JUST IN

Opinion | Are we now a nation of trolls?

The Atishi Marlena case is a sign that we now have a political culture where there is no shred of respect for opponents as people, irrespective of the party they belong to. We have entered such a deeply polarised and polarising time that there isn’t even the slightest hint of friendship between our top politicians. (Image: AAP/Twitter)

Just as India was witnessing the lowest point of the on-going general election campaign, with insults flying thick and fast between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, comes a low that cannot be bettered.

Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) East Delhi candidate, Atishi Marlena, was described as a “prostitute” in a pamphlet that disparages her character and career in the most objectionable and rotten language. She and her party blamed the stink sheet on the BJP and its candidate in the seat, Gautam Gambhir, who they said had it inserted into newspapers handed out in colonies and homes. Whether or not Gambhir, who has in turn accused AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal of concocting the pamphlet, ordered the abusive pamphlet is not the point – one assumes an enquiry into the matter will identify the guilty party and steps will be taken to prosecute the culprits. The question to be asked is why has the current round of elections turned into the most bitter and rancorous yet in recent times?

Why are political rivals unable to engage with one another in a spirit of competition that does not border on enmity? In fact, the question to be asked is why has the election taken on the overtones of war – a battle between completely irreconcilable sides – just as in that all-encompassing epic poem, the Mahabharata?

Unsurprisingly, the Mahabharata, or characters from it, have turned up in this election. In response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments about the former PM Rajiv Gandhi – where he noted that he had started his career as “Mr Clean” but ended it as the “most corrupt” – Gandhi’s daughter likened Modi’s arrogance to that of Duryodhana’s. Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee reportedly likened Modi to Duryodhana, Dushshasana and Ravana. Rabri Devi, Bihar’s former CM, felt that Priyanka was missing the point. “She made a mistake by calling him Duryodhan, she should have spoken a different language. He has the mind set of a “jallad” (an executioner),” she said. Of course, all these comments were milked dry by the Modi campaign which is now trying to portray as if the Opposition is out to completely victimise the PM.

The point is not whether Modi should have brought up the corruption allegations against Rajiv Gandhi. The point is also not whether these leaders from a variety of parties have the right to be blunt in their criticism of their opponents, including Modi. What is moot is that we have a situation on our hand now that resembles a free for all. This is fast turning into the scene from the end of the Mahabharata where the Vrinshi clan, descendants of Krishna, wipe each other out in a drunken, fratricidal brawl.

The Atishi Marlena case is a sign that we now have a political culture where there is no shred of respect for opponents as people, irrespective of the party they belong to. We have entered such a deeply polarised and polarising time that there isn’t even the slightest hint of friendship between our top politicians. This is not to fix blame and once again enter the inexorable game of one-upmanship that politics has become, but to ask if we can all collectively pause for a moment and ask what we have come to.

What will the spoils of power mean if we are to preside over a country where we cannot speak to the person standing next to us without mentally boxing them into mutually exclusive categories? There is a certain kind of madness that has gripped people who cannot attribute humanity to the other person towards whom they direct their bile. How thick a skin have we grown? And what will it take for us to shed these layers of insensitivity?

Narendra Modi or Rahul Gandhi? Who will win the battle royale of the Lok Sabha Elections 2019


Get real-time news updates, views and analysis on Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on Deccanherald.com/news/lok-sabha-elections-2019 


Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #DHPoliticalTheatre for live updates on the Indian general elections 2019.

Comments (+)