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2014 General Elections: Level of political discourse going down
Saturday November 16, 2013 8:13 PM, IANS

The level of political discourse has come down in the country in the personal jibes that politicians, especially top ones, are taking at each other ahead of the assembly polls to five states and the 2014 national polls, say political analysts.

While the Congress and the Samajwadi Party are also to be blamed for the situation, it is the BJP's poster boy Narendra Modi whose personal remarks and innuendos are particularly tasteless and "below the belt", they said.

"All sides are guilty but Modi is beating all records. The campaign has come to a very low level," Kuldip Nayar, media commentator and former MP, told IANS.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi was recently asked by the Election Commission to exercise caution in future after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained his speeches violated the model poll code. Gandhi had charged the BJP with fomenting communal riots to gain electorally while addressing rallies in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. He even suggested disaffected Muslim victims of these riots were being taken advantage of by Pakistan's spy agency ISI.

The Election Commission has also issued notice to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his "khooni panja" (bloody hand) remark aimed at the Congress.

Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal also came in for sharp criticism over his jibe at Modi when he said that a tea seller cannot have a national perspective.

But analysts and commentators were united in their criticism of Modi's recent jibes against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi over her illness and his use of the term "shehzada" (prince) for party vice president Rahul Gandhi. Modi is the BJP's candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

"Modi is not raising issues but abusing people. He is getting personal," said Nayar.

Both Nayar and Zoya Hasan, a political science professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, expressed apprehensions of what will happen if Modi became the prime minister.

"It would be unfortunate if he becomes the prime minister. Modi's campaign is all about attack, abuse and distortion. The attack is not only personal but vicious," Hasan told IANS.

"I shudder to think that he may become prime minister," Nayar told IANS.

Speaking on Thursday at Raipur, Modi said "Agar Madam beemar hain to bachche ko kaam do (If madam is unwell, hand over the work to her child)."

Responding to Congress charge that the state government did not properly use central funds, he said, "Kya aap apne mama ke ghar se laakar de rahe ho( Are you getting the funds from your maternal uncle's home."

Without naming former Chhattisgarh chief minister Ajit Jogi, who is wheelchair bound after an accident, Modi spoke of an Hindi film analogy where a family introduced their beautiful daughter while finalising a marriage proposal but actually switched sisters by bringing in the one with disability for the marriage ceremony.

Stepping up his attack on the Nehru -Gandhi family, Modi said in Raigarh Friday that Rahul Gandhi was talking of changing the system when it was his father and grand-mother who created it and allegedly distorted and misused it for their personal gains.

Modi continues to refer to Rahul Gandhi sarcastically as 'shehzada' despite a strong objection from the Congress.

"Modi should show some maturity and discretion," said Nayar.

According to Mridula Mukherjee, who teaches social science at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, the personal attacks "show the low cultural level of the person."

"They can criticise the Congress on its policies, but personal attacks (on Sonia Gandhi) are meaningless. The use of such language is vitiating the political discourse" Mukherjee said.

Public pressure could be a deterrent in checking such malicious campaign, said the experts.

"If people make it clear they don't like such language, it would put some pressure on people who use it," said Mukherjee adding "the Election Commission should take note of it."

"People will have to make a judgment," said Hasan. Modi's confidence she said stems from the fact that he is allowed to get away with it.

B.R.P. Bhaskar, a political commentator in Thiruvanathapurm, said what is happening in politics is but a reflection of the general deterioration in standards in every sphere of life. But thanks to round-the-clock media vigilance, the public is getting to know about these things almost instantly.

Talking about Modi, he said that the "in the politics that Modi represents, there has always been an element of name-calling and villification" but these have generally been at the lower level while the top leadership has largely been refined in their rhetoric.

"But when the top leadership of a party indulges in such low-level politics, it is shocking," Bhaskar told IANS.

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