Elections and political gimmicks

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Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.

  • Potter Stewart

 

A week after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee upped the ante against the Narendra Modi government with the Kolkata sit-in, her Andhra Pradesh counterpart, N Chandrababu Naidu, observed a fast in New Delhi on Monday in protest against his ally-turned-enemy. With Lok Sabha elections couple of months away, this kind of political gimmicks are set to become a regular affair. After Mamata, it was the turn of Chandrababu Naidu to rally the Opposition parties against the ruling BJP. Naidu’s 12-hour protest saw more than 20 political leaders make an appearance at the national capital’s Andhra Bhavan during the day. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had come in early in the day before heading to Lucknow for a road show, rival Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal came much later in the day. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and TMC leader Derek O’ Brien were among other opposition leaders who visited Andhra Bhavan to express their solidarity with Naidu, the supremo of Telugu Desam (TDP). With 16 Lok Sabha seats, the TDP had been the third largest constituent of the NDA alliance (after the BJP and the Shiv Sena). The TDP pulled out of the NDA government in March last year over its refusal to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh.

However, the immediate provocation for the Naidu’s Dharma Porata Deeksha (day-long protest for justice) was the prime minister’s outburst during the Guntur rally on Sunday. Modi had admitted that Naidu was ‘senior’ to him, but only in losing elections, switching loyalties and back-stabbing father-in-law NT Rama Rao. The PM’s remarks of describing Naidu as ‘Lokesh’s father’ also didn’t go well with Naidu. The offended chief minister, in turn, accused Modi of violating ‘raj dharma’ by denying Andhra Pradesh special status, a promise that the Centre had made during the state’s bifurcation in 2014. He even raked up the 2002 Gujarat riots. Such below-the-belt remarks not only discredit the politicians, but also undermine the constitutional posts that they occupy. Election or no election, these politicians can stoop down to any level to score a point or two over their rivals.  The barbs are likely to become sharper and more personal as the campaigning hots up in the forthcoming weeks. Amidst these theatrics, politicians fail to raise issues of public and national concern.

Naidu has done one better than Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee – he’s fasting in Delhi for an old cause just to stay in the political and media spotlight. This is less about Andhra’s special status than positioning within the mahagatbandhan. However, despite the support from Opposition parties towards his protest, the one ally that the TDP chief might be looking forward to meeting on the dais is Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Getting support from Mamata is also a necessity for the TDP chief to ensure he remains relevant to national politics.

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