Our prime minister's ignoble mind

Will Indian political life ever climb out of the pit into which it has willingly fallen? Or is this what Indians want?

  • Published 7.05.19, 8:43 AM
  • Updated 7.05.19, 8:43 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
At an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, prime minister Narendra Modi brought up the name of former PM Rajiv Gandhi, the late father of his political rival Rahul Gandhi, and said that Rajiv ‘ended his life’ as “bhrashtachari No. 1” although his ‘courtiers’ called him “Mr Clean” (PTI)

Indian tradition, or, rather, civilized tradition everywhere, follows some unwritten rules of exchange, even when the exchange is heated. For example, dragging the parents of those engaged in a quarrel into the conflict is considered low, the mark of an ignoble mind. It should, therefore, cause Indians deep dismay that their prime minister has not only brought up the name of the late father of his political rival, Rahul Gandhi, in an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, but also stated that the former prime minister ‘ended his life’ as “bhrashtachari No. 1” although his ‘courtiers’ called him “Mr Clean”. And this was not even a quarrel, but an election rally, where contestants are expected to argue their suitability as the future governing party, not concentrate on blackening opponents with every tool that comes to hand.

The tool was faulty. Rajiv Gandhi was killed by terrorists, a breed with which Narendra Modi identifies his opponents; more, the former prime minister had been cleared of corruption charges by the court. By tainting a man who gave his life in service for his country as spice for a campaign speech, the prime minister has moved rather far from the dignity expected of his chair. A chaiwalla, which is the identity he proudly claims to have begun life with, would never have done that. Besides, by ignoring the court’s judgment, the prime minister is displaying his disrespect of the justice machinery of the country he governs, while throwing to the winds his and his party’s loudly declaimed respect for ancient values that prohibit disrespect to departed elders. At the same time, Indians may not be too astonished at their prime minister’s airy insults. The falling standards of political rhetoric, the public expression of abuse and hatred towards specific groups of people which have increasingly gone unpunished — or even complained against — and the burgeoning of lies in one damaging narrative after another have gained noticeable impetus in the last five years. The decline had begun earlier, but nothing comparable to the unceasing ugliness, crookedness and crudeness of recent political propaganda was in evidence before 2014. With the Lok Sabha elections, standards have dropped to an unprecedented low. With independent institutions apparently willing to let all lines be crossed, it has to be asked whether Indian political life will ever climb out of the pit into which it has willingly fallen. Or is this what Indians want?

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