Soon after Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora announced the schedule for the general elections on March 10, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the 137 crore Indians to celebrate and participate in what he termed as the “festival of democracy” that comes once in five years. There was an air of expectation, of political parties laying out their respective blueprints for the development of the country and the welfare of the people in the next five years. But alas, all that they got to hear during the campaign has been political cacophony. What started as rhetoric by the two principal parties — the BJP and the Congress — snowballed into an unprecedented, acerbic and vitriolic personal attack against each other’s leadership. Regional parties like the Trinamool and the BSP also pitched in to spew venom at rival leaders. There has been no talk of what the parties intend to do on a variety of issues ranging from unemployment to the perennial farm sector crisis, women’s empowerment to corruption, extending much-need healthcare to developing infrastructure that is critical for the country’s development. Ask any man on the street whether he has figured out what the two so-called national parties have for him, and he will go blank. Mind you, we are on the last leg of the largest electoral exercise in the world and nothing concrete has come of it except that only the BJP is capable of defending the country against extremism and external forces and that the Congress is the sole custodian of secularism. Never has the campaign trail hit such abysmal depths as the 17th edition of Lok Sabha elections. Fathers, some long gone, wives and mothers have been dragged into the electoral market-place and their images sullied. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi rechristened himself as a “chowkidar,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi immediately retorted stating that he was a thief in uniform. And so it went on, every jibe, every comment, aimed carefully below the waist.
The latest episode which has caught media attention (as opposed to people’s attention) is the “hua so hua” comment on the anti-Sikh riots by the easily irritable Sam Pitroda, a close aide of late Rajiv Gandhi who now ostensibly oversees Congress’ interests overseas. Rahul did come down heavily on his partyman, stating that he should be ashamed of making such remarks, and demanded that he apologise to the people of the country. That was not enough for Modi, who rather derogatorily, said: “Arrey, Namdar, it is you who should be ashamed.” Comment made, apology sought, apology made, can’t it be left at that? No, for Modi, it was dig, dig, dig, to come up with some murky happenings in the past to reinvent the smear. Such has been the language used so far that ‘Pappu,’ the original nickname for Rahul, seems harmless, and almost endearing!