Rasheeda Bhagat

India’s politics plumbing new lows

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on April 12, 2021

TMC activists during a campaign   -  PTI

In every way, the ongoing elections, especially in Bengal, have turned the discourse the shrillest and dirtiest

This new depths to which our political discourse is plunging is amply evident in the ongoing Assembly elections, especially in Bengal. The mudslinging, the taunting and the free use of unparliamentary language have reached a new low.

MLAs switching political parties has become routine in West Bengal, where the BJP is making a now-or-never attempt to unseat Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, and has been successful in luring TMC MLAs to its camp.

At what price we will never know, but the political discourse has been the shrillest and dirtiest here. Beginning with the Prime Minister’s Didi-oh-Didi taunts, delivered in an unbecoming manner as pointed out by the TMC’s firebrand MP Mahua Moitra, to the Didi’s own screeching election lingo, it is campaigning of a low level that hopefully is best forgotten. While in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, there is some clear indication that the DMK and the Left Front will form the government, in West Bengal, the TMC is clearly on the back-foot.

From Assam to Jaipur

And now we have another new. Usually, when it is a hung Assembly, post-verdict horse-trading and purchase of MLAs happens by the party closest to forming the government. MLAs are then bundled to luxury resorts to prevent from being poached.

But this time around in Assam, with the Congress ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) MLA jumping to the BJP side even before the third phase of the poll, the Congress and its allies — Maulana Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front and the BPF — which had formed the Mahajot alliance, have already flown potentially winning candidates to Jaipur and “secured” them in a hotel.

An alliance spokesman described this as a precautionary measure to prevent the BJP from poaching their MLAs in case of a hung Assembly.

Of course, the Rajasthan capital has been chosen as the Congress is in power there, and the prized — or priced — politicians are lodged in the same hotel that played host to Congress MLAs last year when the BJP tried to bring down the Gehlot government after the revolt by Sachin Pilot.

EVMs at large

Add to unseemly dramas such as low-level political discourse while electioneering and securing of MLAs even before results are announced on May 2, clearly indicating a lack of trust in their loyalty and integrity, the turning up of EVMs from all over the place.

Once again, in West Bengal, where the mantra by both the BJP and the TMC is clearly ‘power at any cost’, sealed EVMs were found outside a TMC leader’s house in Howrah district. But not before the BJP had trumped it days earlier when EVMs were found in a BJP candidate’s car in Assam.

In Chennai, too, a tragi-comedy was played out when one of the several EVMs being carried on a two wheeler by so-called polling officials, fell off the vehicle. They were imposters wearing poll official’s badges, and were caught by the public and handed over to the police. In all these cases, the Election Commission’s response has been disappointing — suspension of low-level functionaries. The big fish, as always, have got away.

Small wonder that the EC was trolled on the social media and we had message landing up in our in-boxes saying: “At the rate things are going, don’t be surprised if EVMs are soon available on Amazon, Flipkart, E-Bay or OLX!”

EVMs cropping up like this at random places makes a mockery of our election process and raises serious questions on the claim of ‘free and fair elections’.

Covid rages on

With more phases to go in Bengal, there is also the fear that the State may become a Covid hotspot, the dubious distinction now held by Maharashtra, which is accounting for nearly 60 per cent of new cases in India.

With Mumbai seeing a record number of cases, the ruling Shiv-Sena and the Opposition BJP are engaged in a war of words over a total lockdown and its ill-effects on the economy.

Any talk of lockdown scares the wits of the most strong wiled migrant worker.

Hundreds of them are already fleeing home, with the bitter experience post the sudden lockdown last March still quite fresh in their minds.

Most of us abhor lockdowns, but we, the people of India, are also the most irresponsible. In Chennai, it is common to find people marching around without masks as though the Covid threat is over.

All over India, hospital beds are becoming difficult to find, and the healthcare system is once again on the edge, struggling to treat the infected. And, yet, at the Kumbh Mela or temple events, thousands gather, blithely without wearing a mask, forget social distancing.

Won’t we ever learn and change our ways?

Published on April 12, 2021

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