Monday, April 28, 2014

Are hate merchants hijacking our country? Polarised politics spell danger

Good old Willie Shakespeare said, tempt not a desperate man. The most desperate men who ever walked the Indian political stage are driving this election. They are tempted by the fight-to-the-finish nature of this battle; a sixth sense that if they don't get power this time, they won't get it for a long time. India is tempting desperate men and we can already see the consequences: Increasing emphasis on religious passions, the feeding of mutual hatreds, polarised politics promoting violence. Was this what adult franchise was supposed to bring us?

The campaigning of recent weeks will be remembered for its quotable quotes -- many of them diabolical, delivered by diabolical men, but quotable nonetheless. A few were honest, some were surprisingly astute. But the despicable ones took centre stage because they showed us how degenerate our politics had become and how venomous our political violators.

Perhaps the most honest words came from H. D. Kumaraswamy, a former chief minister of Karnataka. Announcing, after much reluctance, that he would stand from a new constituency this time, he said: "My father H.D. Deve Gowda is old. I may die any time as I have undergone heart surgery. Why we need this politics". Golden words that must be inscribed on the walls of every party office in the country.

A sharp-eyed observation came from Maulana Reza Khan of Bareilly. "Muslims", he said, "are so angry with the Congress that, had Modi not been the P M candidate, they would have even voted BJP". Another Bareilly voter expressed similar reservations about Modi and his UP sword-arm, Amit Shah, when he said: "They organise riots when they want to come to power, not when they are in power".

Ajit Pawar is notorious for politically illiterate remarks. This time he said he would cut off water supply to people who did not vote for his cousin and Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule. He denied it, but that cut no ice because (a) there was a video of the man's talk and (b) his track record establishes him as a man who would make that threat and worse. Remember his proclamation in 2011: "Nothing can happen in politics unless you are a thug". He went on to tell media persons: "You people must be banned... You'll understand when you are beaten up". This is a malfunctioning malefactor who will understand nothing even when he is beaten.

From gutter civilisation to hate culture the distance is short. We are told that the law is taking its course on the likes of Praveen Togadia who said and then denied that Muslims should not be given houses in Hindu areas. It is not easy to match Togadia in hate speeches, yet Bihar's BJP candidate Giriraj Singh came close to it by saying -- and not denying -- that those who did not accept Modi should go to Pakistan. Fair enough. But who will arrange the visas?

These statements were so outrageous that even Hindutva heroes felt constrained to wash their hands of it. But see how they washed without trying to clean. The RSS spokesman went philosophical and spoke of India's primordial unity. Modi confined himself to Twitter, named no names and said no one should divert attention from the theme of development. Priyanka Gandhi agreed. Those who attacked her dear husband, she said, were "diverting the attention of people from development issues". What harmony of minds at the top, what unity of thought!

On the other shore of our Poison Lake is Azam Khan who made the stupidest remark of this election when he said "those who fought for victory in the Kargil war were not Hindu but Muslim soldiers." Muslim jawans themselves must have felt insulted by those words. In what age are men like Azam Khan living? Which country, what society are they serving? Not a battalion of Togadias can subjugate a section of the population. Nor can an army of Azam Khans tread on sections they dislike. Divided, all pretenders to all religions will fall. We must hasten the process by isolating, exposing and restraining the hate merchants.