The grand rally at Kolkata put together by Mamata Banerjee has received considerable attention among political analysts, poll watchers and the general public. Turning out to be a hodgepodge assemblage of as many as 22 political parties, the event in a matter of few hours saw some of the leaders aspiring for the top post of the country managing to bring down political discourse to the lowest levels seen in recent years. The only agenda that came through each of those speeches apart from the obvious political grandstanding was to "Keep Narendra Modi out", no matter what it takes to achieve that end.
That the event in its entirety was focused on the ouster of Modi is evident from the fact that the same name was taken by speakers more than 50 times, an absurdly large figure, given that the speeches lasted for just about 160 minutes!
Arvind Kejriwal, interestingly, spoke less than 10 minutes and took the name of Modi the maximum number of times apart from MK Stalin, compared to other politicians gathered at the rally. The man who had named many of the same leaders present on the stage with him as 'corrupt', went onto attack the government that does not have a single credible corruption allegation against it.
In fact, this anti-Modi obsession has been so rabidly fierce that while the speakers took Modi's name around 50 times, they used the word 'poor' whose cause they claim to espouse (merely around seven times). As opposed to this Modi fixation, positive words such as 'vikas' or 'development' were almost not heard at all. Furthermore, the positive words of trade and industry which indicate political earnestness and some socio-economic thought process featured in negligible numbers.
This clearly exposes the lack of any alternative formulations and self-evident bankruptcy of ideas among Opposition parties. Speaking of the BJP, the party's name was taken around 30 times, again reinforcing the single point negative agenda of the Opposition parties. That they used 'Modi' or 'BJP' more than 80 times in less than three hours says a lot about their vision.
The irony was that the word 'democracy' was used around 30 times by parties that are one-family parties with no sense of inner democracy. Mamata Banerjee — who won’t even allow BJP rallies in West Bengal and whose party routinely indulges in violence as a means of political intimidation — must have been laughing within even as politicians in her rally claimed to be saviours of democracy.
'Concern' for farmers was evident by the fact that they used the word 'farmer' around 40 times. However, most of these parties are state-level parties and have ruled states for many years. Agriculture being a state subject, one only has to look at the dismal state of farmers in their states. Take HD Kumaraswamy for example. In his state of Karnataka, he joined hands with the Congress that presided over 3,500 farmer suicides in its five-year rule. Arrest warrants are being issued against farmers even as the Congress-JD(S) government delays the sham loan waiver. On the other hand, the Modi government is working on landmark initiatives in the short span of four years to address the structural problems of the agriculture sector and to double farmer incomes by 2022.
There was almost nothing offered in terms of an alternate vision or policy focus in this rally. However, there were lies spoken that were brazen and even outlandish. For instance, there were claims that the petrol prices have gone up thanks to the Modi government. Nothing could be further from the truth. A simple researching of any oil or gas PSU's website would tell you that there has indeed been a fall in fuel prices between the advent of the Modi government in 2014 and now. Then, of course, the harping on Rafale when even the highest court has already cleared the government is an attempt to peddle lies endlessly. There were even bizarre claims that GST and demonetisation led to a loss of jobs for seven or eight crore people, made by Sharad Yadav. The list of lies goes on and on.
Erstwhile rivals who bitterly fought one another for years in state and Central elections coming together in a ridiculously unwieldy formation is nothing but a desperate attempt at remaining politically afloat. That there is no common ideology, no common minimum programme and no cohesive action plan on the ground is already universal knowledge. There is also no common consensus on leadership because that is an issue which would end their misadventure even before it begins. The only thing common to all these parties is desperation for political survival in an era where Modi has made governance an electoral issue.
The hallmark of a true democracy is that the public discourse revolves around real issues, issues that concern the everyday lives of common citizenry. That there there was no semblance of this in the rally at Kolkata where more than 20 political parties had gathered, speaks for itself.
What they do not realise is the wisdom and astuteness of the new age voter can’t be taken for granted any more: Ye public hai, ye sab janti hai, ye public hai. New age voters who value performance over political opportunism can surely see through all this.
The author is a public policy analyst and a commentator on current affairs.
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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2019 16:05:57 IST