Filthy Politics To The Politics Of Filth
Slanderous and defamatory political campaigns are not new; this phenomenon has been going on for centuries. Elections breed competition. And everything has its yin and yang. When crores of rupees are at stake, the ugly side shows up even more. And part of the problem is that slanderous and defamatory campaigns work. If they didn’t work, politicians wouldn’t be spending millions to continue it. While foul language has been uttered in politics since long, the level of proliferation of political swearing which is happening today reflects changes in both social norms and the media landscape. The slander is just moving at lightning speed due to technology. It was happening earlier too, but these offhand remarks are now getting captured on video and given a heave ho.
Political slander has been a great Indian pastime for quite a while. The current Indian politics scenario does not have leaders who are gentlemanly, instead, the nation is producing a mixed bag of politicos whose only attributes are sycophancy, wealth, criminal records, dynastic lineage and mostly comprises of crooked industrialists, goondas, religious and community leaders, ignorant buffoons and rogues and rascals of every order.
As the nation went through the successive phases of polling in one of the most long-winded election ever held, the pitch of the political discourse got shriller, the narrative more acerbic, some of it stomach churning and the charges and counter-charges were simply disgusting. The Indian netas have understood that the public at large has to be fed emotionally to sideline the real issues facing the country.
As democracy deepens, it liberates deeply. The Indian politician can slander, abuse, defile and defame his detractors at will. He knows that the judicial system will not be able to catch him, no editor will moderate his views nor the news media will deny him space. He can be carefree in his abuse and careless in his accusations. He can also abuse the republic, abuse the founding fathers that built this nation. He can raise questions on the armed forces of the nation, the judiciary and even constitutional bodies.
Today, most of MLAs and MPs we vote in are intellectually bankrupt and lack critical thinking skills; their sole goal is to protect their posterity in terms of money and power. Earlier, the ones with some brains were sent to the Rajya Sabha, but his hallowed place too has become a dumping ground for the has-beens, filler-ins and cast-offs. The behaviour in the upper house in recent days is a stark example of the quality of its members.
Small words, when it is well known that if you want to become an MLA, it costs you from Rs 2 to Rs 5 crore (or Rs 10 to 15 crore if it is Andhra, Karnataka, Odisha, the North-East). The going rate for an MP is Rs 25 to 40 crore. The Indian Parliament reads like the Forbes List, the sheer number of millionaires and billionaires are mind boggling and defy all logic for a poor country which has the highest number of poverty ridden citizens in the world.
In the movement for Independence, most of the leaders sold their assets to fight for the country, today it is the opposite, they are selling off the country for filling up their coffers. The MP and MLA’s are there only to produce more wealth or protect their existing wealth. The self-declared assets filed by them with the Election Commission are a glaring reminder of the money making machine that Indian politics is today. The phenomenal steep rise in the assets of the second time contenders is eyebrow raising.
It is no surprise that in the above scenario it becomes a no-holds-barred battle to get elected. The political wannabees will leave no stone unturned and claw and scratch their way into public office with every unethical and shady method. Political discourse happens to be just one of them.
The battle has turned extremely vicious, with high pitched vitriolic expletives being hurled all around. Unparliamentarily language has been the norm in the electioneering process. The gloves have been taken off and this is a sign of abject desperation when political leaders descend to such levels. Minding one’s tongue has become irrelevant.
It is the age of ‘conduct unbecoming’, starting with crude insults and cheap name calling. The leaders play to the galleries, these insults elicit the wildest cheering.
A sample of the ones doing the rounds in the Hindi heartland will be an indicator of the low level to which politics has stooped. Opponents have been variously described as ‘ulloo ka pattha’, ‘chirkut’, ‘dalal’, ‘shikhandi’, bhedia (wolf), rakshsas (demon), shaitan (devil), qatil (killer), maut ke saudagar (merchant of death) besides the Bollywood quips of kutta and kamina, which seem passé. Opponents have been equated with characters from our myths and epics too-Yamraj, Bhasmashur, Vibheesan, Ravana, Kumbhkaran, Kansa etc.
Scathing attacks on the opponents with sobriquets like badle ki aag (fire of revenge), boti boti kar doonga (will cut you up into pieces) have become the norm. Bigwigs have stopped calling each other by their names, words like shehzade, feku, papu etc. are being used for each other.
The language used in public meetings or while giving interviews and in panel discussions on TV channels is crass. Use of slang words, gross personal attacks, sarcastic, insulting, derogatory, near abusive language, mudslinging, calling leaders of other parties traitors, dacoits and robbers, goondas, plunderers, foreign agents, have all become the norm. If such ‘gandi gandi baatein’ in being said in public, one wonders what is their lingo in private?
Is anybody complaining on this low level of public discourse? Not really. This dialogue got worse day by day as voting day approached. And, whether we like it or not, a sizable chunk of Indian voters lapped up such malicious slander. Leaders of all parties have come in for sharp criticism for their shooting-from-the-hip, hitting below the belt and their off-the-cuff remarks. Instead of harmony, violent and provocative messages are spread. The list of political leaders afflicted with ‘foot-in-mouth’ syndrome just seems to be getting longer. It is another matter that those who engaged in name calling, slander, character assassinations and defamation revealed their own character (or the sheer lack of it). Name calling is resorted to when all other strategies fail. When there is nothing left to defend. Pathetically enough, this is the stage Indian politicians have reached today.
Salman Khurshid, who is an acknowledged Oxbridge intellectual, did not mince his words when he called Narendra Modi ‘impotent’. Not only did he refuse to take back that uncouth comment, he continued to defend it, till his boss Rahul Gandhi snapped, “I don’t appreciate such language.” On the other hand Modi, with his 56-inch chest, pretended he was amused and far from offended by Khurshid’s crass comment. Several other educated leaders adopted sickeningly unparliamentarily language to settle political scores.
Modi has become a stalwart of politics and word play. He plays the word game to trigger a war-of-fame for his party. Anotov Kalashnikov must have turned in his grave when Modi defined the AKs—first for AK-47, second for AK Antony and third for AK-49. The icing was when he called Kejriwal a Pakistani agent. Hats off to his speech writer.
He went further ahead and described the Congress as termites which are eating up India, the pesticide for which would be the sweat of BJP workers. The biggest controversy in recent times, was, undoubtedly the one over the ‘puppy’ remark made by him.
The Exemplary Sacrifice Of Jashodaben And Narendra Modi
The marriage of Narendra Modi with Jashodaben during their childhood, which has now been widely covered in national news, has disclosed the exemplary conduct of Jashodaben and Narendra Modi comparable to that of Bhamati and her husband Vachaspathi Mishra, who wrote one of the most celebrated philosophical treatises ever written on Brahmasutras of Badarayana, who was the greatest philosopher, the world has ever seen. Though there are several commentaries on Brahmasutras, it is stated that one of the best commentaries is “Bhamati”. This commentary was written by the eminent Sanskrit scholar and great philosopher Vachaspathi Mishra. He took almost fifteen years to write his commentary after his marriage, completely sacrificing the desire to have a family life.
It is recorded in history that on one fine night when the writing of the commentary on Brahmasutras of Badarayana was completed and Vachaspathi Mishra was about to get up from his seat, in the candlelight he found a woman quietly serving him his dinner. He asked her: “Who are you and what are you doing at this time?” She replied: “My Lord, you were so immersed in writing the commentary that you completely forgot that many years ago you had married me. I am Bhamati, your wife.” Vachaspathi Mishra replied: “Yes, now I remember. But now, it is too late as I have taken a vow that on the day of completion of the commentary, I will take sannyasa and leave for the Himalayas.” She replied: “I will never come in your way. It is enough and great satisfaction for me that I had become your wife and I have silently helped you write the commentary on Brahmasutras.” Vachaspathi Mishra, who was spellbound by the devotion and dedication of his wife for fifteen long years, remarked: “It is difficult to find a woman of your quality with such patience and duty-mindedness and self-sacrifice, therefore I will name the commentary as ‘Bhamati’ so that your name will become immortal through this book.” Saying thus, Vachaspathi Mishra left for the Himalayas but Bhamati through the commentary written by her husband in her name has become immortal.
This above anecdote about the writing of commentary on Brahmasutras by Vachaspathi Mishra and the devotion with which Bhamati served Vachaspathi Mishra for fifteen long years depriving herself of the benefits or enjoyment of married life is comparable to that of Jashodaben and Narendra Modi.
It has now come to light that Narendra Modi and Jashodaben were married during their childhood in view of the custom and practice prevailing in ancient India that father and mother were very anxious to hand over their daughter to the care of her husband and get themselves absolved of the responsibility of performing marriage of their daughter. Accordingly, marriage of Narendra Modi and Jashodaben took place during their childhood. As far as Narendra Modi is concerned, much before the time when he was married, he became a swayamsevak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and had secured inspiration and guidance for devoting himself in the service of matrubhumi. Such inspiration and guidance was secured by him by the following lines in the daily prayer which he used to recite along with other swayamsevaks in the shaka, which reads: “O Affectionate Motherland I bow to thee always. … O great and auspicious, Land, my life be laid down in thy cause. …Thy Grace, be wholly capable of protecting our dharma and leading this nation of ours to the highest pinnacle of glory.”
The lines of the prayer aforementioned had tremendous influence in the making up of the personality of Narendra Modi as has been in the case of millions. So he had the intense desire to serve the motherland throughout his life rather than being engulfed in the family life. It is for this reason that Narendra Modi, though married, became a pracharak and completely kept himself away from enjoying the married life, so as to enable himself to devote his every iota of energy in the service of matrubhumi.
In this background, Jashodaben, who was deprived of the married life, took it in the right spirit and joined the service as a teacher and having served as teacher for over three decades she is now leading a retired life. Despite the fact that she was deprived of family life by her husband, it has now come to light that she says that she has absolutely no grouse against her husband. For the reason that she understood and appreciated the intense desire of Narendra Modi to be free from family life so that he would be in a position to devote his entire time and energy in the service of the nation. She says that she is confident that he will become the Prime Minister.
Further, without joining the election campaign along with Narendra Modi like any other ordinary woman, she has undertaken a pilgrimage and is praying for the welfare and prosperity of her husband. It is for this reason that the quality of Jashodaben is comparable to that of celebrated “Bhamati”. Elder brother of Narendra Modi Sombhai Modi has also very rightly said that from his childhood Narendra Modi’s character was moulded and was inspired to render selfless service to the nation, which is the real cause for keeping himself away from Jashodaben and other members of the family. The conduct of both Narendra Modi and Jashodaben is exemplary and a source of inspiration for many. Even now Jashodaben signs as Jashodaben Narendra Modi and has not entertained any grievance against Narendra Modi.
It is not surprising that the political opponents of Narendra Modi, who are intolerant of his popularity, are unable to appreciate the ideal conduct and mutual sacrifice of Narendra Modi and Jashodaben and are unjustly criticising him after he disclosed in an affidavit about the fact of his marriage, otherwise known to the members of his family and friends, after it was made mandatory.
(The writer is Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Former Chief Justice of Punjab & Haryana High Court & Former Governor of Jharkhand and Bihar)
By Justice (Retd.) M Rama Jois
Digvijay Singh is the most abused person on social media by the BJP, he has been called Dogvijay Singh and Pigvijay Singh. He is the sounding board of the Congress party, and shoots off loose volleys of cannon fodder which are later conveniently termed as his personal views by the party. He called Modi ‘Ravana’ and even prophesized of his death saying ‘his ego and arrogance will destruct him’.
The Congress President Sonia Gandhi had roared in the rally of Navsari, calling NaMo the ‘maut ka saudagar (the merchant of death)’ who sings the song of ‘secularism’. She compared him with Adolf Hitler and called him ‘lahu purush’.
Imran Masood of the Congress threatened to chop up Modi into pieces. Amit Shah spoke of revenge. Azam Khan shot wild bullets, even casting doubts on the integrity of the Indian Army. Both Shah and Azam were admonished by the Election Commission and gag orders were issued against them. Azam Khan had made the fantastic claim that the Kargil war was won not by Hindus but Muslim soldiers! He went on to call Modi ‘kutte ke bachchey ka bada bhai’ (elder brother of a pup).
The list of these loose tounged politicians is long. Raj Babbar and Rashid Masood of the Congress, Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference and Chandran Mitra of the BJP too have been afflicted by the disease. Mitra has remarked that Bharat Ratna should be taken back from Amartya Sen, a quip which he expressed regret over later, saying he ‘oversaid it’.
The incorrigible Beni Prasad Verma has landed into problems repeatedly with the AICC for expressing his displeasure against SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. He had said the Samajwadi Party supremo has ambitions of becoming the Prime Minister but he should ‘first try to get the job of a sweeper at the residence of the PM.’ He called Modi the RSS’ “biggest goonda” and BJP President Rajnath Singh “his slave”.
Rahul Gandhi and Digvijay Singh have taunted Modi for keeping his marital status a secret. Gandhi said that the BJP’s posters promised to “stand for the rights and respect of women, but we have a chief minister putting all his efforts to work to spy on a woman”. The reference is to the reported snooping on a woman architect in Gujarat a few years ago. Rashid Alvi, who was so keen to take on Modi in Varanasi, asked: “If a man can’t take care of his wife, how can he take care of the country?”
The BJP first threatened and has now hit back at the Congress leadership through posters contrasting “desh-premi” Modi with “patni-premi” Jawaharlal Nehru, alongside a laughing Edwina Mountbatten. The poster also depicts a woman planting a kiss on Rahul Gandhi’s cheek at a meet, and charges Digvijay Singh and Mulayam Singh of having two wives each and the SP strongman Azam Khan of six, well above the permissible limit for an Indian Muslim! It also questioned the “mysterious death” of Shashi Tharoor’s three wives.
Even the demure Priyanka Gandhi belted cousin Varun with the remarks that he had gone astray and needs to be brought back to the path. While commenting on reports of Priyanka’s wish to contest elections from Varanasi, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that she would have got a thrashing as she drinks too much alcohol and has a bad name. Not one single BJP leader condemned this. Swamy also called Priyanka an ungrateful daughter for going to see the prisoners in jail who assassinated her own father.
In West Bengal, the days of the bhadralok politician in Bengal are gone. Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas took things to a new low when he asked of the Trinamool: “er koto din rajnitik beshabritti korben (how many more days will you indulge in political prostitution?)” Biswas was referring to the Trinamool’s changing political alignments—first with BJP and then with Congress—but his choice of words hardly drew any bouquets. Biswas tendered an “unconditional” apology later.
Manish Tewari, lawyer and the minister in charge of I&B Ministry, who has been conspicuously silent this time tells “If you believe that Freedom of Speech and Right to Expression guaranteed under Constitution can extend to the right to offend anybody, then the person who has been offended has to have a legal remedy. That is where defamation cases serve their purpose.” Ironically, Anna Hazare had sued Tewari for making allegations of corruption against him.
Former Presidency College principal Amal Mukhopadhyay agrees. “The politicos are crossing all limits of decency now. In the last decade of Left Front rule, some senior CPM leaders made crass remarks. But those were an exception, now it is the rule. It only shows a sense of political bankruptcy,” he said.
The Indian political genre today is a far cry away from our founding fathers. It was a different era when India fought for independence and the leaders had education, integrity, talent and capacity to serve the nation. They were successful in their own professions or calling and had earned an honest living before people accepted as leaders.
This scenario underwent fast changes post-independence. Before he could lay moral standards for an independent India, we killed Gandhi. Jawaharlal Nehru soon found that politics in free India was becoming dependent on donations from large industrial houses. Perhaps he closed his eyes to the manner in which the Congress party’s financial managers collected money. A new leadership class emerged and with it came shady characters who had remarkable influence on matters of state and on the state’s leaders. Extra-constitutional power centres flourished. The world’s largest inclusive democracy embraces everyone—murderers, thugs and bandits—and give them a chance at the temple of democracy, where their
work is mostly notional. They are in attendance for 60 days out of 365 at best, and when they do sit down to work, they have a whale of a time screaming, shouting, tearing papers and pepper spraying.
The narrow focus and vote-bank politics has sidelined national issues such as economic welfare and national security. In a country of over a billion people, some whose existence is not even accounted for, where more than 37 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, where corruption is rampant and nearly a third of the Indian parliament members face criminal charges, “including human trafficking, immigration rackets, embezzlement, rape and even murder” and where terrorism, naxalism, inflation are major problems there is an urgent need for an extremely strong and clean political structure where all parties work together in tandem; fractional fighting is stopped and all lumpen leaders with criminal cases against them removed.
Every Indian should exercise his right to vote and be aware about what is happening around him. We have raise our voices against what we feel and know is wrong and most importantly we need to start thinking of joining this system because if there is any way we can think of doing a cleaning up act it is only from the inside.
All said and done, gaalis have always been part of the political vocabulary. What’s relatively new, perhaps, is the daily personal attack, more the rule than the exception, with epithets that political seniors at the Centre at least may once have shied away from using. The rhetoric and behaviour of the parties, when in power, whether at the centre or state level, is the same.
By Anil Dhir