There is a famous story known mainly to media persons in Maharashtra about a heavyweight politician in the state telling an Editor of a large newspaper in a lighter vain, “You can write anything you want about me and criticise me the way you want for four years and eleven months, but just ensure you say only good things about me in your paper for one month before the election”! Clearly, the only thing that matters is what the public sees and thinks of, in just about 15/20 days before the elections. Public memory is short and most politicians thrive on this.
If you look at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign in Gujarat in the last few days, you would immediately realise that there is no word about the agenda of ‘vikas’ (development work) that the BJP usually keeps harping on. It’s all about ‘terrorism’, ‘Mughal rule’ and ‘Pakistan’. In other words, it is everything that would lead towards creating a villain in people’s mind. A villain created and conceived on communal lines! If one somehow figures how many times, the Prime Minister has mentioned the word ‘Pakistan’ in his speeches, the count would perhaps reach a few hundred! Nobody knows how to play to the gallery like Narendra Modi and he is doing it to the hilt in the so-called ‘slog-overs’ or this election match.
On the other side, the Congress campaign too has tried to create a villain and it’s on the lines of Rahul Gandhi’s earlier campaign idea of ‘suit boot ki sarkar’, the villains the Congress Party has found are the few handful big industrialists who are originally from Gujarat. “They have taken away your land and water to hand it over to the rich industrialists,” shouts Rahul Gandhi in almost every rally. So demonising Pakistan versus demonising industrialist and crony capitalism is the big picture of the last minute campaign of Gujarat.
How does either of these things help the common voters? What happened to the agenda of vikas? Why is Modi not speaking about that at all? How does industrial growth of Gujarat happen if land and water are not made available to the investors? Has land not been taken from farmers and given to industrialists in Congress-ruled states earlier? No answers will be offered by either side.
The Election Commission guideline clearly says that candidates or their representatives should not get into negative campaigns, should not use communal language and should not incite hate about any group of people. However, what we see in the last minute campaign is exactly all the above happening. These are the idiosyncrasies of election politics. These are the trends India will perhaps never be able to avoid but hopefully, the voters will turn mature and understand at some stage that the real agenda should be of work delivered by a party or a government and not hate campaigns which seek villains!