Rasheeda Bhagat

Politics, pathos and misplaced priorities

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on November 02, 2020

Poll talk | Promises are seldom kept   -  THE HINDU

Our netas still harp about ‘jungle raj’ and ‘love jihad’ rather than rebuild the economy and lives wrecked by Covid

With the ongoing Bihar Assembly elections throwing up many interesting questions on the power play in the State, with the passing of LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan and the deepening rift between his son and political heir Chirag Paswan, and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the pickings can be rich for a writer.

But, then, in an already frustrating Covid world, it is exhausting to read about the same ghisa-pita, hate poll narrative that rules Indian elections. On the one hand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues his attack on “double-double yuvraj”… Rahul Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s son Tejashwi Yadav, and harps upon the danger of Bihar returning to “jungle raj”, and offers freebies. The one that really stirred the hornet’s nest was Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s promise of “free coronavirus vaccination for all”. Expectedly, the Election Commission ruled that this did not violate electoral code of conduct as it was only a “welfare” measure.

At least the promise raised a few laughs when a social media message said: “Tum pichhla 15 lakh rupiye dey do/Vaccine hum khud kharidengey (Give us the earlier promised ₹15 lakh; we will buy the vaccine ourself).”

On its part, the Congress injected some comedy into electioneering when it attacked Nitish Kumar and the BJP over reports of police lathi charge on devotees participating in a Durga Puja procession in Munger, and called it “anti-Hindu”.

Chirag Paswan, who, had he not been singing hosannas to the BJP, might have given PM Modi the unique opportunity to coin the term “triple yuvrajs” to attack dynasty politics, continues his tirade against Nitish. He has called him palturam and paltimaar (turncoat), reminded the BJP how he ditched the party and then returned to it when it suited him, and is getting ready to ditch him all over again.

Nobody will blame you if you start yawning listening to the same old poll rhetoric all over again. All the parties are talking about social justice, being saviours of the poor, and promising to create lakhs and lakhs of jobs. Anything new?

Stalked by hunger

Compared to the weariness brought on by such poll talk and tall promises, which anyway no one really believes, what made me sit up was a poignant Facebook post from a friend and former colleague, P Devarajan. It was simple enough, and yet heartbreaking. He said the doorbell rang, he answered it to find Arjun, his dhobi, who was following up on the text he had sent the previous week, asking: ‘Saab kapda hei?’ “With the family taped to monitors” and not needing ironed clothes, he had to reply in the negative. “Saab, humko nahi chhodenga na?”, was Arjun’s plea, while predicting a dismal future… “bhookha marney ka hei’ (We are going to starve to death).

But before I could shed tears for the Arjuns of India, a Monday headline left me bewildered. ‘Growth back as GST mop-up tops ₹1.1-lakh cr’, it said. Wow, that’s an impressive number. But, wait, growth for whom, is the question we need to ask, and answer.

Of course, we know all about the trickle-down effect of the economy, and so on, but trickles take a long, long time to percolate to the bottom of the pyramid. Hopefully, Arjun and his brethren will survive till then to enjoy the benefits of what is only a mirage for them right now.

But are our netas worried about the economy, wrecked not only by Covid 19 but also man-made blunders too? No sir! They want to bring about legislation to stop “love jihad”. As usual, the top boss from the BJP in Uttar Pradesh gave the call, and other sheep have followed suit. Are they even listening to themselves? And the poison of communal hatred they are spreading?

Yes, there is merit in the Allahabad High Court verdict that religious conversion just for the sake of marriage is not valid. If you are going to allow/accept a bride or bridegroom into your family only if she or he converts to your religion, and follows your customs or traditions, then that is skewed thinking. And that is where the Tanishq ad promoting inter-faith marriage was so important, and its withdrawal, thanks to bullying, so heartbreaking.

But to call interfaith marriage ‘love jihad’ is obnoxious. And, how are you going to legislate matters of the heart? Such thoughts are deeply ominous signals about the hate brigade wanting to further polarise Indians in an already fractured society. And that too in an unprecedented time when millions of Indians are facing unemployment and a grim future.

Published on November 02, 2020

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