Monday, April 6, 2015

Loose lips sink big ships

Pankaj Sharma
6 April 2015, New Delhi

Uncivilized language is unacceptable in a parliamentary democracy like ours

        Giriraj Singh was a minister for Animal Husbandry in Bihar for around three years till 2013. I do not mention this with any satirical intent whatsoever. To me it is more important that Giriraj Singh is now a minister of state in Narendra Modi’s government and moreover he represents Nawada in the Parliament. Nawada is a part of the historical Magadh region and is famous for its people’s culture, values, ethics and intellect; incidentally it also played a very important role in India’s freedom struggle. I am saddened that despite the rich heritage and culture of the people of Nawada, Giriraj Singh refuses to behave in a responsible and sober manner. Instead, he seems to be more motivated and enthused by the fact that Nawada is the birth place of Jarasandh (a warrior who fought with the Pandavas), according to the Mahabharata. Giriraj seems to be very excited about the fact that Jarasandh’s two daughters were married to Kansa and that he lent his army and personal advise to the latter for a coup d’état in Mathura. Given this context, it’s not surprising that Giriraj Singh, one of Modi’s blue eyed lieutenants, routinely puts his foot in his mouth and embarrasses his party on a routine basis. 

            It was Giriraj Singh who had declared a war against Modi’s opponents during the campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. He had asked Modi detractors to go to Pakistan if they did not like Narendra Modi. By that point in time the language of abuse, which is now increasingly being used by the leaders of Bhartiya Janta Party, Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh and its affiliates alike had crossed all boundaries of decency in public discourse. Even those who are holding responsible official positions in the union government headed by Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party-led governments in the states do not hesitate in using foul language to express their feelings of hate against communities or individuals. The right winger’s gallery of celebrities has portraits of pride placed on the wall of Giriraj Singh, Yogi Aditya Nath, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti and Varun Gandhi. 

            It is reasonably expected that in a parliamentary democracy every politician should avoid making insensitive and offensive remarks. Those who assume public offices must refrain from making statements that can hurt the sentiments of any person or group. However, BJP leaders don’t shy away from using un-parliamentary, inflammatory and even abusive words every now and then. This trend has assumed epidemic proportions in recent times. Politicians such as Giriraj Singh receive encouragement from the fact that even after putting their foot in their mouth on a regular basis, even the prime minister cannot dare to evict him from his cabinet. Moreover politicians like him end up getting the support of BJP intellectuals like Meenakshi Lekhi, who quoted Patrick French’s book “India: A Portrait” to justify his statements. Once again this is not surprising at all considering that she is the same Meenakshi Lekhi whose gloves came off when she was fighting the New Delhi Lok Sabha polls in April 2014. Lekhi had made nasty remarks about the Congress President’s father and said that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul have fascism in their blood due to their Italian ancestry.
I strongly feel that it is only because Narendra Modi condones such language and vitriol that the tendency of using abusive and foul language by BJP leaders is increasing. When Vishwa Hindu Parishad president Pravin Togadia says that Muslims should be stopped from buying houses and properties in areas where the majority people are Hindus, the Modi government listens to him quietly and does not take any action. When Baba Ramdev says that Rahul Gandhi goes to Dalit homes for honeymoon and picnic, BJP leaders listen to him with a wry smile and do not feel ashamed. When Modi’s minister Niranjan Jyoti asks the electorate during the Delhi assembly elections to choose between ‘Ramzaadon’ and ‘Haramzaadon’, Modi himself tries to defend her on the floor of the Parliament, saying that the minister has apologised. Modi’s defence extends to the fact that she has grown up in a village.

            If instead of defending the minister Modi had sacked her, BJP leaders would have learnt a lesson in how to maintain decorum in public life. But first he tried to play the Dalit card and when the balloon of bluffs was punctured because the Sadhvi is not a Dalit; a stubborn Modi came out with the twisted logic that she was from a rural background. What message did Modi want to give out when he said this? Was he implying that Dalit or rural women are uncivilised and uncultured? To me such a statement is unpardonable and objectionable. The BJP is well known for its regressive and archaic mindset about backward communities. Not too long ago, when Uma Bharati, former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and currently a Union Minister, had revolted against the BJP, the then RSS chief KS Sudarshan had made a similarly insensitive remark. The RSS chief said that Uma Bharti was a woman from the backward community. Such remarks obviously speak of the Sangh’s culture and outlook towards women. Don’t forget that Modi’s campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh, Amit Shah who is now the president of BJP was himself banned from holding rallies and making speeches by the Election Commission in April last year. It was only when Shah vowed not to use abusive or derogatory language that the Commission rescinded the ban. We have also listened to Narendra Modi spewing vitriol during his early days as Gujarat Chief Minister and then later during his time as a Prime Ministerial candidate. He had made objectionable statements like, “are you getting the funds from your maternal uncle’s home”,”if madam is unwell, hand over the work to her son”, calling Rahul Gandhi “Shahazade’ in his public speeches. How could you then expect any better from the other leaders of the BJP? 

            The endorsement and rejection of political representatives must always be grounded in issue-based political debates. It is a fact that the BJP grew out of the strong anti-Congress ideological pool. Modi is its inheritor, trying to mould the party in his own image as the now ubiquitous masks show; idolatry minus ideology is the mood de jour at his rock star-like receptions. It’s not just the traditional BJP vote base that’s rooting for him, but sections of the apolitical middle class, too, which is the new claimant on a newborn political space. It is perhaps for these reasons that the BJP leadership thinks that only crude and direct language works and there is no scope of subtlety. But let us remember that loose lips sink ships. Whatever comes easily goes by easily as well; and if you give a person very a long rope, he will soon hang himself. There is no place for abusive language in politics. People of India do not deserve such undignified behaviour from its elected representatives and eventually they will ensure that they get what they deserve.

The author is Editor and CEO of News Views India

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