What is the first adjective that comes to mind when you hear the word politics—dirty, bad, petty? In India, it has got a new name: Vendetta. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Not just bulldozers, our ‘able politicians’ have breathed new life into revenge. Politics is no more about whispers and ‘court intrigues’. Things have come to actual tit-for-tat. Just look at Maharashtra.
Independent MLAs Ravi and Navneet Rana wanted to chant the Hanuman Chalisa in front of Matoshri— the residence of Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray— to remind the Shiv Sena chief of Bal Thackeray’s ‘Hindutva ideals’. Ex-Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar called it ‘nautanki’ (drama). The Ranas were perhaps inspired by MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s threat to shut down mosque loudspeakers and chant the Hanuman Chalisa there. So, Uddhav Thackeray returned the MNS chief’s insult by calling him and his almost-to-be BJP allies ‘ghantadhari Hindutvawadis’ while he claimed to be ‘Gadhadhari’ himself – a true Hindu leader. Of course, it didn’t stop there. Shiv Sena workers allegedly threw stones at BJP leader Kirit Somaiya’s car and injured him.
The message is clear. Things have come to actual blows between politicians, not just in the well of the House, but in real life. Statesmanship is out of the window. It’s all V for Vendetta now.
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How did we get here
The BJP has ushered in a new era of politics where you are in power only for one reason— to win more elections. Governance is now relegated to trusted bureaucrats of PM Narendra Modi and his chief ministers who are evidently making a mess of it since inflation is up, unemployment is up, fuel rates are up, and GDP is down. Governance is just a bureaucratic file now and not something to better the lives of voters. It’s all you-versus-me. PM Modi recently requested non-BJP ruled states to lower their VAT (value added taxes) on fuel rates because it is “not fair to your people”. Leaving aside the actual mathematics of the taxes, what’s baffling about this statement is that he doesn’t realise citizens of non-BJP ruled states are his “people” too.
But then everybody expects this out of politics, don’t they? All of these are classic political traits, not only in India but world over. Of late, however, politics in India is testing the boundaries of legality and federalism with the revenge ploys of politicians. It’s what ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta called MAD (Mutually Assured Detention).
Let’s look at geography. Eighteen states are ruled by BJP, including through alliances, five by the Congress, including alliances, two by AAP, and the rest by regional parties like TMC, TRS, YSRCP, BJD, and CPI(M). So, obviously, national parties want to dig their heels in these other states. Once again, vendetta comes in where it’s not required. Home Minister Amit Shah has raked up the topic of language. He insists that everyone must communicate, especially in all official matters, in Hindi. And no one is happy. Opposition parties have termed this “Hindi imperialism”. Clearly, if an election has to be won, the language of campaigning, which is peppered with a lot of hate, should be understood. And for that, Hindi is a must.
Recently appointed Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann has also levied allegations against the Centre for its “step-motherly behaviour” with non-BJP states, something that Mamata Banerjee, Pinarayi Vijayan and even Mayawati have said before during crises in West Bengal and Kerala. Mann has accused the Centre of not giving enough power to Punjab from the central pool and instead giving it to Haryana, which has a BJP government. In Bengal too, things have been so bad that just last week BJP MP Arjun Singh accused the Centre of not paying heed to several requests made by him to Piyush Goyal to try and save the jute mills of Bengal that are on the verge of being closed and will render lakhs of people jobless.
The Modi government has so far remained deaf to these calls.
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It’s not one-sided
So, what’s the best thing to do to return these ‘insults’ by the Centre? Show equal disregard – vendetta! In PM Modi’s meeting with chief ministers last week to take stock of the Covid situation in the country, Arvind Kejriwal was seen sitting in front of Modi in a rather casual manner with both arms over his head. He also yawned six times at what the PM had to say. The Delhi CM has broken protocol earlier too when he live-streamed a closed-door meeting with the PM on his social media accounts and requested the PM of sending oxygen tankers to Delhi.
Vendetta politics is now brazen. Things are going to get worse. But it is the people, especially the poor, who will suffer due to this political ‘nautanki’.
The author is a political observer who tweets @zainabsikander. Views are personal.