Indian Elections: The Politics of Insults, Anger and Debasement Destroy the Democratic Fibre

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It is a matter of deep concern to note the direction political discourses have taken during the last few elections. It is simply pointless to dwell over who initiated this process of debasement; the simple fact is that each and every party was more than prepared to play this unfortunate game showing no inclination at all to curtail the litany of abuse. We witnessed the ghastly spectacle of a parliamentary candidate from Saharanpur declare that he would chop the prime ministerial candidate of an opposing party to pieces. The Congress (I) dissociated itself from these remarks but their disclaimer was patently disingenuous – the candidate himself remained unrepentant and publicly stood by these supremely obnoxious comments. Ashoka agonises the debasement of political discourse during elections in India, in the weekly column, exclusively for Truths.  

Having had the good fortune of having lived and worked in 11 different countries – mostly functioning democracies – I have had the occasion to observe the democratic process at work at different levels. I have seen political opponents slug it out during the electoral process but always retain the sense of decorum. The attacks never assumed personal dimensions, the only exception perhaps being the open hostility between the Unionists and the IRA supporters in the Northern Ireland.

It, therefore, is a matter of deep concern to note the direction political discourses have taken during the last few elections. It is simply pointless to dwell over who initiated this process of debasement; the simple fact is that each and every party was more than prepared to play this unfortunate game showing no inclination at all to curtail the litany of abuse. We witnessed the ghastly spectacle of a parliamentary candidate from Saharanpur declare that he would chop the prime ministerial candidate of an opposing party to pieces. The Congress (I) dissociated itself from these remarks but their disclaimer was patently disingenuous – the candidate himself remained unrepentant and publicly stood by these supremely obnoxious comments.

In the same elections, we witnessed a senior minister in the country’s biggest province making a declaration that the Indian Army, perhaps the truest representative of India’s composite culture should be beholden to one particular community for its disproportionate display of valour. Irrespective of the veracity of this complaint, the suggestion was patently divisive and mischievous. Not to be outdone, the party vying for power had put up a candidate who had the temerity to suggest that anyone not voting for his party and its projected prime minister was a ‘Pakistan sympathiser’, who would be deported to that country. I can confidently state after having watched elections in India and elsewhere for over 50 years that I had never heard of any comment as violative of the democratic spirit as that. The party which had nurtured this man went through the ritual process of disowning the but it seemed equally disingenuous as its main political rival. The culprit remains unremorseful and vehemently sticks to his comments.

 If that was not enough, we were treated to an even more shocking spectacle of a cancer surgeon turned revoltingly obnoxious religious bigot declare that people belonging to his community should use strong arm tactics to prevent a particular community from buying houses in their residential localities – throwing all the sacred Constitutional provisions to the wind. Around the same time, we witnessed another shocking spectacle of another candidate berate one particular community, while sharing a dais with a prospective prime minister.

While these are the more egregious violations of the accepted decorum in a democracy, there are other numerous departures, which make me deeply uncomfortable. Not the least was Priyanka’s allusion to Modi, a person almost the same age as her father as ‘Modi’ instead of Mr. Modi or Modiji. Besides, I had never seen any election in a democracy where dirty linen of the opponent is being so shamelessly exhibited even when it has no bearing on the person’s public conduct.

A democracy can only function when there is an underlying belief that the opponent, notwithstanding his/her views harbours a spirit of public service which evokes respect. The era when right wing politicians like Syamaprasad Mookerjee and Dr. Raghu Vira could regard diehard communists like A.K. Gopalan and card carrying socialists like Narendra Dev and Lohia as close friends are clearly over.

And what is most distressing is that people with absolutely no democratic inclinations are being projected as torch-bearers of democracy – which can only weaken our edifice and claim to a self-governing state. All the parties are just as guilty as the other.

I am reminded of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s prophetic which seem apposite:

“An election cannot give a country a firm sense of direction if it has two or more national parties which merely have different names but are as alike in their principles and aims as two peas in the same pod.”

©Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Photos from the internet.

#MidweekMusing #Politics #IndianPolitics #CongressI #Government #DifferentTruths

Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad is a physician /psychiatrist holding doctorates in pharmacology, history and philosophy plus a higher doctorate. He is also a qualified barrister and geneticist. He is a regular columnist in several newspapers, has published over 100 books and has been described by the Cambridge News as the 'most educationally qualified in the world'.
Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
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