Dec 15, 2017

The Gujarat Election Campaign and its Aftermath

R Jayaraman

If you have nothing to do, please do it in front of your TV, it cannot talk back. On the contrary, you have the option to surf, switch, increase the volume, and, horror of horrors, even happen across Netflix. No hard feelings Newtflix, just silly conversation.

And if, in the past few days, you have been doing what I have written above, your ears may have been adversely affected by the recently talked about Canal Dehiscence Syndrome, eyes may have contracted electionovitis, legs may have become inactive due to TVlysis and hands could be feeling the pinch of the TV remote buttons. Nevertheless, you could not have missed the quintessential Indian pastime – elections. With 29 states, one upper house (whose status may be lowered to oblivion), and one lower house at the central level, India is a psephologist’s and Pollsters’ delight, not withstanding what Tejashwi Yadav pointed out in today’s tweet about the exit poll predictions made for the last Bihar elections. If, in between campaigning for all these elections, you do find the time to implement GST and DeMo, you are not man, you are God. Reminds me of the story about the Russian delegation which visited India during Pandit Nehru’s time, and, after a few days, became convinced that there has to be a God. Their reasoning – how else could an entity called India exist and thrive? They immediately cancelled their membership from the communist party, apocryphally, just like our own Mani from Mayiladuthurai.

Getting back to the Gujarat elections, the most talked about item was the “ LOW standards that were visible throughout the electioneering” (capitals used for emphasis) . The learned members of the TV press expressed their complete abhorrence and disapproval, unsolicited, of course, of the shenanigans resorted to by one and all, especially the non vikas related banter, chatter and chana chapattar. Commentator after panellist, continuously, and in strong terms, denounced the “unparliamentary” language used. This term refers to the language, presumably, to the one used in the mecca of democracy, because, there is considerable evidence that the language used in Indian houses of legislatures, is, often, something else.

What began, innocently enough, as a debate between civil people, on the vikas of Gujarat and the now-known-to-even-a-two-year-old-child “ Gujarat Model”, very soon crashed into the deep middle of the Sabarmati, with a big thud, and quagmired into the deep sand pits of vulgar language, vociferous repartee, irrelevant cacophony, high decibel rhetoric and “Gujarati Manoos” jingoism.

There are some lessons here. The election was more of a war than a friendly confrontation, which is the way it usually is, in the marketplace of Indian democracy, as per past practice. The high ego levels of the Indian intellect come into prominence in the field of untempered and unmoderated election propaganda. This is a field where agriculture is not practised, but, instead, weapons of demagoguery are sharpened through actual use. And when this happens, the spectator is subjected to optical and hearing related imagery which may not always be palatable to the fine tastes.

Second, the issue highlighted by some panellists was – did the BJP not have anything else to concentrate on except Rahul Gandhi? Perhaps, what they meant was that BJP should have spoken about Mamta Banerjee, Derek Obrien, Amrinder Singh and other such – they were feeling left out.

Third, what is the big deal if Rahul Gandhi visits a few temples (something like 50 of them in 2 days). Indians are pious (this gem was actually uttered by a Congress Panelist), they are very God fearing (God fears the Indian is a better description of the actual situation), Hinduism is not a religion, it is not even an “ism” ( this one is OK), and Rahul wears the janevu ( this is a bit far fetched, however, in the great literary creation called “ Bhagavatam” by Sri Narayana Bhattadhri, it is written that, in the Kaliyuga, anyone who wears a janevu will be called a brahmin, and that will be the only identity of the Brahmin), and so on. Amidst all this, it was forgotten that, what Rahul does, and whatever he does, is open to scrutiny, this is elections season, and, so far, the Election Commission has not yet banned this.

Fourth, the word “vikas” went out of the window (or whatever else), after the second or the third day. One should be thankful that it was used to open the innings, and spin was not introduced in the opening over itself.

What do these happenings convey? For me, it shows that the world may be changing, but some things stay the same. One such is war. One is reminded of the Mahabharatha war. In Indian writings of yore, popularly known as “shastras”, the rules of war have been codified. These were used ( intended to be used is more appropriate) in the 18 day Mother of all Wars – the Mahabharatha war at Kurukshetra. Sample some of the rules. One, war must be waged ONLY between the armies, no civilian involvement, no civilian atrocities to be committed, like, rape, pillaging and plunder. Obviously, neither Mahmud of Ghazni nor Alauddin Khilji were aware of these rules, neither, for that matter, was Hitler. Two, war should be fought between EQUALS ONLY, ie, horsemen should fight horsemen, elephant riders should fight with another, men with swords should only fight with those with swords. In the new age war, everyone hides, and a bomb or a bullet does not distinguish based on caste or profession. Three, men specially trained in verbally abusing the enemy, should fight only with those on the other side who also do the same. Just imagine, in modern times, abuses are so common, and the use of four letter words are so frequent, that one wonders how the “abuser only” rule was even formulated in the ancient times. Four, war should start ONLY after SUNRISE, at a fixed time agreed to both parties, and should STOP at the pre-fixed, agreed upon time. Beyond those hours, armies were expected to visit each other, and help each other to recover from the day’s damages. No modern equivalent, barring the few stories of bravery and compassion of individual soldiers. There were more such rules which governed warfare in ancient India. Foreign invaders who raided India were used to an altogether different way of fighting, that included plunder, rape, himsa and destruction. Obviously, Indian kings stood no chance.

When the Mahabharatha war began, rules were obeyed, openers were clear on what was to be done, etc, but, from the second day onwards, in the heat of the battle, more and more rules were violated. The FINAL DENOUEMENT came when Ashwatthama killed the sons of the Pandavas in a dastardly midnight attack of treachery and treason, unimaginable even to those warriors who had witnessed the horrors of war till that night.

In kaliyuga, the nature of the human being is such that, rules will be flouted, more rules will be cast aside and all hell will break loose, given a chance. That is what happened in Gujarat. Let us all make a note, make amends where possible, take lessons for the future, but be aware that this is kaliyuga.

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