Political Discourse at the Nadir

The curtains have finally come down on the year-long campaign for the General Elections 2014. The campaign has been a repulsive affair - nourished by vituperation, characterized by invective and culminating in a no-holds barred character assassination contest. Never in the history of India has an election witnessed mudslinging of such high intensity and comments of such causticity. This is a far cry from the early days of the nation where political rivalry aside, politicos maintained a healthy respect for each other.

Nehru once said – “I trust that all our criticisms will be based on policy and not on personalities.” In fact, until the mid 80’s public discourse in India was relatively free of the muck which has accumulated there. Leaving aside the naked attempts to polarize the society along communal lines and the unfortunate attempts to deepen caste fault-lines, rallies are still witnessing an unprecedented amount of slander. The quality of public discourse in India is plumbing new depths.

Atal Behari Vajpayee never took to persona-bashing. His speeches, a true reflection of his poetry skills, were lined with soft-hearted humor and metaphors. Sonia also made it a point to be polite in the first few years of her career. In sharp contrast today, it is hard to spot a single soft-spoken politico.
The entire political spectrum is to blame. In Bengal, Mamata has gone all out to call Modi all sorts of fantastic names. Priyanka has ridiculed the BJP as rats. Sonia is at fault for her ‘maut ka saudagar’ statement. But the man who has made vitriol an unmissable part of his everyday vocabulary is Narendra Modi.

Beginning with his disgusting comment on Shashi Tharoor’s wife being a “50 crore wali girlfriend,” Narendra Modi has never ceased to stem his fierce onslaught on all opposition leaders. His remarks are humorous, but unlike Vajpayee’s, they have a caustic tinge to them. Having calling the honorable Indian Prime Minister as “Maun-mohan Singh” and termed him as a ‘night watchman’, Modi seems to be harboring scant respect for the dignity of the very post he aims to achieve. That is of course besides his repeated attacks at the Nehru-Gandhi family and his constant refrains to the UPA Government as being a ‘maa-bete ki sarkar.’

The atmosphere of hatred has seeped into the political arena to such a deep extent that attempts have also been made to rewrite history and malign the name of deceased political leaders. This endless barrage of calumny goes to show the immaturity of our political leaders.

2014 opens an entirely new chapter in the book of Indian politics. Regardless of which coalition the electorate has favored, these elections mark the arrival of an entirely new set of political leaders. If political discourse touched its nadir in 2014, circumstances might allow it to peak five years down the line.

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