Why those holding exalted national positions seek to sully public discourse to abysmally low levels?

By RK Misra*

India’s ruling party has perfected a formula to win elections and master the mandate.
Every politically important poll you have variations of this theme dished out in myriad forms and features. The formula is simple. Use symbolisms. Flail at Pakistan, muddy the minority and harvest the Hindu. Cite Muslim mobilization to seek Hindu voter consolidation. Many times it works as in Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and the north-eastern states and sometimes it does not as in Bihar. The by-election results declared May 3I are further cause for saffron concern. The cleaver failed to cut in Kairana, UP Lok Sabha seat as the Jats, Muslims and Dalits forged a front to frustrate the BJP.
The controversy stirred up around the portrait of Mohammed Ali Jinnah at the Aligarh Muslim University falls in this category. It was part of the saffron poll programme, aimed at the Hindu voter in Karnataka.
BJP MP from Aligarh Satish Gautam who raised the issue in a letter to the AMU vice-chairman on May 1 this year was among the members of the university court who had been informed of the existence of the portrait almost a year ago. The MP did not raise the matter at the appropriate academic body all this time. Why now.
The implication is obvious. Soon after, activists from the Hindu Yuva Vahini, founded by present UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who had been campaigning in Karnataka, were upon the scene clashing with the students, stoking the fires; grist for the media mill, job done for the saffronistas. Rake an issue in a distant north Indian town and turn it into nation-wide news to cleave communities for majority community votes in election-bound Karnataka.
Interestingly such a political poll experiment was first conducted by Narendra Modi who took charge as chief minister of Gujarat in October 2001.
The statewide ‘gaurav-yatra’ by the chief minister in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots that followed the Godhra train carnage was the first of such cleaving exercises.
Come elections and the formula surfaces with religious regularity. Prime Minister Modi and his party chief Amit Shah have no qualms about leading from the front. In the Bihar elections three years ago, Modi gave a communal swing at a Buxar rally, charging chief minister Nitish Kumar and RJD leader Lalu Yadav with conspiring to take away five per cent reservation from OBCs, EBCs and dalits and give it away to Muslims.
In UP early last year it was the ‘kabristan-shamshan’ controversy and in Gujarat later the same year he went to the extent of accusing the former Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh of hobnobbing with Pakistan to ensure ‘his’ defeat. Brazenly, in your face and without batting an eyelid.
In Karnataka this last election, the Prime Minister again stated ‘untruths’. He is on record saying in an election rally at Kalburgi that after defeating Pakistan in nineteen forty eight,General Thimayya was insulted by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and defence minister Krishna Menon. Mr Prime Minister Sir, Thimayya became the army chief of India nine years after that event.
There were numerous other lies that the Prime Minister peddled during this last elections. These included that Congress leaders had no time to visit revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt who were in jail but they have time to meet leaders jailed on corruption charges, alluding to the visit of Rahul Gandhi with Lalu Yadav at AIMS. Mr Modi could do with reading Jawaharlal Nehru’s autobiography and the reference thereon to his visit to Lahore jail to meet them.
In Gujarat critics gleefully remember the public function at Siddhpur in 2005 when chief minister Modi had ‘magically’ revived the Saraswati river in a highly publicized state event through the convenient ruse of diverting Narmada waters. Thirteen years later, the mystical river is nowhere in sight though the chief minister who propagated a myth- and saw thousands carrying bottles of muddied water as precious ‘prasad’ -has now been the Prime Minister for over four years.
This brings us to the all important question whether those holding exalted national positions should be sullying public discourse to such abysmally low levels that things can never be the same again. The Prime Minister sets standards for others to emulate. The depths that he plumbs today will set the benchmark for those who succeed him. Modi has ensured that public discourse in India is plunged into a jousting journey to the centre of the earth.
If a Prime Minister with just four years in the saddle seeks to lampoon the country’s first executive head who ruled for almost 17 years at a stretch, he can rest assured that those who succeed him will put him through the shredder as well. After all, the Congress ruled India for three straight decades with king-sized repeat mandates from countrymen while the BJP which is into a scattered second term should remember that it came to power the first time only because the nation wanted the gentleman-politician Atal Bihari Vajpayee rewarded.
With just one more year for elections, enhanced exactitude and oratorial civility now may save future soiling.
Remember, overflowing trash cans only head to garbage dumps.
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*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. This article first appeared in https://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

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