Perhaps talk is cheap. Which is why catchwords and phrases are circulating in the name of political speeches.
For a while now, catfights seem to be the new norm rather than the state of exception in the Indian parliament. Outside it, is, of course, no better.
The jabs of the Congress vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, observe political pundits in half-admiration, are turning out to be lethal. His 2015 barb in the Lok Sabha, calling the Modi government a “suit-boot ki sarkar” that neglects farmers and labourers, was a “high point of low”. Venkaiah Naidu of the BJP had retorted in kind. “The Congress,” he said, “only spoke about farmers but did nothing. That’s why we are in the government and they are in the Opposition.”
Gandhi’s post-Budget intervention: “Under fair and lovely yojna, you can go to Arun Jaitley, pay tax and all your black money will turn white”, now just needs a Dalit or a feminist voice to object so that it can start doing the rounds on social media, says sociologist Shiv Visvanathan. “Now who is fair and who is lovely is up for debate,” he adds.
Gandhi’s barb has been matched by Jaitley’s bite: “As one evolves from a young to a middle-aged one, we certainly expect a certain level of maturity. The more I hear Shri Rahul Gandhi, the more I start wondering how much does he know – when will he know”.
Jaitley’s party colleague has also given her spin to the controversy. “The dark and ugly secrets and conspiracies hatched by Congress are coming out in the open,” she says.
The 2014 elections had kicked off the trend in contemporary politics – a battle of ideas replaced by spin, spectacle, pitch and volume.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal claimed “rapists, murderers and looters” were sitting in Parliament. Narendra Modi, once the Gujarat chief minister had called the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi “Mr Golden Spoon”. Politician Beni Prasad Verma, advised his former boss the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav “to apply for the job of a sweeper”.
2016 has seen no let-up. Rahul Gandhi joined the protesters on the JNU campus demanding the release of student union president Kanhaiya Kumar. BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma hit back with: “Rahul Gandhi and his friends are speaking in the voice LeT terrorist Hafiz Saeed who had tweeted in support of the anti-India event in JNU.”
Is public memory, however, being fed by political statements when politicians are not at their best? The media is complicit, say experts, in making one-liners, the headline. In the same post-Budget debate, Rahul also made a point about how “when he closes his eyes he could well have been listening to Chidambaram’s budget,” says Visvanathan. “That’s a point that could have been developed further. Instead he has been making the news for the fair-and-lovely remark. The media is complicit in turning the debate non-serious.”