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  Opinion   Edit  23 Apr 2024  AA Edit | Lies, hate have no place in election campaign

AA Edit | Lies, hate have no place in election campaign

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Apr 23, 2024, 1:31 am IST
Updated : Apr 23, 2024, 1:31 am IST

As the heat of election season rises, a plea for respectful dialogue and integrity in political speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Banswara district, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (PTI Photo)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting for Lok Sabha elections, in Banswara district, Sunday, April 21, 2024. (PTI Photo)

The extreme heat of a typical Indian summer has an extra fiery feel and layer — of political slugfests, adding to the impact and sense of the rising mercury, all around the country. Only one phase of the elections is done, and the bulk of political confrontation is still ahead of us.

One has to, in this divided, opinionated, vituperative, and contentiously partisan mood, make a categorical assertion that would be applicable to every single party, leader and individual — that neither lies nor hatred has any place in our festival of democracy, the elections.

Understandably, as each party feels the stress of internal surveys, and perhaps faced with the potential of performance being underwhelming, and less emphatic, compared to their aspirations, desires, projections and one-upmanship, their leaders try to push the pedal harder. However, parties and leaders, while making their speeches, or their social media content, or various campaign programmes and advertisements, slogans, songs, statements, et al, must try to find better arguments rather than their unacceptable rhetoric crossing the line of control.

The ‘Lakshman rekha’ must be drawn at being civil, not pushing the interpretation of truth too much, and not crossing the borders to a point where we hurt sections of people and divide them, for the sake of votes.

One of the most controversial speeches in recent times has been delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, targeting the Congress manifesto on the issue of redistribution of wealth. All nations are socialist to some extent, and welfare is the mainstay of manifestoes in all democracies. Hence, while a promise may be subject to rational tests of feasibility, ability of pay from the exchequer given certain economic realities, including government's broad band of revenues and expenses, it should be used to create animosity.

When Mr Modi said that the Congress wishes to uphold its principle that minorities, read Muslims, have the first right to resources, and then went on to say the Grand Old Party under Rahul Gandhi will dole out monies to “…those who have more children…”, and to those “…who have entered the country illegally...”, it was a troublesome stance and choice of words by the BJP.

Given the stature of the leader, it was best avoidable. There are several other routes to flaying the Congress manifesto, but dog-whistling an entire social group with a bias-inducing allegation that would have repercussions is not acceptable, morally.

Similarly, the Opposition is constantly targeting Mr Modi and his party with allegations that are not true — that the saffron party wishes to change the Constitution if it wins a third term, that these would be the last elections or that reservations based on caste would be amended out of legal sanction, despite several disclaimers and denials — which is wrong. It is as wrong to try to create fear amongst people as hate.

The underprivileged sections of society, who have suffered for generations as the most vulnerable subaltern, should not be subject to a fear psychosis campaign from leaders and parties that must try to enhance their dignity, pride and confidence. Even after Mr Modi said that there is no question of changing the Constitution or removing reservations, the Opposition is trying to benefit unfairly ahead of the polls, which must be sternly condemned.

Let all parties play it fair. You owe it to India, our democracy, and our people. And it starts with your speech.

 

Tags: hate speech, aa edit, 2024 lok sabha elections