Issues missing, shoes & jhappi rule | india | Hindustan Times
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Issues missing, shoes & jhappi rule

There was no overarching political slogan that resonated with voters; manifestos drew a blank; and the campaigning in the heat was somewhat lacklustre. Kamayani Singh reports.

india Updated: May 14, 2009 23:25 IST
Kamayani Singh

There was no overarching political slogan that resonated with voters; manifestos drew a blank; and the campaigning in the heat was somewhat lacklustre. So, from shoe throwing to the jaadu ki jhappi aur pappi (magical hugs and kisses) retorts between Sanjay Dutt and Mayawati, scores of seemingly innocuous issues made headlines in this election.

The spotlight on what many would describe as trivial matters also reflects the changing political language as also how protests are turning more symbolic in the time of 24x7 live coverage.

“The absence of a prominent issue this time has led to these routine events assuming the status of an issue,” said New Delhi-based political analyst Pran Chopra.

Even before the first phase of polling began Jarnail Singh, a journalist, made news after he threw a shoe at home minister P. Chidambaram during a press conference. Singh said he was protesting against the CBI’s clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The incident had a ripple effect. Tytler didn’t get a ticket and it inspired several others to fling shoes at politicians, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and opposition leader L.K. Advani.

The shoe in all such case has come to be symbolized as the “weapon of the weak,” said Rohan D’Souza, professor of science policy at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). D’Souza insists that no issue is a non-issue.

“The constant bickering between politicians might seem ridiculous to many but it has an audience too,” he said referring to Samajwadi Party general secretary Sanjay Dutt’s taunts at Mayawati while campaigning in UP. There were reactions and counters till Dutt was restrained by the Election Commission.

Then there were the Budhiya (old woman) and Gudiya (doll) exchanges between Narendra Modi and Priyanka Gandhi. Amar Singh’s added drama saying, “Jayaprada would commit suicide if she didn’t win.” Some referred to this is as emotional atyachaar (torture).

BJP’s Varun Gandhi’s allaeged hate speech and the arrest and courtroom episode that followed was another one of the big issues that dominated headlines.

“There are similar events in every election,” said Dipankar Gupta, professor of sociology at JNU. “But those events usually occur within the context of an overarching issue, which was missing this time.”