Elections 2014 are looming ever nearer but to hear the political discourse, one would be forgiven for concluding that the slugfest that we see going on is by politicians and for politicians. The latest outbreak of charges and counter-charges has been between the BJP’s campaign chief and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and various Congress luminaries ranging from party general secretary Digvijay Singh, to spokesperson Ajay Maken to minister of state for human resource development Shashi Tharoor. Mr Modi’s remark that anyone would feel pain even if a puppy were run over has been fodder for the Congress, which has accused him of anti-secularism. Mr Modi’s remark that the Congress is hiding behind the “burqa of secularism” has been countered by Mr Tharoor saying that the former is “hiding behind khaki shorts”, a reference to the BJP’s parent body, the RSS. To Mr Modi’s criticism of the Commonwealth Games, Mr Maken has asked how many athletes Gujarat has produced. And the list goes on. Into the pit, we have the food security Bill, the PM’s credentials as an economist, Rahul Gandhi’s visits to Dalit homes, anything is game. But, how on earth is any of this relevant to the voter? She or he would be right to ask our political parties, ‘What is in all this for me?’ It is a matter of shame that our political discourse has become so irrelevant and so insensitive to people’s needs. Of course, politicians have to score points over each other as elections near. But surely, they should do this on the basis of issues which affect the people.
Barring tangential references to personalities, we are sure people would like to know what the political parties plan to do to keep prices down, to generate employment, to provide education and healthcare, to make sure that the food security Bill really works, to ensure security for the nation and to keep people safe in the cities and towns. But we haven’t heard a squeak about all this so far.
There are issues that the main parties can highlight. The BJP can most project its record in the states it rules since most of them are well run. The Congress can claim to its credit its many social welfare schemes. Both can really go beyond hitting out at individuals and harping on the negative factors. An example is the perennial squabble over each other’s abysmal track record when it comes to communal riots. Then there is the ‘you are more corrupt than me’ discourse which again undermines voter confidence. Politicians of all hues should do a bit of rethink and recast their discourse as one by the politicians for the people.