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How new saffron rulers 'unrolled' political grammar of opposition as India's enemy

By RK Misra*
Rahul Gandhi is a ‘pappu’ and Priyanka Gandhi is ‘babli’, but every time the two open their mouth, why does the BJP get verbal diarrhoea?
Cold derision to deep embedded antagonism has marked the targeting of the two along with their mother Sonia Gandhi, the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was the victim of a terrorist attack as was his mother, late prime minister Indira Gandhi gunned down.
BJP leader Sushma Swaraj threatened to tonsure her head in 2004 if duly elected Sonia Gandhi became Prime Minister but had no objection sharing space in Parliament with 120 MPs facing criminal charges.
If the saffron set-up is to be believed, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru not only fathered a daughter but also all that is ‘ill’ with India. And then off course the ‘designated’ trolls would have you believe that Indira Gandhi’s Parsi husband was a Muslim and so was her Kashmiri pandit grandfather, Motilal!
Convincingly trounced in the 2014 general elections and truncated to seeming insignificance in 2019, the Congress is the last thing that should be on the minds of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government. It has a plateful of promises to fulfil but prevaricates because it cannot get over the persona of the previous cooks even after being twice anointed the chief chef of the Indian kitchen. Wives and widows are deserving of respect in the Indian ethos but the defining line stops short of just one family.
Pappu is one of the more charitable nick names designed to evoke mental comparables with a thumb sucking child same as ‘babli’ for Priyanka Gandhi is to equate her with a female fraudster character of a hindi movie “Bunty aur Babli” loosely patterned on Hollywood’s Bonnie and Clyde. Others have ranged from ‘clown prince’ to ‘nali ka keeda’ (insect of the gutter) and Babar-bhakt to kin of Alauddin Khilji with Siberian bird.
If these came from important BJP leaders, Narendra Modi is credited with describing the President of the then ruling Congress party as a Jersey cow and her son as a hybrid calf (2004) when he was the Gujarat chief minister and Rahul as the most joked about person on Google ( 2017) after he had taken over as the Prime Minister. All these disparaging pronouncements incidentally come from leaders of a political party which claims organisational lineage to the highest traditions of Hindu culture!
If the Nehru-Gandhis are what the ruling leadership believes them to be, then why waste time and energy on them? Why the chronic hiccups every time they clear their throat? Quite simply because despite burying the Congress two elections deep, insecure BJP head honchos still get nightmares of its resurrection. Like it or not, there is still a fair section of the Indian population rooting for the moderate party and the Nehru-Gandhi offsprings do retain a national appeal.
National political discourse seems to have travelled a long way from the time in 1957 when young Jana Sangh leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s speech in Parliament criticizing the government earned praise from Jawaharlal Nehru and a prediction that this young man will become the country’s Prime Minister one day.
In turn, Vajpayee’s speech at the same venue on the death of Nehru remains a rare gem as does his extolling of Indira Gandhi as an incarnation of Goddess Durga after the 1971 war with Pakistan. Time was when Prime Ministers sent opposition stalwarts to represent the country.
Rajiv Gandhi sent Vajpayee to the United Nations in 1994 as much to thwart the UN resolution on Kashmir as to attend to his damaged kidney. “Rajiv Gandhi is why I am alive”, said Vajpayee candidly for the record.
Official records and journalistic accounts are replete with incidents of personal camaraderie and political cordiality in ruling party and opposition relationships even past tumultuous times like the Emergency of 1975, installation of the first non-Congress government led by Morarji Desai through to the rise of the Vajpayee-led first saffron government in the nineties.
“Beauty with brains” for Congress-turned-opposition leader Tarkeshwari Sinha and “Gungi Gudiya” for Indira Gandhi of the early-1960s by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia were considered high water marks of the time. Switch to 2019, when Gujarat BJP president Jitu Vaghani exhorted the people to identify the bastards (haramzadon) in a reference to the Congress during the poll campaign.
It is perhaps for the first time in political history that a party which came to power with an absolute majority bagging 282 of the total 543 seats in the 15th general elections in 2014 changed the idiom of both personal and political discourse in India from harmonious co-existence to hate-filled hegemony.
After the advent of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister and Amit Shah as BJP president on the national stage, the opposition is no longer merely an opponent but has found itself upgraded to an ’ enemy’ status. A political opponent is a fellow traveller with a different perspective while an enemy is an object of hate marked out for annihilation.
The Congress which had led the freedom struggle with the cry “Angrez, Bharat chhodo” (Quit India) faces the clarion call of a “Congress-mukt Bharat” from the new saffron rulers – a national purge is what the ruling party implies of the present principal opposition that ruled the country for good of 40 years! 
Congress which had led the freedom struggle with the cry Angrez, Bharat chhodo (Quit India) now faces the clarion call of a Congress-mukt Bharat from BJP rulers
Prime Minister Modi even went on record to state that the Congress was conspiring with Pakistan to topple the BJP government in Gujarat (2017) and his party national general secretary Ram Madhav took it further stating that the Congress could easily win the elections in Pakistan (March 2019), followed by party chief JP Nadda terming it anti-national (April 2020).
Conveniently clouded in the myth manufacturing cacophony was that it was during Congress Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s rule that a decisive war in 1971 split Pakistan leading to the formation of Bangladesh defying a threatening US Seventh fleet bound for the Bay of Bengal.
While BJP’s claim to fame rests on a sole ‘surgical’ strike. Kargil was at best a ‘lapse’ which was recouped at considerable men and material cost and named Kargil Vijay Divas to salvage national pride. A similar situation presents itself today.
Hate as a tool of political discourse is like opium. It gives a temporary high as it courses through the veins in double quick time but ultimately destroys the very body fabric it was meant to protect. Hate cannot heal, it can only hurt.
In parliamentary parlance, the post of a speaker is one of great wisdom and constitutional propriety. Ganpat Vasava, was the honourable speaker of the Gujarat state assembly from 2014 to 2016. He is now Cabinet minister for forest and environment in the Vijay Rupani government. Speaking at a rally on April 20, 2019 in Dediapada of tribal Narmada district, Vasava compared Rahul Gandhi to the puppy of a dog who wags his tail before Pakistan and China.
Vasava’s exact words were, “When Narendrabhai stands up he is like a lion, when Rahul rises from a chair he is like the puppy of a dog, standing and wagging his tail: Even if Pakistan throws a crumb, he is happy, and even if China throws a crumb he is happy”. These words were spoken for the president of the principal opposition party of the country.
It is not for nothing that sobriety in public discourse and restraint in language has been advised for words have a way of returning to haunt. Despite all the filth, dirt and derision being hurled by respected members of the ruling establishment, Rahul Gandhi’s utterances, whether on the enveloping virus, economic tailspin or the occupation by the Chinese, are ringing true. And that is precisely what the job of an opposition leader is.
Pappu toh pass hogaya but it is Hercules who has slipped on the Himalayan heights!
---
*Senior journalist based in Gujarat. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

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