Dushmani jam kar karo lekin ye gunjaaish rahe
Jab kabhi hum dost ho jaaye toh sharminda na ho!
These lines from the eminent Urdu poet Bashir Badra has become very relevant in this election because the festival of democracy has turned into a battle of words for power due to use of foul language by top leaders. The poison-tipped arrows of words flew thick and fast targeting each other as if they are all in the battlefield! It seemed that an all out battle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas was going on.
I feel compelled to say with great sorrow that I have never seen such an election since my childhood. From the time of Pandit Nehru, I remember all the elections till now. In the parliamentary tenure of 18 years, I have seen many ups and downs in the political arena, saw elections with great subtlety, saw the change of power and as also the prime ministers coming and going. I saw the power of voters of this country. The great giants were zipped to dust in no time. Despite all this, I always saw democracy and society winning. But this election has stigmatised Indian politics and has spread bitterness that has split the society!
My Babuji freedom fighter Jawaharlal Darda was a legend of Maharashtra politics, so I have seen politics from very close quarters in my childhood. Then there was an opportunity to become a part of parliamentary politics. Throughout this period, I have seen and experienced the sanctity of politics. I remember well that in 1962, Loknayak Bapuji Aney was contesting from the Nagpur constituency for the third Lok Sabha with the support of the Nag Vidarbha Andolan Samiti. Rikhabchand Sharma was the Congress candidate. Jawaharlal Nehru had come to Nagpur for his campaign. While addressing a public meeting, Nehruji said he had come to campaign for his party candidate, but he also praised Aney Saheb. He said Aney Saheb was an honourable figure for him. At that time, such was the dignity and sanctity of an election. Relationships and personality used to be given great respect. The veteran leaders used to get their due respect. There was no smear campaign.
In fact, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is credited with strengthening and sanctifying the Indian democratic system. At that time, only Congress dominated the political landscape and from the village panchayat to the Parliament, there was no trace of strong opposition. Nehruji said if there is no opposition, the system will be ruined. Opposition is necessary. After that, he ensured that all the veterans of the opposition made it to the Parliament. And these were people who used to mount sharp ideological attacks on Nehruji. I know that there was an MP named Hem Barua. He once used abusive language for Nehruji. After the demise of Nehruji, a well-known editor asked Barua: “Why did you bow before the mortal remains thrice?” Hem Barua said that the first salutation was to the great freedom fighter of the country, the second to the Prime Minister who believed in democracy, and the third one because when I used indecent word about him, Panditji called me after a week, offered me coffee and said: “Your speech was very furious but poetic.” That time I did not even apologise! Hem Barua was also a reputed poet of Assamese language.
I recall an anecdote which Atalji had related. When he came to power, he saw that Nehruji’s portrait was suddenly missing from the Parliament’s corridor. Atalji said the governments in democracy will come and go but the democracy should live. The country has been able to make so much progress, thanks to the prime ministers of the country. He said he was deeply pained not to see the portrait which he used to see in his youth. By evening, the portrait was restored in its original place.
Among the anecdotes of political sanctity and respect for the opposition, I can feel that the environment of the country has become dirty. The society is divided into two parts. A message is being sent across that if you are a supporter you are a nationalist and if you are not, your nationalism is under a cloud! The use of foul language by the leaders is at its peak. The use of uncontrolled language is clearly visible. A planned conspiracy to defame those leaders who are no longer in this world is being hatched. People are being compartmentalised in the name of religion. The credit for the gallantry of soldiers is being snatched. The Election Commission should have intervened and put its foot down on all such matters, but the poll body has greatly disappointed us all in this great festival of democracy. Its silence allowed everyone to go berserk!
This election has shattered the social unity and also shaken the roots of politics. Political differences are natural. They should be there too but should not embitter society. There should not be so much bitterness as to divide the society itself. Keep in mind that the elections will conclude, but it will take a long time to heal the wounds of the society caused by the scandalous statements.
Vijay Darda has been the chief visionary and driving force behind Lokmat, a leading multi-platform media company. He is a recipient of several prestigious awards including the Feroze Gandhi Memorial Award for excellence in journalism in 1990-91.
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