Analysis: Voters Must Not Get Distracted By Rhetoric

Analysis: Voters Must Not Get Distracted By Rhetoric

From time immemorial, campaigning has been partly to do with emotions of the voters, appealing to nationalism and in India, for decades it is also about fanning religious passions

Abhay MokashiUpdated: Friday, April 12, 2024, 10:11 PM IST
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With the campaigning for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections gathering momentum, it is seen that some of the political parties and their leaders continue to divert attention of the voters from the real issues and at the same time violate the model code of conduct of the Election Commission of India.

Unfortunately, election campaigns these days are reduced to making tall promises, without telling the voters what the party or the candidate concerned has done for the welfare of the people and for the country. From time immemorial, campaigning has been partly to do with emotions of the voters, appealing to nationalism and in India, for decades it is also about fanning religious passions.

A large section of the voters, young and old, are ill-informed about the history of the country, contribution of past leaders to the development of the nation, the current state of the economy and what it really means for a country to be called developed or a power to reckon with in the international arena. Today, India is a major consumer market for all the developed countries and that is the reason the prime minister is given plenty of importance across the world, his repeated faux pas on various issues notwithstanding. A majority of Indians tend to forget that leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru were given respect and importance at a time when India was not such a big market, given the poverty in the country those days.

An ill-informed electorate becomes more gullible to rhetoric, without caring for the facts. A classic example is that of actress Kangana Ranaut, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate from Mandi, who firmly believes that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (she did not refer to him as Netaji) was the first prime minister of independent India and that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not made the prime minister because he did not know English. As regards Sardar Patel’s knowledge of English, he had studied law in the United Kingdom. Later, he made speeches in English without a teleprompter and did plenty of official drafting in that language.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been criticising the Congress manifesto, claiming it to be of the Muslim League, subtly giving his ignorant and blind supporters an impression that the Congress is favouring Muslims and suggesting that the Muslim League is pro-Pakistan. Many of his followers do not know that the All India Muslim League, which supported the formation of Pakistan, is not the Indian Union Muslim League now active in Kerala. Moreover, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the ancestral ideologue of the BJP and its leaders, had formed a government in alliance with the Indian Union Muslim League before Independence and had supported the British.

Blind nationalism is dangerous for any country and has led to the disintegration of nations or to the downfall of governments. A video attributed to the BJP is being circulated, with a Modi supporter stating that inflation and unemployment does not matter as long as the nation becomes strong. Little does he know that largescale unemployment cannot make a nation strong.

When political leaders are left with no constructive agenda, they indulge in personal attacks and playing with emotions, often going overboard. In his speech attacking the Maha Vikas Aghadi, an alliance of Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (Sharad Pawar), BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar compared the alliance to incest between a brother and sister. His words cannot be repeated here. Mungantiwar did not stop at that and went on to defend himself, without remorse, when journalists sought his reaction to his statement. Needless to say the party leaders have not pulled him up for his statement.

Patriarchal thinking is deep-rooted in many political leaders. This was exhibited by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar during his speech seeking votes for his wife Sunetra, who is contesting the Lok Sabha election from Baramati against his cousin Supriya Sule. Sunetra Pawar has no work to show to the voters, so her husband appealed to the voters to elect a person with the surname Pawar, as they have been doing over the years. His appeal clearly exhibits is belief that most Indians still carry that a married daughter does not belong to the family in which she is born. This is in contrast to the stand taken by his uncle Sharad Pawar, who for decades defended his decision to be happy with a daughter and that he does not distinguish between a son and a daughter.

Ironically, Ajit Pawar obliquely told his cousin that elections are not won by making speeches, though Sule has enough work to show to the voters.

Narendra Modi must be appreciated for his courage to speak up against corruption and how, while he and his party are out to eradicate corruption, the I.N.D.I.A bloc is trying to protect corruption. In his election speeches, Modi has been rattling off the names of the leaders of the India bloc who are “corrupt”. Modi is courageous, because all the leaders whom he had declared to be corrupt in the past are now in his party and he, his party and his supporters are silent on their corruption now.

Moreover, the “biggest voice against corruption” in recent times has suddenly been muted. Anna Hazare, who made national headlines in 2014 with his fight against corruption, has lost his voice and he should go to an ENT surgeon to get his vocal cords rectified — alternatively, he should come clean and state that his fight against corruption is selective.

Voters need to give proper thought to who can be trusted with the welfare of the people, instead of falling a prey to rhetoric and tall, empty promises.

The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi

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