Democracy: Restoring the dignity in public life

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Democracy: Restoring the dignity in public life

Thursday, 30 November 2023 | Kumar Chellappan

Democracy: Restoring the dignity in public life

Poll campaigns are becoming toxic with unrestrained campaigns; no one is sacrosanct, and all political parties must shoulder the blame for it

The campaign for the last phase of the election to the Telangana assembly has come to an end with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mega Road Show” at Hyderabad on Monday evening. It is once again silence in the state. But this is a temporary silence and a prelude to the much bigger cacophony that is all set to unfold in days to come. Poll pundits describe the election to the five State assemblies as the semi-final.

While elegance and aristocracy were the catchwords of speeches made inside and outside the parliament, of late the quality of the language used by our lawmakers has degenerated to a level lower than the Bharani Pattu sung by a section of pilgrims at the Devi Temple in Kerala’s Kodungallur. For those who are not familiar with the Bharani Pattu ritual, Bharani is one of the 27 stars used by astrologers for scientific calculations while Pattu means song/hymn. The self-styled Dravidians pay their obeisance to Bhagawathy (Devi/Goddess, the presiding deity of Kodungalloor) by singing obscene hymns on Bharani day in the Malayalam month of Chingam. It is a tradition whereby the farmers of yore days complain to the Goddess about their hardships in the typical Dravidian style.

The elections that were held after India became an independent country stand out for its methodical and systematic campaign. The enthusiasm and fervour seen in the people from metropolises to villages elevated the democratic process into a festival- a festival of democracy.

The campaign speeches delivered by the leaders were a learning process as they were packed with information, wisdom and knowledge. There are no records of leaders like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Sastri, Balraj Madhok, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Morarji Desai crossing the Lakshman Rekha and verbally assaulting their rivals.

The political discourse took a nasty turn with Indira Gandhi attacking the Opposition parties alleging them of trying to finish her off in their bid to capture power. All her speeches were centred around this one-point agenda and were seen by political pundits as an attempt to divert the attention of the electorate from real issues. She belittled the corruption charges against her party colleagues and ministers by stating that “corruption was a global phenomenon”.

The stand-off between the then Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi and the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi made it to the global news headlines. Sonia Gandhi began addressing Modi as ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’ (the wholesale merchant of death), Fascist, Dictator and whatnot! Modi retorted by calling her Antonio Maino (her Italian name) and ‘Congress widow’ to which the Congress and the Communists cried foul. The name-calling continued unabated as Rahul Gandhi opened a new battle front in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. ‘Chaukidar Chor Hai’ was the new war cry of the Congress scion. Though Modi kept silent for a while, he was forced to retaliate which was not music to the ears of Congress leaders.

This is one of the main reasons for having a One Nation, One Poll system. With the One Nation, One Poll system, we need to bear with this abnormal situation only once every five years and not every alternate month.

The silent campaign has its virtues and elegance. Election Campaigns should not upset the rhythm of one’s daily life. The dignity and harmony of democracy could be sustained by a silent campaign and not by discordant notes.

(The writer is a special correspondent with the Pioneer, views are personal)

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