Gujarat Elections: The Campaign Morphs

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Following politics in India in the last few days has been very painful. When one feels that we have reached rock bottom, something else comes up that pulls the level of discourse even lower. Hardly befitting the largest democracy in the world, though to be honest the largest part has just to do with fertility rates rather than any real achievement. The abysmal nature of discourse has been across party lines. We have seen

  1. Mani Shanker Aiyar calling the siting Prime Minister a neech admi. He may have meant lowly person and may not have meant it to be from a casteist angle but it was unacceptable behaviour anyway. The only ray of sunshine in the whole murk was the swiftness with which Rahul Gandhi suspended Mani Shankar Aiyar and made him apologize. You may read anything into that gesture but it imo it was classy. At least the words were there which cannot always be said about the BJP leadership. The way the BJP latched on to this and converted it into a casteist comment is a super example of political rabble-rousing skill. But the Congress deserved the backlash they got.
  2. Then we had a BJP leader referring to Rahul Gandhi as A ‘Devotee’ Of Babar And ‘Kin’ Of Alauddin Khilji. Absolute nonsense.
  3. We had a sycophantic BJP spokesperson calling the Prime Minister the father of the nation!!!!!!
  4. The lowest point though was reached on, 10th December 2017, with the incumbent prime minister saying Islamabad is trying to fix Gujarat pollsJust take a moment to reflect on this: an incumbent Prime Minister of India, who enjoys absolute majority in the Parliament and belongs to a party that governs 18 / 29 States, said in a public meeting that Pakistan has the power to fix a State election in India. I find this whole incident appalling.
    • What was the PM trying to say? That the security agencies in India are incompetent? That the former PM, a distinguished scholar and gentleman is a traitor? That all other parties except the BJP are traitors? If they were not, what gain could Pakistan have in getting one elected? That India is so weak that Pakistan can fix elections?
    • If we accept that the PM has information and what he said is true, are the leaders of the Congress, including the former PM, going to be charged with treason? is the Pakistan envoy going to be expelled? What would it mean, if this does not happen?
    • If it was not true and just election rhetoric (chunavi jumla), what does that mean about the value of the PM’s word? About his ability to represent 1.3 billion people on the world stage? What does it mean in context of trust of the people on the world of their leader?

These are just some of the low spots of the appalling mess we are in. A mess that we have no control over. There have been other worse things.

Why has this happened? Where is the discussion on development?

Here is my take on it. Remember we are talking of an election of unsurpassed importance. It is the PM’s home State. One where he cut his teeth on governance. One which propelled him to the PM’s position. This is one he cannot lose.

  1. With demonetisation and GST denting the GDP growth, this election was not a good time to talk about development. No one understands what GDP means anyway. Ordinary people just know that the price of commodities is going up.
  2. No one really knows what the Gujarat model is. In any case the social indicators, which the poor know about, are not all that great as Jean Dreze explained  recently.  Ergo it’s not a great time to talk about the Gujarat model, definitely not IN Gujarat. People may mock.
  3. The threat raised by Hardik Patel is real. Very real. We have already seen backlash against him personally. Remember the CD?
  4. Rahul Gandhi landed a few punches in this election. That was unexpected. He was expected to fold quietly. The BJP had to quickly scramble. They hit upon the magic questions “ Is Rahul a catholic?Which God does he worship?” To cap it, someone in the Congress mentions that Rahul was a devout Hindu who donned the sacred thread! Pandit Nehru, a truly secular man, would have turned in his grave had he been interred.
  5. The real and biggest reason why the BJP and Modi went back to caste and religion is that it is their default and strongest mode. It is the brew that won them election after election. Why change now in the State election that has the highest stakes personally for the PM? This election HAS to be won. Convincingly. It was time to discard the development mask and use the winning face.

This is really a sad time for democracy in India. My heart breaks. And to think that we smirk at the Americans when Trump raves and rants and sees monsters under his bed.

Makarand

All of the above has been explained by Sandeep Adhwaryu in one cartoon

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