By Heli Shukla:
Indian summers are tumultuous, and more so when they have the winds of election sweeping them. This election is being termed as the ‘world’s biggest democratic exercise’ with 814 million registered voters. And yet, an election season that sees India’s most informed electorate subjected to to a politicalÂ game of slander. Policy implementation and political ideologies notwithstanding, India’s 16th Lok Sabha elections have come down to a war of personalities.
Slander is an important, if unnecessary, weapon in politics. However, in a country of over a billion people and a host of real problems, an ad nauseam replay of it is absolutely uncalled for. Every day for the past year, newspapers are filled with entire reports on how one politician has said something offensive to another, how another politician has said something even more offensive, and how a third politician has overridden the offensiveness of the other two and upped his game. As members of a seemingly literate democracy, is this something we should be reducing our intellect to? Our political representatives do have a resounding ‘yes’ as an answer to that question.
From among several examples of juvenile slander, let us start from the most recent one. Ex Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati slammed Mulayam Singh Yadav for contesting elections from Azamgarh to please ‘his second wife’. At an election rally in Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, she said, “There is a dispute going on in Mulayam’s family. He is contesting from here (Azamgarh) to please his second wife and pave way for their son Prateek Yadav.”
Uttar Pradesh is India’s biggest state, and is also home to the country’s largest Dalit population. Mayawati was India’s first female Dalit Chief Minister and is worshipped by the Dalit community. While her tenure as Chief Minister has attracted criticism and praise alike, she is also widely known as a corrupt politician. Despite all of that, she remains a veritable opposition leader to the current ruling party. Thus, while she could have slammed Mulayam Singh and his incumbent son for not controlling the very apparent lawlessness in Azamgarh, she preferred insinuating about his second wife instead. Because that is obviously what the common voter from that district bases his preferences on.
Another example involves the country’s prime ministerial candidates. Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi have left no stone unturned to ensure that they pick out every personality flaw about each other and use it as a regular feature in their campaign. Their supporters have aided them in the fullest, always having a stock of insidious slander in their political armor. From giving out barbs as redundant and as impertinent as Rahul Gandhi referring to Narendra Modi as ‘Hitler’ to Modi rechristening Gandhi as ‘Shehzaada’, not to forget theÂ ‘khooni panja and ‘zeher ki kheti’ remarks.
Instead of centering their campaign on real issues, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi have resorted to making capricious remarks to gain political mileage. They do speak of development, they do speak of empowerment and they do speak of progress, but they don’t speak of it convincingly. And they definitely do not speak of it without insulting one another, however smugly.
Modi and Rahul are not the only ones resorting to mild and extreme slander. Certain other politicians have taken it upon themselves to attach their own barbs to both the Prime Ministerial candidates. Lalu Prasad Yadav referred to Narendra Modi as an executioner, blaming him for the Gujarat riots. He said,“Narendra Modi is a ‘jallad’ (executioner), is a ‘jallad’, is a ‘jallad’. It doesn’t matter where he goes, where he comes or what he does.” Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma is notorious for his slandering. He is known for having referred to Modi as RSS’s biggest goonda and very recently called Modi a ‘monster’.
All of these instances are part of bigger spectrum of political slander that has brought down the seriousness of this election. Politicians seem to believe in the expression of any publicity being good publicity while not realizing their responsibility towards the Indian population. Violating the EC’s Model Code seems to be their prerogative.
Taking concrete steps towards eliminating corruption, pushing development to the grassroots, reducing unemployment and poverty, making a strong healthcare system, establishing good governance and ensuring overall progress has taken a backseat. 814 million voters are not braving the heat of this political storm to indulge in personality clashes, they are patiently waiting and casting their votes in the hopes of finding solutions to their everyday problems, something their political representatives are definitely not that serious about.