There is something about hitting the poll campaign trail that seems to bring out the worst in political leaders and candidates, more so in the Hindi heartland. And when the country’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, with its 403 assembly seats, is up for grabs — the language can get very offensive. The first three phases of voting in UP appear to have left political parties guessing, so the rhetoric has got more raucous. Akhilesh Yadav, fresh from the bruising family tussle within Samajwadi Party, has cocked a snook at Prime Minister rendra Modi and other BJP star campaigners, calling upon Amitabh Bachchan not to campaign for Gujarat’s wild asses. BSP supremo Mayawati making a play with rendra Modi’s initials, has dubbed him ‘Negative Dalit Man’, and then getting more persol, reminded people that she ‘didn’t get married, nor deserted anyone after marrying’. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi, as he is wont to do, has been at his favorite wordplays in public meetings, unveiling SCAM as the acronym for Samajwadi Party, Congress, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati. Making a departure from his hitherto softer line towards Mayawati (likely keeping in mind a fluid post-poll scerio), he called BSP the ‘Behenji Sampatti Party’. And he has made the Congress-SP combine see red with his statement that villages should get funds as much for crematoriums as for burial grounds, that power supply should be uninterrupted as much during Diwali as during Eid. Political observers see in this a BJP ploy to keep majority Hindu votes consolidated in the face of perceived split of Muslim votes between the Congress-SP alliance and the BSP. The Congress, after trying hard to flog the note ban issue, has fallen back to me-calling, with Rahul Gandhi calling Modi ‘Gabbar Singh’ and sister Priyanka pouring scorn that UP ‘has no need for adopted sons’.
All this poll cacophony is keeping the Election Commission busy, though there is precious little it can do with political parties all reverting to doing what they normally do best — hitting opponents below the best and raking up controversial issues. All this is very much reminiscent of the Bihar assembly elections in 2015, when Prime Minister Modi poked fun at Nitish Kumar’s D for falling out with political allies. The grand alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress then made this an issue of Bihar’s self-respect, its asmita and swabhimaan. Nitish Kumar even gave a call to Bihari youths to send their D samples to Modi, while Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP-RSS of making Hindus and Muslims fight. BJP tiol president Amit Shah upped the ante by saying that if the Nitish-Laloo combine win in Pat, it will be celebrated with firecrackers in Pakistan. Bihar BJP chief piled it on by dubbing the elections a contest between those who advocate beef eating and those who want it banned. Laloo Prasad retaliated by calling Shah a ‘rbhakshi’ (man-eater), while other leaders added their own bit by calling rivals mes like chara chor (fodder thief), shaitan (devil), jallad (hangman) and brahma pishach (bloodsucking ghoul). The EC was forced to reissue an advisory asking all campaigners in Bihar to mind their language, but to no avail. The same sorry scerio is now playing out in Uttar Pradesh, while the rest of the country bemusedly looks on. So, to add to the shallow ture of the political discourse in the country round the year, the very language being used during these electoral times is giving serious cause for concern. The irreversible loss of courtesy and common decency among political leaders is not something that can be accepted. This degradation opens the door to confrontatiol politics of increasingly violent ture among their supporters in the near future.