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HindustanTimes Fri,11 Jul 2014

The foot-in-mouth epidemic and Twitter-like 140-character attacks

Paramita Ghosh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 27, 2013
First Published: 18:42 IST(27/7/2013) | Last Updated: 14:31 IST(29/7/2013)

Sweeper. Puppy. Rapists. Murderers. Pornographers.

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Words that would make Captain Haddock cringe, deemed unsubtle even for a book of insults.

Welcome to the new gutter discourse in Indian politics. If political experts are right, it is going to be an increasingly turgid journey through the sewers of language right up to the 2014 general elections.

Politicians have been on an offending spree, marking newer lows in a country that prides itself on being the most vibrant, electoral democracy.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi recently called Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi “Mr Golden Spoon”. Beni Prasad Verma, a neo-Congressman, advised his former boss and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh to “apply for the job of a sweeper”.

Congress senior Digvijaya Singh called his party colleague Meenakshi Natarajan a “tunch maal”, a homegrown phrase with heavy sexist connotations. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, stung by criticism over a spate of rapes under her watch, called her critics “pornographers”.

Aam Admi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal claimed Parliament was full of “rapists and murderers”, in response to which RJD man Ram Kirpal Yadav wanted to pack him off to a mental asylum. BJP MP Chandan Mitra wanted economist Amartya Sen’s Bharat Ratna scrapped for the latter’s attack on Modi.

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The last, said sociologist Shiv Vishvanathan, was the unkindest cut. “The idea that the Bharat Ratna will be taken away if you don’t behave is demeaning. All these remarks are, however, just a build-up to the elections,” said Vishvanathan.

Bad public behaviour by politicians is a legacy from the ’70s, said veteran columnist Kuldip Nayar. “The Emergency destroyed respect for institutions. It’s worse now with the upcoming polls,” he said.



TV and social media are also a trigger, said social scientist Yogendra Yadav. “The arrival of 24/7 television and the print revolution have given rise to a new constituency for politicians,” he said. “There is more space available in the media for airing such nonsense. Controversy gets to the headlines.”


War of words:

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