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Policy over personality

As experience shows, personal attacks tend to put people off and generate sympathy for the person who has been attacked. So in enlightened self-interest, the NDA should raise the debate to a higher plane.

india Updated: Oct 21, 2007 21:58 IST

Many of our political worthies seem to have a hard time distinguishing between making a personal attack on a political opponent and attacking his or her policy. This time around, the BJP has launched what can only be termed a needless and personal attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying he had “lost his sense of balance” and suffered from “selective amnesia”. This comes in the wake of Mr Singh terming, somewhat unfortunately, the carnage in Gujarat as a holocaust. So off we go again on a spate of accusations and counter-accusations, none of which will benefit the common man. Certain BJP leaders have, in the past too, made scathing personal comments on the Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, including on issues involving her origin.

In a secular democratic country, these have no relevance whatsoever. Yes, the charge that the PM cannot act as forcefully as he might like to holds true but such are the exigencies of coalition politics. In wasting money and squandering public goodwill on such vituperation, the NDA is falling down on its real task — that of keeping the government on its toes on several issues which concern the aam aadmi. Yes, the nuclear deal and the lack of clarity on it is certainly an issue on which the NDA could give the government an uncomfortable moment or two. But it is only too conscious that its own government laid the foundations for civilian nuclear cooperation with the US. The price rise issue, especially that of essential commodities like onions, should exercise the NDA more than proving that the Prime Minister is slipping up. Or perhaps the continuing farmers’ suicides, the Naxal menace or illiteracy and healthcare.

In a country of vast disparities, there is no dearth of issues for a responsible Opposition to attack the government on. But instead, we witness the strange spectacle of the government’s own allies like the Left filling in for the Opposition. Many may think that these personal attacks are to deflect attention from the fact that the NDA is struggling to get its act together. If so, all the more reason to conduct itself in a more diplomatic and statesmanlike manner. As experience shows, personal attacks tend to put people off and generate sympathy for the person who has been attacked. So in enlightened self-interest, the NDA should raise the debate to a higher plane.