There mustn’t be a post-poll vendetta

There are traces of an implied threat against opponents in the language employed by key campaigners, suggesting that the losing side may be sought to be brought under pressure after the polls

The poll campaign to elect the Lok Sabha and the next government has had an air of desperation about it almost from the start, and the exercise has degenerated considerably since, raising the possibility of the politics of vendetta once the new government is sworn in. This would be an unmitigated disaster for India.

With BJP out of power two consecutive terms, the remotest thought that the party might lose some of its coherence if it came off second best yet again drove the saffron camp to embark on a high-decibel campaign of hard-sell even before BJP’s Gujarat leader was named the party’s PM candidate. The Congress appeared slow off the blocks, calculating (not unreasonably, but possibly with a defeatist mind-set) that the mood of anti-incumbency was high after 10 years. The BJP’s drive up until then was to showcase Mr Narendra Modi and his presumed achievements as chief minister. It was caustic against the Congress, not vituperative. And suddenly any sense of decorum that may have remained evaporated from the contest once the Congress joined battle in right earnest in spite of being written off by opinion surveys.
The sudden change in the tempo of battle caused BJP commanders to sit up and take stock. Both sides are now firing on all cylinders. The pitch is not getting just shrill. There are traces of an implied threat against opponents in the language employed by key campaigners, suggesting that the losing side may be sought to be brought under pressure after the polls.
This must not be allowed to pass. The politics of settling scores will detract from higher goals in a democracy seeking to raise the standards of life of its people. Vendetta has the potential to destroy unity of purpose and social cohesion. Both are critical to advance. The government is led into slippery pathways through impetuosity and the base motive of revenge. Driven by anxiety and frustration, its opponents choose alleyways of despair and adventurism. How the Janata Party government led by Morarji Desai dealt with former PM Indira Gandhi is a classic case of how not to deal with opponents in a democracy. Every humiliation of Indira Gandhi — instituting the Shah Commission of Inquiry against her was the most wrong-headed decision possible — served to put a spring in her step as she plotted her fight-back on an upsurge of goodwill for her among the same people who had voted her out only months before.
We hope good sense prevails on both sides of the fence as we approach the end of the election season with just about 149 seats left for voting. The battle has been hard. It is time for the principals to show farsightedness.

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