Has Gujarat election shown that civility has disappeared from language of politics?
The Hindus of Gujarat are great Krishna-bhakts. A big reason for this is that the ancient city of Dwarka, the original capital of Gujarat, is where Lord Krishna lived. He appears in many personas in the epic Mahabharata, but his most abiding role is that of a teacher of humanity in the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita is both philosophical and practical. Its practical lesson points to the responsibility of leaders ─ leaders in every field, but especially in politics and governance.
The Gita says: “Yadyadaacharati shreshthastattadevetaro janah” ─ Whatever great men do, common people emulate them.” In other words, leaders’ behaviour and language sets the standard for the rest of society.
It was, therefore, sad to see that the election to the next Vidhan Sabha of Gujarat, which will be concluded tomorrow, has seen leaders of both the contending parties, BJP as well as the Congress, set quite low standards.
One leader of the Congress called the prime minister of the country “neech kism ka aadmi” (low-level person). Thank God, Rahul Gandhi, the newly elected president of the party, lost no time in condemning the remark. Furthermore, he cracked the whip and suspended the offender from the party. However, the prime minister did not let the matter end there. Twisting the deplorable remark against him, he alleged that the Congress party regards him as a person from “neech jaati” (low caste), thereby discrediting the whole of Gujarat. For Modi, it was an opportunity to gain electoral mileage.
He resorted to two other untruths. One, he said the same Congress leader, while on a visit to Pakistan two years ago, had given Pakistanis a “supari” for his (PM’s) removal. Two, no less than the former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and former Vice President, Dr Hamid Ansari, participated in a “secret meeting” with Pakistani officials in New Delhi to influence the outcome of the Gujarat polls.
In this free-for-all, a BJP spokesman badmouthed his opponents by calling them “Khilji ke aulad”. The reference was to a medieval Muslim ruler who had plundered Gujarat. The BJP leaders’ aim to polarise people, by inciting anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan sentiments, was undisguised.
In this depressing scenario, if there was one leader who tried to follow Krishna’s precept in the Bhagavad Gita, it was Rahul Gandhi. The young Congress chief said he would never permit his partymen to malign the prime minister and, more importantly, declared that his party would defeat the BJP “with love, and not with hatred”.
The Congress may lose, and the BJP may yet again win the election. But both parties should remember that in politics, they are rivals and not enemies. And their leaders must set exemplary standards for the rest of society to follow─and for India’s democracy to be a source of hope and inspiration to the rest of the world.
The writer was an aide to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He tweets @SudheenKulkarni and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.