New Delhi: Sometimes when politicians overstate their case, they destroy the argument. The BJP electoral overreach, manifesting itself through giant full-page newspaper advertorials, published on Friday morning after the campaigning had concluded, is one such glaring instance of political overkill.
For some inexplicable reason, the insertion of such advertisements in the print media, by all the three mainstream parties, beyond the pale of canvassing hours, is not deemed a violation of the electoral code. Equally perplexing is why their telecast is deemed a violation in the electronic media? Incidentally, the BJP full-page advertisement, which is deftly couched in an appeal to help make Delhi a world class city, has been paid for by the party even though it carries a picture of the prime minister, who happens to be the face of the government. Whatever the EC’s rationale, there is a larger issue of a political party being able to seize undue advantage through unbridled use of money and power.
All this gives a party overweening control over levers of public opinion and is a subtle kind of political bullying. Political quid pro quo in cash or kind to coax voters into making choices for extraneous reasons; the use of invective — running down the main rival by calling him names; the lampooning of adversaries by giving them animalistic appendages; the attempt to create ethnic stereotypes — by invoking a candidate’s lineage; are all blatant forms of political bullying that operates at different levels.
Largely the onus is on the Election Commission to put an end to the political slapstick. But in a volatile democracy like ours — where the voter has a higher political quotient per calorie than anyone elsewhere in the world — parties need to reinvent themselves and usher in a new political culture. What passes for politics in the country today is often nothing less than buffoonery.
With age comes acceptance: the BJP must display political maturity and reconcile to the fact that just as it aspires to emerge as a pan-India party with a national footprint across the Vindhyas in the South and the Banihal tunnel up North, there will be smaller players who wish to share the political space with it. By trying to intimidate them — as it did to Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and hopes to do to Akali Dal in Punjab — it is not doing its cause any good. It could make a new beginning by reaching out to both the Samajwadi Party in UP and the Trinamool Congress in Bengal, which are convinced that they are being hounded for different reasons. Otherwise, Kejriwal may well become the Opposition’s political mascot and AAP may step into fill the vacuum created by the Congress’ leadership’s ineptitude.