Editorial: Rahul Gandhi’s Povertarian Pitch

Editorial: Rahul Gandhi’s Povertarian Pitch

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Thursday, April 25, 2024, 04:33 AM IST
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Rahul Gandhi | File Photo

Elections bring out the best and the worst in politicians. However, thus far into the campaigning for the Lok Sabha poll we cannot recall the best from politicians on either side of the electoral divide. Nonetheless the negative side is aplenty and growing every day as the long poll process comes to its logical conclusion on June 4 when the votes are to be counted and winners and losers declared. Doubtless, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sounded less than prime ministerial in some of his pronouncements from the pulpit. He was amiss in the choice of his words. Even if he had to say what he did, it could have been done in less shrill and more sober words than he chose to use. The return to divisive politics also indicated a certain anxiety about the current mood of the voters. In an unusually boring and listless campaign the effort to rouse the voters to the drumbeat of communalism and Muslim-bashing was not the best of options available with the ruling party. On its part, the Congress party seems to be hung up on caste and wealth surveys in a highly blinkered approach in order to pit the relatively well-off voters against the vast majority of the poor and underprivileged sections. Clearly, the Congress reckons that without snapping Modi’s emotional connect with the OBCs and the poor it cannot hope to do well in the poll. Rahul Gandhi in particular has given vent to his “stray thoughts” on wealth-sharing and -distribution and socio-economic surveys with the singular objective of dividing the electors into rich versus poor. Like a broken record, attacking “Ambani and Adani” from the stump may not burnish the Congress’s pro-poor credentials, given that both industrialists owe their initial growth to the Congress Party. Post-liberalisation their growth might have acquired a much higher trajectory but this was only to be expected. In the early years of the Republic, the Opposition had picked on the “Birlas and Tatas” to suggest that the then Congress governments were in their pocket. Probably, abusing successful businessmen in a country with a large number of poor comes naturally to the Opposition. But that certainly should not suggest that the rise of these industrialists is party-specific. As is by now well known, businesses are good at, well, doing business — with whichever party may come to power.

Meanwhile, the talk of inheritance tax by Sam Pitroda, an NRI close to the Gandhis and head of the Congress’s overseas cell, has further provided ammunition to the BJP to paint a scary picture of the Congress as a party out to “snatch women’s mangalsutras” and deny their children the inheritance right to their parents’ property. Pitroda, as per Jairam Ramesh, is a mentor to Rahul Gandhi, and is known to often fly off the handle. Some years ago he had caused consternation in the Sikh community, brushing off the 1984 massacre as a matter of no consequence. The leftist-liberal turn in the pronouncements of Rahul Gandhi and others in the party does not sit well with the current mood in the country. Having lived through the heydays of “Garibi Hatao”, ordinary voters tend to shrug their shoulders dismissively, fully aware that their socio-economic lot has palpably improved in the post-liberalisation era. Socialism does not sell any more.

At the same time, while the complaint against Modi’s dog-whistles to consolidate the majority community behind him is still pending with the Election Commission, a couple of more violations of the model code of conduct have come to light. One comes from Kerala where a CPI(M) leader questioned Rahul’s paternity, demanding a DNA test. Surprisingly, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seemed to justify his party MLA’s gross abuse. Then, a former AAP leader in Gujarat described Rahul as “impotent”. Such filthy abuses are common from the second-rung leaders of all parties. Even in the heat and dust of intensive campaigning, responsible politicians are not expected to discard civility and good behaviour. Pandering to the lowbrow proclivities of a section of the voters does not redound to the credit of both the speaker and his audiences. Election is not a blood sport. It is the biggest festival of democracy and need not be marred by personal abuse and profanities.

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