Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Dangerous outbursts

In an election season in which the political discourse has shamefully reached an unprecedented low is the worrying and irresponsible use of war mongering and communally divisive rhetoric for petty interests without bothering about the larger impact of such words in a society. The Election Commission that belatedly woke up to take action against a handful of politicians for their divisive remarks, humiliating slurs and sexist remarks appears to be ignoring many others. Two latest salvos have come from Maharashtra chief minister Fadnavis who spoke about strapping opposition leaders to rockets and firing them to Balakot and a lesser known BJP leader, Ranjit Bahadur Srivastava sought votes to “destroy Muslims” and teach them a lesson. Some of the most vitriolic remarks have been made by terror accused Sadhvi Pragya, who showed disrespect to slain cop Hemant Karkare and even justified his killing and took great pride in the demolition of Babri mosque. Though the uncharitable remarks are being made by politicians of all hues and from all political groups, it is the ruling party which is primarily taking the lead and even the sitting prime minister is not an exception to the trend. Rather he has patronized many of his colleagues for what they speak. When a person of the stature of the prime minister joins the gang in fully backing Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, invoking a Hinduized definition of Indian civilization, or goes further to cash in on a tragedy like Sri Lanka’s recent terror attacks and speak about nuclear war, he is not only violative of election code of conduct and making dangerously irresponsible, legitimizing an uncivil and perilous discourse and by virtue of that helping to amplify such voices. That his words never catch the attention of the Election Commission is worrying as it both impedes the chances of existence of a level play field with respect to onus of maintaining decorum in the elections as well as promotes with greater vigour divisive remarks, bigotry, war mongering and misappropriation of positions of power. One of the objectionable out-burst was Modi’s remarks at a rally in Jaipur where he invoked the nuclear threat with the dramatic effect of ‘atom bomb not kept for Diwali’. Resorting to such bellicose nuclear war mongering at a time when the relations with Pakistan continue to be strained and on a day that fresh crisis had emerged in South Asia with over 290 dead and 500 injured in Sri Lanka. Rally after rally, he has been invoking terrorism and Pakistan to either misappropriate the valour of the soldiers or for building false binaries of anti-terror, seeing himself as the sole personification of that, and pro-terror politics. Dangers of such outbursts coming from none other than prime minister of a democratic country are much more amplified than coming from a leader at a far lower rung. Besides, they give greater legitimacy to such a dangerous discourse. His conduct during election campaigning should in fact be exemplary. On Tuesday, when he voted as an ordinary citizen from Gandhinagar in Gujarat, the fan-fare with which he came and returned performing a road show and waving to crowds in an obviously rehearsed ‘road show’, he fully proved that he was incapable of showing exemplary model conduct that others can emulate. Instead he is clearly using his position, power and even government machinery for election campaigning without any check from Election Commission. While one consequence of such unhindered liberty given to one of the most powerful person in the elections is that it exposes a cult of prejudice and bias. The other is that it helps create a dangerous atmosphere that is rich in bigotry, communal divisiveness and rhetoric of war. The implications of the latter are far-reaching and go beyond the elections. The former is a direct onslaught on democracy.