electioneering but will it stop the muck-raking? No. All are tainted by the same brush. Be it the Congress, BJP or any other Party. Over the years, slander seems to have become a virtue and unparliamentarily language the order of the day.
At another level, all Parties have exposed the hypocrisy of the system. Love them, hate or simply ignore them, the hard reality is that they couldn’t care a damn as all believe in the dictum an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Truly living up to the synonym of rule by law, jiski laathi uski bhains.
Clearly, vilification and political expediency expose the bankruptcy that is manifest in our system. Wherein our politicians have perfected the art of cultivating low morality and high greed according to their whims and fancies—and the need of the hour which has made our fragmented politics a lot more malignant.
Resulting in immorality becoming a way of life. What damn difference does one more slanderous attack make? Needless to say, harsh words are undoubtedly part and parcel of politics. Even Westminster, the mother of all Parliamentary discourses is not free from this. One notorious case is that of a leading Labour right Nye Bevan who often crossed swords with Winston Churchill describing the Conservatives as gutter snipes and vermins.
Importantly, India is at the moral crossroads. True, the rules of the game have changed recklessly without a thought for the future yet in our present all pervasive decadence, interspersed with growing public distaste, cynicism and despair there comes a moment of truth and reckoning. Clearly, it is high time that our netagan realize that they are putting a premium on sleaze and halt this eddy of licentiousness. On immorality. Will profligacy be the bedrock of India democracy? How long do we suffer the stampede for sensation and slander?
Certainly, one can argue that all is fair in elections yet we must draw a lakshman rekha. A long and hard battle lies ahead for bringing a change in the political system and the present political ethos. Our leaders need to put electioneering back on the rails of dignified debate on issues affecting the nation.
In the final analysis, India’s voters must not allow themselves to be taken for granted any more. Or permit the shameless, self-serving netas to indulge in violent rhetoric. They need to remember one age-old truth: If you point one slanderous finger at another, four other slanderous fingers will point back at you! Can a nation be bare and bereft of all sense of shame and morality? And, for how long?