Trivialising serious issues

Trivialising serious issues

Trivialising serious issues

It is a hydra-brood of arrogance, power and insensitivity manifesting in obnoxious remarks. Kill one and two springs up in its place. Not a single day passes on the Indian political rostrum when political characters strutting full of sound and fury burst out one-liners smacking of crass, vulgarity, sexism and prejudices.

In sixties, Bob Dylan crooned the stark and pessimistic ‘The Times They Are a-Changin.’' And Indian polity in first quarter of millennium, is also undergoing painful convulsions etching out a new nadir of political horror screenplay which future generations may look back and nod heads with incredulity in their eyes.

The new age politicians unlike the brooding, soft-spoken, dove-eyed and maternal winged politicians of yore are no doubt media and tech savvy, but when it comes to social realities they are not only disconnected but even insensitive to the pain and miseries of populace.

The ‘quote’ and the ‘bite’ is the only issue that matters and for a political actor, press is the modern day mythological ‘Medea cauldron’ providing oxygen at every step. And in a media that is saturated with ‘sound bites’, it is a tough fight to come out with a quote that can hog and capture the time and space for a brief moment.

It is precisely for this reason Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar coldly remarked with a sneer in a public function at Indapur: “Should I urinate in the  dam?”, and managed to carve out an indelible image amongst viewers and readers even though it came with a negative halo. But then negative halo does not deter Ajit Pawar; after all he is the nephew of Union Agriculture Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar and has all the arrogance of a feudal lord.

His so-called barb, crass and vulgar in nature, was aimed at an activist who was on a hunger strike at Mumbai’s historic Azad Maidan demanding release of water from the (Ujain) dam to the drought-affected Sholapur region.

But Ajit Pawar, born with a silver spoon, has always been a strong apostle of industrialists and, thus, his mockery towards the activist-farmer. “He has been on a fast for the past 55 days. If there is no water in the dam, how can we release it? Should we urinate into it? If there is no water to drink, even urinating is not possible,” he had said.
To top it, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray went a step ahead attacking Ajit Pawar in a similar vein. Thackeray said that NCP would get people’s urine instead of votes in the next polls and he (Ajit Pawar) will realise that he should have built dams when he will be flushed off in people’s urine.”

Ironically, the serious issue of drought ravaging the interiors of the state got lost in the cacophony of cheap, lewd and seemingly antagonistic remarks of political leaders. The so-called Ajit Pawar ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome is a case in point of a trend which is being brazenly and deliberately practiced by present day political leaders.

Prejudice, a handy tool of deflection

When the issue of malnutrition had reared its head in the country’s most media-hyped state of Gujarat, its chief minister Narendra Modi remarked: “Gujarati middle class is more beauty conscious than health conscious... that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they have a fight. She'll tell her mother, 'I won't drink milk. I'll get fat'.

Spinning out crude inane street-jokes, blurring issues and twisting logic with clouded fallacies, helps in diverting the attention of the people, and according to Irfan Engineer, Director of Institute for Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution: “Not all the time while spouting absurd statements they (politicians) are thinking in conspiratorial manner...many a times their ingrained biases and prejudices also come to the fore.”

Engineer contends that most of the time the issue is trivialised because politicians know in their heart that the problem exists because they are the creators. “Take for example the drought, everybody knows the situation in Maharashtra... but they still make a joke of it. Why? Because successive governments in Maharashtra have always catered to big industrial houses and factory owners; the result is that farmers remained water starved. It is not a new phenomenon.

“Earlier, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh had remarked that farmers are dying in cotton belt - Vidarbha - because farmers spend their money and time chewing tobacco. What kind of logic is this? But such nonsensical one-liners manage to reduce the gravity of the situation at that point of time.”

However, the insensitivity of the new age politicos is not just confined to the rural and hinterland populace, even the urban dwellers fall prey to their stings. The Delhi bus gang-rape is a case in point. So is the case of three BJP MLAs watching a porn video in the Karnataka Assembly and claiming they were educating themselves on the plight of women. Or the Suryanelli rape case and the recent death of a student activist in Kolkata.

Though West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee may be known for making cold and insensitive remarks with a display of a dictatorial arrogance, President Pranab Mukherjee’s suave son Abhijit’s sexist remark on Delhi bus gang-rape protesters had stunned people.

Commenting on the protests, the Jr Mukherjee, an MP himself, said: “...those who are on the streets pretending to be students are highly dented and painted women seeking two minutes of fame.” The remark revealed the intrinsic biases and prejudices ingrained in the psyche of Indian politicians.

Professor of Sociology (Mumbai University), Dr P S Vivek, points out that contemporary political leaders are just ‘front people.’ “If one goes through political speeches irrespective of ideology they professed...on the floor of houses made in fifties and early sixties...one is awed with the extensive knowledge political leaders then had. Political leaders controlled the reins of political-economy. But in the present day changed scenario, many politicians are mere front persons propped up by corporate bodies...so you have nincompoops masquerading as leaders.”

Thus, Prof Vivek contends, “It is not surprising to find Mamata dismissing the death of SFI activist-student as a small and petty matter, or Kerala MP K Sudhakaran disparaging the Suryanelli rape victim as a prostitute.

But the vicious cycle does not stop at just making statements. In the new social networking age, the new age politicians have also realised that in the market controlled cut-throat world, social values have changed and thus a negative image is more effective than that of a brooding scholar politician. Switch on the television and you will see negative advertisements full of sleaze popping in every channel. So why should a politician be any different as politics too is a business?”


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