Grabbing publicity at any cost, and garnering eyeballs at all level, seems to be, sadly, the mantra of the netas.
When I reflect on my teenage years and my Xavierite background, which even now remains, completely cosmopolitan, I remember election time and netas giving speeches full of humour and healthy sarcasm.
Those were truly enjoyable times. The hate speeches we see and hear today, across party lines, with clear and strategic intent to divide and polarise the voter and without any semblance of national responsibility, were completely non-existent at that time
Vote-gathering along religious or ethnic lines was attempted, and was done, but it was subtle.
Today, sadly, the humour element is like a ghost. Instead of sticking to the party manifesto, the little time on stage is used to spew venom and filth which puts even the dirtiest cheap tricks department to shame.
Grabbing publicity at any cost, and garnering eyeballs at the local and national level, seems to be, sadly, the mantra of the day.
Healthy debates dealing with burning issues can take a long hike — which neta is interested in discussing problems pertaining to the dangerously low water table across India, pollution, adulteration of all types, population explosion etc.
The road map of illusory solutions, leave alone any effort to deal with these issues, seem to have lapsed into convenient oblivion. So, why then is this the norm of the day?
The answer is simple. With no visible work being done, the gladiator on stage, in excited frenzy, whips up the same classic rhetoric which he cleverly assumes will divert the attention of the public.
It also appears convenient for all the political parties in Parliament to cleverly ensure that people facing serious criminal cases do enter either House.
The Supreme Court’s advice remains to be conveniently implemented. Since there is no work progress to showcase, the freedom of speech is totally misused even at the peril of attracting the archaic sedition law. All norms of so-called party discipline are conveniently ignored and the only focus in Arjuna-like fashion is to grab the voter’s attention and humiliate the opponent.
The internal check and balance system which should be enforced to restrain unbridled exuberance in every party is non-existent.
The work progress chart in the discourse is replaced by shameless mud-slinging. With enough skeletons in each other’s closet, the purpose to throw the voter off-balance is achieved with clinical precision.
The Election Commission occasionally wakes up but often too late. Even at that moment it is not spared the allegations of bias and prejudice.
The SC is informed by the Centre that its direction on electoral reforms including the one on having a permanent, independent and largely impartial machinery to monitor lawmakers is still going to be established.
The lack of legal status for the model code of conduct leaves enough room for ambiguity. The result is there is a rush of people towards the several entertainment platforms to entertain themselves only in order to avoid suffering the same rhetoric.
The neta eventually ends up the winner and our suffering continues as, out of sheer exhaustion, the public eventually gives up and the politician smiles to himself and the advisers rejoice, as they presume that the strategy worked.
It’s like being between a rock and a hard place for the public across the spectrum. Then, to add salt to the festering wound, the voter is told that he is an ‘idiot’ if he does not vote. So, the one victorious neta who grabbed the eyeballs eventually scrapes through and splurges on the victory rally.
When there is a huge number of politicians who contest polls despite having a large number of pending cases, the flavour of each unique criminal neta is going to showcase itself in the hate speeches also. Sadly, the means to the goal to be achieved do not matter at all.
And then you have the self-styled religious leaders also begging for votes on communal lines.
Religion as truly said becomes the opium of the masses. But then our ancient fallback on rationalism reminds us, that this is destiny and life drudges on.
(The writer is an advocate of the Bombay high court)