No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
- Robin Williams
Watching the ongoing general elections makes one feel the need to step back and ask the question – what is the state of Indian politics and what is its real impact on India? In a democracy, politics normally represents the voice of the people, wherein politicians are expected to fairly represent the expectations of the voters who voted them in or would vote them to power. But this is an idealist perception and the reality is different. Two significant aspects of the ongoing seven-phase elections, which have caught everyone’s notice, are (a) dwindling standard of political discourse and (b) politicization of the armed forces. Poll rhetoric during elections is normal in India but this time the attacks are often personal and below the belt, leaving the whole country aghast, disappointed and wondering where the political discourse is heading for. Major players are indulging in vicious name calling and blatant attempts to polarize the voters. The air is filled with the fumes of toxic discourse. It’s a cacophony of the worst kind — accusations and counter-accusations are hurled at each other with total disregard to the facts. Character assassination is the new normal in Indian politics. Personal attacks aren’t confined to those perceived as the main rivals; their parents, grandparents etc are not spared. Is this the image of Indian democracy we want to project abroad? What message are the politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, conveying to the nation’s young, on whose shoulders depends the future of India?
Two worrying features of the Indian political discourse have been thrown up by 2019 general elections. The first is the very shallow nature of the discourse itself. The second is the kind of language in use. Political rivals resort to unseemly language just to score brownie points. In election rallies, truly speaking, people hardly get to hear less of their leaders (except a few), and more of jokers. Who is “chor” (thief) or who is “chowkidar” — are these the only questions to be decided in this election? There is no denying that the coarseness of political discourses has affected the culture of electoral campaigning in 2019 to an extent unknown in the past. Prime minister Narendra Modi has set the ball rolling on the campaign by prefixing chowkidar to his Twitter display in response to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s repeated digs about ”Chowkidar chor hai“(“The watchman himself is the thief”) in his speeches in the last year. Surcharged emotions have resulted in personal attacks including name calling, mixing up public issues with private life to extremely low levels, and even making baseless allegations.
It is agreed that these elections will be remembered for the intense fight put up by BJP, led by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself, but it will also be remembered for the vitiated atmosphere under which it was fought. There is an urgent need for quality control of political discourse before it reaches nadir.