EVEN AS WE are in the middle of the election campaign for the Lok Sabha elections, one aspect that stands out starkly is the issues that are being talked about to influence the voters.
None of the major political parties are focusing on the real issues which directly affect the common man. The poll rhetoric undoubtedly has touched the lowest possible levels and it is turning out to be the most bitter campaign ever since the independence of the country.
Perhaps it is because the stakes are too high in these elections but the kind of language being used is cheap and even vulgar. Can anyone imagine Atal Behari Vajpayee or Lal Krishan Advani or Manmohan Singh attacking political opponents with such harsh words?
But besides the choice of words, it is the issues being raised that are a cause of worry. Instead of talking of the developmental issues and successes of the government, prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah are focusing on ‘parivar’. They have been placing all emphasis on the alleged failures of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and have crossed all levels of decency with belittling reference to Rajiv Gandhi’s death. He was was tragically assassinated by Sri Lankan Tamil militants through a suicide bomb attack. What was particularly jarring was the manner in which the remark was made : that the one who was touted as Mr Clean ended his life as Bhrashtachari number one. .
Indian voter is watching closely. The literacy rate may still be comparatively low but it has shown its political acumen in the past.
Apparently the attempt is to make it a contest between Modi and Nehru-Gandhi family rather than a contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
There is hardly any reference to what they called the "biggest economic reform” of demonetisation or the benefits of the GST or even other developmental works taken by the government. There is no reference to the proposed bullet trains or Swacchh Ganga projects or even speeding up construction of highways etc.
Congress too seems obsessed with the "chowkidar chor hai
” slogan and has been hammering it day in and day out. The language used by some of its leaders, as also leaders of other opposition parties, is also condemnable.
These parties, for unknown reasons, are not emphasising on the various failures of the government. They are not concentrating on loss of lakhs of jobs or mounting inflation or farming distress or failure or the government to bring back black money and those accused of cheating banks and fleeing abroad.
Can anyone imagine Atal Behari Vajpayee or Manmohan Singh attacking political opponents with such harsh words?
The bitter campaign has vitiated the poll atmosphere and unfortunately the Election Commission of India, which has vast powers at its disposal, has proved to be ineffective. It has let off several leaders, including Modi, without even a warning despite provocative comments. Even though it is known that one of the two Election Commissioners, Ashok Lavasa, has been giving dissenting views on the decisions taken by the Commission, his voice has little meaning because the Commission works with the rule of majority.
Unfortunately the electoral mudslinging is being directed to Bofors versus Rafale deals rather than the corruption at the grassroots level. Common people continue to suffer from every day corruption despite attempts to introduce transparency and digitalisation. The fact is that there is little impact. Some would say the situation has worsened because higher amounts are demanded in the name of "higher risks”.
The various political parties making big promises and announcing subsistence allowances are not talking about the economy or how will these parties generate funds for the projects being promised by them.
Indian voter is watching closely. The literacy rate may still be comparatively low but it has shown its political acumen in the past. The voters have in the past given over 414 seats to the Congress but had also reduced it to 44. Similarly it had at one time given just two seats to the BJP and had raised it to 282 last time. What the voters have in store for various parties this time would be known only on May 23.
(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)
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