Rhetoric hits a new low, but it hardly changes voters' minds

The election discourse which had started with a focus on development and economic challenges before the nation has come down to the level of how Robert Vadra earned money and why Narendra Modi hid his marital status.

Another diversion is almost disastrous, that aims at arousing communal passions. Has this change been inspired by the realisation on the part of political parties that development and other secular issues may not yield desired electoral results?

Do they think that abandoning development and other relevant issues in favour of emotive issues may help them turn the tide?

It may also be that political parties intend to hide their real agendas. 

But there is no doubt that by reverting the agenda back to regular tu-tu-main-main (I-and-you centric rhetoric) they are sending us back to the Nineties when Ram Mandir had become the central issue of political debate.

It is also clear that they are sabotaging the prospects of a serious public debate over the issues which need our urgent attention like corruption, price rise and unemployment.

Will this election ultimately become one of the retrogressive elections we have so far?

However, the question remains whether the desperate attempt by political parties would affect the decision of voters.

Are voters really prone to such manipulations or they mature enough to make right decisions?  

The initial posturing by the BJP and the Congress seemed to be assuring in the sense that they appeared to be concentrating on issues which were largely concerned with economy and the welfare of the nation.

BJP prime ministerial candidate Modi was trying to sell his ‘Gujarat model’ of development and the Congress’ vice-president Rahul Gandhi his ‘welfare based inclusive growth’ model.

Though, Rahul and the Congress were also trying to drive home the point that the former was divisive and communal.

The third intervener, Aam Aadmi Party had forced both the contenders to respond to governance and corruption issues.

While Rahul was talking of changing the system, Modi was assuring scam-free governance.

If we look closely, we find that all the relevant issues which concern our society had largely become the part of the election dialogue till the actual polling began.

But Indian political elite ultimately dropped its garb, which was probably oversized for them to wear for long.

The sensibility which it had shown until a few weeks ago disappeared to give way to personal low level attacks.

Election fever

The change came all of a sudden and with full force. Rahul Gandhi, who had been talking of empowering women of the country and showing an eagerness to connect with them, took up the issue of snooping of a young woman by the Gujarat government.

Later Priyanka Gandhi took up the issue.

The issue had been in the public domain well before the election fever seized us, but the Congress hardly showed any seriousness to raise it with any force.

The Union government decided to probe the issue by a panel headed by a retired judge, but failed to find a former judge who was willing to take up. 

Now the issue of Modi hiding information about his marriage: Does it seem appropriate that Rahul, who is likely to become PM if his party wins, and whose love-life is also full of dodgy stories, be talking about the personal affairs of his principal rival?

It is true that BJP’s defence of Modi is weak which claims that Modi’s marriage and snooping of a young woman are personal issues, when the latter was done on her and her father’s request.

The failure of a marriage may be personal but hiding its existence in an affidavit was inappropriate.

How can a snooping be defended that too which involved senior police officials and a minister? Yet the discourse of Lok Sabha elections cannot be allowed to be trivialised for these issues.

BJP’s handling of Vadra’s issue has also familiar pattern.

The issue was brought in the public domain over two years ago by AAP leaders Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan.

They alleged that Vadra received kick-backs from a real estate giant. It is said that these documents were available to the BJP leaders but they preferred to be silent.

Now the BJP has suddenly taken up the issue to counter Rahul’s reference of the “toffee model” --Gujarat government allegedly selling land to industralist Adani at a throw away price.

The allegations is certainly not aimed at rooting out corruption.

The Congress and Priyanka Gandhi took the stance that this was an attack on the family and this is partially true as the BJP is still unable to go into the depth of the matter.

Yet these attacks have reduced the larger issue of corruption into personalised wordy duels. This process of trivialisation is going on in anther sphere too — that is in arousing communal passions.

The assertions of Amit Shah and Azam Khan were aimed at it. The personal attack on Mamata Banerjee by Modi has also given an opportunity to the Trinamool Congress to talk of Bengali pride.

These are all aimed at arousing emotions which will not lead to any constructive discourse we need to go on with to address vital issues including economy, national security and communal amity.

However, the pat experiences of Indian elections show otherwise. People ultimately leave the parties in surprise.

It is most likely that north India will vote on the prevailing social equations and the economic concerns they have and for the parties all the posturing may not give the desired results.

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