Political parties in Andhra Pradesh are plumbing new depths in bad manners and bad taste in recent weeks in order to settle scores against each other.
Having run out of ideas in democratic dissent, they are resorting to crude and cheap methods to target the enemy, in the process reducing political discourse to vulgar pantomime.
Vijayawada, the erstwhile political and cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh, in fact, leads in this downhill journey.
It all started about ten days ago, with Telugu Desam Party activists in Guntur decorating a buffalo in Congress party colours and naming it after Chief Minister Rajsekhar Reddy. A placard attached to the buffalo read” I am Rajasekhar Reddy. I am thick-skinned and insulated to any criticism. Do what ever you like, I will not resign.”
The buffalo was taken around the streets of the bustling commercial town by TDP activists as part of their state wide campaign to force Rajasekhar Reddy to resign in the wake of Supreme court order quashing the pardon granted to a murder convict, who happens to be husband of a Congress MLA.
The Congress soon hit back with a donkey decorated in Telugu Desam`s yellow colour and christened as Chandrababu Naidu. The donkey carried placard saying “I am Chandrababu Naidu. I always speak lies and utter lies. I change my stand to suit my convenience. I betrayed even my father-in-law for the sake of power”. The donkey was taken in the head of a procession by hundreds of slogan-shouting Congressmen in the streets of Vijaywada.
With TDP unrelenting in its campaign, Congress activists in Vijayawada thought another rally with another animal was called for. So two days later a dog was taken out in a procession attired in TDP colours. A placard tied to its neck read “I am Chandrababu Naidu. I only bark.”
When it was the turn for TDP to pay back, they did not find any creature in the animal world interesting enough to drive home their point. They selected a homo sapien and dressed him to look like Dr Rajsekhar Reddy and paraded him in the streets with a group of seemingly irate women chasing him and thrashing him with chappals, broomsticks, rotten eggs and tomatoes.
You may wonder as to what the police were doing all the while. The police were apparently so engrossed in enjoying the charade that no case was booked against any individual or group nor was such offensive processions banned.
After the mockbashing of Chief minister look alike, which was telecast live by several TV news channels, the government sat up and asked the Vijayawada Police commissioner Umesh Sharraf to proceed on leave. The police was asked to book cases against all the offenders.
The government holds the ex-police commissioner guilty of exacerbating the situation. “Had he acted in the beginning, the situation would not have come to such a pass,” a senior official said.
Director-General of Police Swaranjit Sen was equally forthright. “After an awful demonstration targeting ex-chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, I warned Sharraf. This kind of thing we cannot allow. There is a limit to democracy and there has to be a certain amount of decency. And, I gave him a warning. I said, if something like this happens again, you will be out. He has not been able to control the situation.”
Meanwhile PCC President Keshav Rao has decried the “mean and vulgar manner” in which the Opposition parties were resorting to political protests. Terming the “mock bashing” of a Chief Minister look alike as reprehensible, he appealed to all political parties not to denigrate the political institutions and parties.