The general elections of 2014 will go down in history not just for being the one that recorded the highest percentage of voting, but also for the acrimony that characterised the campaign, the low level of rhetoric, the free trading of insults and abuse, personal attacks of the worst kind, continuous violation of the poll code, attempts at polarisation and a scant regard for the sanctity of the Election Commission. The campaign had little to do with how the leaders of the various parties would deal with the problems facing the nation and the people and even less to do with their manifestos.
The accent right from the beginning was to derive political mileage by mudslinging, lampooning and by making mountains out of molehills by blowing up trivial issues. With the ever obliging media covering all the speeches of the top leaders of the mainstream parties the voters were treated to a live and it would be no exaggeration to say a highly disgusting experience of top leaders including those vying for the PM’s post passing callous and highly derogatory remarks on the opposition caring a fig for the dignity and the decorum that should never be compromised in public discourse. The utterances of some of the leaders that left a bad taste in the mouth included among others the one by a certain Giriraj Singh a BJP leader who thundered from the pulpit that Modi baiters should pack off and go to Pakistan once Modi came to power. Then there was the loose cannon and VHP leader Pravin Togadia who exhorted Hindus to drive out the Muslims who resided in Hindu dominated areas by force if need be. An old video surfaced where a Congress candidate Imran Masood threatened to chop Modi into tiny pieces.
The latest entrant to the political firmament the Aam Aadmi Party also was at pains to prove that it too could play the communal card when needed. Its leader and the party candidate from Ghaziabad, Shazia Ilmi exhorted Muslims to shed their secular image and turn communal to protect their interests. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also provided his two bits to the tamasha by terming the BJP’s PM nominee Narendra Modi as impotent while another motor mouth of the Congress party, Mani Shankar Iyer touching on Modi’s roots pronounced grandiosely that a chaiwallah could never become the PM of the country. West Bengal CM, Mamata Banerjee wondered whether Modi was a donkey and her hatchet man and Rajya Sabha member Derek O’Brien referred to him as the Butcher of Gujarat. Not to be outdone Modi too had a field day by insisting on calling the Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi as ‘shehzada’ and referring to the UPA government as the maa-beta ka sarkar. The Samajwadi party leader Azam Khan did his best to drive a wedge in the armed forces by proclaiming that the Muslims had played a stellar role in the Kargil war.
Modi’s Man Friday Amit Shah referred to Azamgarh in UP as a hub of terrorism. But perhaps the most devastating comment came from a yoga teacher Baba Ramdev whose abiding pastime is to shoot his mouth off and direct barbs at the politicians he abhors. His diatribe against Rahul Gandhi where he likened the leader’s trips to Dalit houses to honeymoons and picnics not only denigrated the leader, but also the entire Dalit community who were up in arms against the scathing and depraved comment.
The fervent hope now is that five years hence that is in 2019, a wiser crop of politicians will take the place of the earlier lot and decide that what really matters in election campaigns is not pandering to caste, religion or indulging in demagoguery but in coming out with solutions for the problems of the people and in charting out a blueprint for the future.